I KNOW I'm going to be sorry I said this, but I want to know about school holidays. How can you have half term when it's only a fortnight since Easter? How does staying at home mitigate the sad news that a pope is dead? Why can't teachers have their staff meetings at night?
Of course I understand that working mothers are the bane of all our lives and that they should be thwarted at every turn in their wanton desire to get up at five o'clock in the morning and sit in a traffic jam after delivering their children into the care of strangers. With working mothers it's all me, me, me. That's why they're working at those fabulous jobs in the first place. It's just self-indulgence. But surely we can come up with more imaginative ways of making their lives a misery than simply pulling the scheduling rug from underneath them and hanging up that well-worn sign 'School Closed'.
The great thing about these days off is that they come as a lovely surprise . . . even to the people who have children at the school.
God forbid that each parent should be given a calendar at the beginning of the school year, detailing exactly when there is going to be an open day (ha! ), or an in-service day (? ), or a staff meeting. It is understandable that such a calendar could not predict exactly when the school heating was going to break down . . . although some parents say that they could make a fair fist of guessing when that was going to be . . . the winter, right? And we do take it for granted that the whole school will automatically grind to a halt in the face of natural disasters like. . . I don't know, a bird falling out of a tree.
But what with teaching becoming so much more professional these days, you would think that school authorities could outline . . . well roughly outline . . . closure events for the coming academic year in September. After all, they're teaching kids the facts of life . . . could getting a little diary together really be that hard?
I do quite like the reply that the teacher gave when asked what she liked about the teaching profession. "Three things, " she said. She was sunbathing on a foreign beach at the time. "June, July and August."
It would be churlish to object to that, what with all the courses teachers have to go on and all. And I do understand that the business of teaching is completely exhausting provided, as Woody Allen once said in a slightly different context, you are doing it properly. It is not June, July and August which concerns me. It is the odd Tuesday here, the odd Friday there. Schools did not close with such reckless abandon when I was a girl. That's how come I write so good.
God knows children are peculiar, and conservative, and that they will always side with Teacher as opposed to Mother or Father, but does the Department of Education really have to do the same? I mean, I thought we had it all nicely organised so that kids could not vote, and that the vote of a teacher carries no more weight than that of an ordinary person.
The only reason I can write on the subject at all is that I don't have any children and so no revenge can be wreaked on my progeny in Saint Dunstan's, or wherever the heck it is that people are sending their children these days. I'm telling you, working mothers are too afraid to talk about this publicly. Also, it is difficult to write a column when you are driving to your mother's at peak commuting time.
Although I'm sure that it has been tried.
It's a bit like unfortunate patients refusing to complain about their disgraceful treatment in hospital for fear that they will be denied painkillers as punishment for their audacity. Mothers can't hack this stuff in public. In private, of course, it is a different matter, as any bamboozled listener will tell you. Those chicks are mad, baby. I wouldn't like to be the next teacher who tells them that, actually, next Tuesday is teacher-training day.
Surely the answer is that working mothers should, if they could find a minute, form a union. Then all this agony could be bench-marked and we know what a huge success bench-marking has been. Working mothers have to enter the public sector, and start talking turkey. After all they've been through, it wouldn't be that hard.
It's difficult to understand why they've kept so quiet up to now. Personally, I have never known a working mother who was so tired that she was unable to pick up a phone. But they seem a strangely cowed lot, no matter how many empires they may be running in their day jobs. It's like they forget that they are the backbone of the economy as soon as they get home. And what about the working mothers in our political parties? Are they all too tired to speak? Surely we can come up with something before end of term, when working mothers, through gritted teeth, shell out for presents for the teachers. For some people, life is very hard.