As I’ve probably mentioned before, I’m currently finishing off a comedy/drama trilogy I wrote before You Don’t Know Me. I’m going to publish under a different pen name as it’s totally different to the erotic romance I write! This excerpt is from the first book in the trilogy, Dangerous Snacks. Anthony Fish, the Secretary of State for Education meets the Head of Ofsted, and vents his hatred of teachers!
Anthony Fish could smell weakness. And as soon as Nigel Forehead walked across the threshold, the entire office reeked of it. He was a short man, five feet two at a push. And if that wasn’t enough, he was puny with it. Not slim or lithe or wiry. Just plain puny. Even through his chainstore suit, the Secretary of State could tell there wasn’t an ounce of fat or muscle on this man’s skeleton. In fact, it was a fucking miracle this bag of skin and bones could stand up by itself at all. And to top it all off, he was grey. His hair was grey. His skin was grey. The chainstore suit was grey. Even the watery eyes were grey. And if that wasn’t bad enough, this puny, grey, insipid thing that stood in front of him had once been a teacher.
‘Good to meet you.’ He rose magnificently from his chair and thrust his right hand across the desk.
‘Secretary of State.’
He glanced at the straggly fingers that wrapped themselves around his hand. There was no strength in this man’s grip. It was like shaking hands with a woman, or a ghost.
‘Do sit down.’
He motioned toward the visitor’s chair, and watched as Nigel Forehead settled into it. The chair was slightly too low for the desk with the result that the Chief Inspector of Schools sank slowly, further and further, until at last only his head and shoulders were visible above the fake oak laminate. Pleased with the arrangement, the Secretary of State sat down and leaned back. As a last minute adjustment, he placed his hands together, making a steeple with his two forefingers, and touched them lightly against his lips.
‘How was your journey?’
‘Perfectly acceptable, Secretary of State.’
‘Did you have far to come?’
‘And it wasn’t difficult to find these new offices?’
The Chief Inspector of Schools glanced at the shit-coloured walls and grimaced.
‘Not at all.’
Anthony Fish felt a rumble in his bowels. Even if this spineless gimp did share his low opinion on the state of the decor, it certainly wasn’t his place to show it. Who the fuck did he think he was?
‘A strange name, Forehead,’ he said, deciding it was about time to get on with belittling the prat.
‘I’ve never heard of it before.’
‘It’s common in some parts of the country. In fact, it’s probably as common as Fish.’ The Chief Inspector of Schools fixed the Secretary of State for Education with a cold, watery gaze. ‘Shall we get down to business?’
He lowered his hands and narrowed his eyes. Something deep inside his gut had begun to convulse in the face of impudence. The deluded fuckwit had obviously never dealt with a real life politician before. The Secretary of State took a deep breath and decided to show Nigel Forehead the true meaning of power. For a start he’d give the bastard a good old fashioned verbal mauling. And then, when he’d chewed him up and spat him out, he’d have him sacked.
‘Of course.’ He tapped a finger against the desk. Something was squirming about in his colon. ‘So, what are you here to talk about?’
The Chief Inspector of Schools raised an eyebrow. ‘As agreed, we’re here to talk about the focus for school inspections over the coming year.’
‘I sent you a report. I have a copy here.’ He pulled a file out of his briefcase and slid it across the table.
Anthony Fish stared at the plastic cover and tapped the finger some more. The file looked familiar, just like the one that had been lolling about in his own briefcase all weekend.
‘I know. I read it,’ he lied. He had no problem with lying. He was a Cabinet Minister for God’s sake. He’d got away without reading important documents for years. That was what assistants were for. And anyway, what could this document possibly contain that he didn’t already know?
‘Then you’ll know what that focus should be,’ Nigel Forehead said curtly.
The Secretary of State delved in his brain for an idea. Why hadn’t Bob briefed him on this fucking document? Had he really been expected to read it? At last, he remembered the list. On the way to the conference, overcome by inspiration, he’d scrawled it on the back of an envelope. On the way back from the conference, with inspiration hijacked by hatred, he’d pulled out the very same list and added a hangman’s noose. Leaning down to one side, he retrieved the envelope from his briefcase, glanced at the noose and thought about the tall bastard with the bald patch. It was only a matter of time before that piece of shit got what he deserved, but for now there was still a gimp on the other side of his desk … and it had to be dealt with. He read back through the scribbles, deciphering what he could of his own handwriting. ‘Hours too short. Holidays too long. Parents to observe teachers. Pupils to observe teachers. Drug tests for teachers. Breathalyser tests for teachers. CCTV in classrooms. A Union Jack in every classroom. The Queen’s portrait in every classroom. A Bible in every classroom …’
‘Hours,’ he said at last, going with the first item. ‘They turn up for work at eight thirty, and fuck off home at half three.’
Nigel Forehead coughed and glanced down at his knees. ‘Secretary of State,’ he said quietly, ‘We’re not in the business of talking hours.’
‘What are we in the business of then?’
‘As far as I’m concerned, hours are part and parcel of standards.’
‘That may well be but …’
‘It’s a fact.’
The scraggy lips had fallen open. Nigel Forehead was gawping at him. ‘Still …’ he faltered. ‘We’re not able to dictate the timings of the school day.’
‘I can though,’ Anthony Fish smiled. He sat back in his chair, triumphant in his powers.
‘Teachers must work a set number of hours every academic year, Secretary of State.’ The Chief Inspector of Schools was speaking slowly now, emphasising each word, each syllable with a scrawny little hand. ‘It’s up to each individual school how they dictate the hours.’
‘They love their jobs though, don’t they?’
‘Pardon?’ The scrawny little hand came to a halt.
The Secretary of State continued to smile, pleased with the way he’d blindsided the grey gimp.
‘Teachers, they love their jobs?’
‘Love? Erm … I expect many teachers do indeed love their jobs.’
‘Then they should want to work longer hours.’
Perplexed, the Chief Inspector of Schools stared at the Secretary of State for Education.
‘We must remember,’ he said at last, ‘further to time in the classroom, teachers do need time to prepare and mark.’
‘Whose side are you on?’
‘Are you on their side?’
‘I don’t think it’s a case of sides.’
The man was an idiot. Of course it was a case of sides. In fact, as far as the Secretary of State for Education was concerned, in the entire history of the need to take a side, there’d never been a clearer case of it. He leaned forward slightly. It was time to go in for the kill.
‘Do you have sympathy with them?’ he demanded.
‘I’m in the business of seeing to it that they do their jobs effectively, that we have excellent standards.’
‘There’s that word again. Standards.’ He waved a finger. ‘I’ll put it to you one more time, the longer the hours, the higher the standards.’
Nigel Forehead stared at a wall. The watery eyes seemed to glaze over.
‘I think most teachers work long enough hours.’
What the fuck was he going on about now? Everyone knew teachers barely worked at all. They were a lazy bunch of feckless, work-shy morons. But then, of course the grey gimp would take their side, because the grey gimp had once been a teacher himself. And once a teacher, always a teacher. Anthony Fish stared at Nigel Forehead, and Nigel Forehead continued to stare at the wall. With a name like that, it was no surprise he’d been forced to leave the classroom. Mr Foreskin. That must have been his nickname. And the children must have called him that, because all children were bastards, even his own … but teachers were worse.
‘Holidays.’ He glanced at the second item on his list. ‘Teachers have too many holidays. We should talk about that.’
Nigel Forehead arched his eyebrows. ‘That’s not within our remit, Secretary of State.’
‘It should be.’
‘Also, it was not alluded to in the report.’
‘I know that.’ He smiled knowingly. ‘Just testing.’
The Chief Inspector of Schools sighed.
‘As you already know, Ofsted is charged with monitoring standards in teaching and learning, not holidays.’
‘If they had fewer holidays, then they might work a damn sight harder.’
‘It’s not within our remit.’
‘Remits …’ He waved a hand dismissively.
‘If I may say so, we should perhaps begin with the number of outstanding schools.’
Anthony Fish didn’t reply. He’d heard the words, but barely registered them. His hatred of teachers was eating him up from the inside, like acid burning away at his stomach.
‘It’s simply impossible we have so many,’ Nigel Forehead went on.
‘We need to tighten up the measures by which we judge schools. We’ve worked on this over the summer …’
‘What on earth does anyone do with six weeks in the summer? And how many fucking holidays do you need a year?’
‘As I’ve already said …’
‘I bet they’re all off fucking camping.’
‘That’s what they do, isn’t it? Teachers? They all fuck off in their tents for six weeks?’
‘I’m not sure that all of them …’
‘You were a teacher. Is that what you did? Did you go camping?’
Nigel Forehead frowned.
‘Once or twice.’
‘In your little tent?’
‘It was a six man tent.’
‘South of France?’
‘I knew it!’
With a flourish, Anthony Fish slammed his fist on the desk and glared at the Chief Inspector of Schools. The watery eyes filled with confusion. He had him now, thrown off guard and against the ropes. The mauling was going to plan. With a smile, the Secretary of State for Education got up from his chair and made for the window. He gazed at the street below, waiting for the next move. It wasn’t long in coming.
‘Sec … Secretary of State,’ Nigel Forehead stammered. ‘The report suggests we … we should … should focus on behaviour.’
‘We believe that standards of behaviour are … far too low in some schools. Pupils are distracted from their learning. Therefore, this should be the number one priority.’
‘Of course it should be. Behaviour, yes. Teachers are supposed to be pillars of the community. They should be paragons of virtue. Their behaviour should be constantly under scrutiny.’
Nigel Forehead coughed. ‘I meant pupils’ behaviour. Not teachers. It was in the report …’
‘I know that!’ the Secretary of State scowled. ‘Yes, pupils’ behaviour.’
He really should have been briefed on this fucking report. He was a busy man. Did they actually expect him to read everything that landed on his desk? Making a mental note to sack Bob, he found himself thinking about the behaviour of the evil bunch of shits he’d been forced to share his own school days with. And in a public school, to boot. A shiver ran down his spine. He could only imagine what sort of feral animals infested the state system.
‘I have read the report,’ he said quietly, hoping his voice sounded menacing. ‘Of course you should make behaviour the top priority. I’m meeting the Prime Minister this afternoon. I’ll inform him of this.’
‘And the number of outstanding schools, Secretary of State.’
‘Yes, yes. That as well.’
He turned away from the window and looked down on the Chief Inspector of Schools, realising with a surge of jealousy that Nigel Forehead was blessed with a full head of hair, albeit grey. A wave of hatred flowed through his veins. He hated the grey gimp, hated everything about him. And he hated children too, every last one of the heartless little bastards. And he hated teachers, with their short hours and their long holidays and their arrogant, smarmy attitudes. Those fuckers had tormented him at school, and they were still tormenting him now. He thought about the conference and the peanuts, and the sniggers and the mobile phones, all pointing at him, all recording every single second of his humiliation.
‘Mr Forehead,’ he said at last, reminding himself that for now the grey gimp might have some uses. ‘I’d like to discuss my powers as Secretary of State. I want to know how far they stretch, particularly in relation to the Office for Standards in Education.’
‘Your powers, Mr Fish?’
‘In particular, if I wanted you to, for example, target a particular school for inspection, could I do that?’
‘If there were valid reasons for your concerns, then we would certainly be willing to act. However, we have our schedules.’
‘Do you ever break from your schedules?’
‘Of course, Mr Fish. If there’s a particular issue with a particular school.’
‘And what if I see there’s a particular issue with a particular school? Can I insist on an inspection?’
‘Do you have a particular school in mind?’
‘Yes, I do.’
Nigel Forehead seemed to think.
‘I take it, Secretary of State, you’re referring to the events of Friday night?’
He felt a spasm in his stomach. The stupid grey fucker was smiling now. He was actually smiling. The wave of hatred finally reached breaking point, crashing across his brain and spilling out through his mouth.
‘Damn right I am!’ he yelled, watching the Chief Inspector of Schools flinch.
Nigel Forehead looked down at his knees.
‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know?’ he yelled some more. ‘There was a head teacher throwing peanuts at me in a packed conference hall!’
‘And pretzels, I understand.’
‘What the fuck difference does it make?’ His heart was racing now. And he was breathing hard and fast. ‘Why is everyone so fucking obsessed with what type of snack was being hurled at my head? The facts are these. It was a head teacher. He was clearly pissed out of his tiny fucking teacher brain. He was laughing at me – me – the Secretary of State for fucking Education. And he called me a wanker. Do you think that’s appropriate fucking behaviour?’
‘No. No, I do not.’ The Chief Inspector of Schools shook his head. ‘However, your powers, as you put it, do not stretch to using Ofsted to carry out your own personal vendettas.’
‘This is not a personal vendetta, Mr Forehead.’ Anthony Fish took a deep breath, calming his heartbeat and slowing his pulse. The time for yelling was over. He lowered his voice to a menacing growl. ‘This is about standards, and this is about behaviour, and this is right up your fucking alley. If this is what the son of a bitch gets up to at a national conference, then what the fuck’s going on in his school?’
There was a long silence. The Chief Inspector of Schools pulled a pen and notepad out of his briefcase. He stared at the notepad, stared at the shitty walls, and clicked the pen. At last he spoke.
‘Give me the name of the school, Mr Fish, and I’ll ensure it receives an immediate inspection.’