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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.

Oh No, Not Again!

"What's wrong with pissing in the park? If you've got to go, you've got to go", spat out the angry father, hands turned up to me to emphasize his reasonableness. Like his son, he is short and stocky, has piecing blue eyes and blondish hair. Jarrod, the son has almost white blond hair and a neck less build. I have had Mr Erickson in my office before. My mind trawls back through these unwelcome encounters as I watch the father's face put on its well practised mock incredulity mask. He must have successfully used this look of hurt disbelief many times and probably is betting on it to currying favour with a woman. Previously there had been the contretemps over Jarrod's slamming of a laptop lid onto its owner's wrist; the call up to discuss Jarrod's educational future after he had seen fit to super glue up a bank of year 11 lockers and too many other occasions.

I sat behind my desk, (supposedly large enough to give me an air of authority), my middle-school manager at my right hand and the school councillor beside him, forming a phalanx of authority, reminiscent of the thin blue line, facing Jarrod and his long suffering and extremely defensive dad. This time the issue is about Jarrod urinating in Macleay Park on his way home from school. A flood of calls from indignant parents had made the level office well aware of this incident.

This is my third parent interview today. Only cases very likely to lead to a suspension arrive in my office. The preceding parental interviews related to complaints about a teacher and an appeal by an out of zoner to enter the school. Then there was a parental request to change of class teachers is not that uncommon and invariably meets with a polite hearing and a firm refusal, but this was an Accelerated Learning Program, ALP, student and I had some sympathy for her argument. The teacher taking this class of very able students for Mathematics was a poor choice. When the mother had gone, I called up the time-tabler and made a swap. I ruminated briefly that I would now have the unpleasant task of informing the displaced teacher that she would be transferred a normal class. The teacher concerned is not at all easy going; she will resent this change and see it as a lack of faith in her abilities.

Before my dissatisfied ALP parent, an overexcited father who wanted the school to ensure that his daughter is delivered to him, and not to her mother, afterschool had presented at reception. It is Friday of the long weekend and this is sometimes a trigger time for custody battles. Parents will dispute whose turn it is to have the child. It is not my role to interpret complex custody documents, especially ones being flapped at me by a manic father. I have already logged a call with Ministry legal to get exact advice. It is important not to allow the school to be drawn into a legal quagmire.

After such an inauspicious start this day can only get better. Then comes a phone call from the principal of the BelleVue Primary School. Her voice is rather strained and impatient. There's a dog in her office. Oh no, not again! Beau our RSPCA rescued Jack Russell has been escaping since we bought him home six months ago. We have put up new fences but he always finds his way out Worse still, he always heads off to the local primary school. At first the principal was quite jolly about his appearances, but the last few times, her voice has taken on a censorial tone, even to a Ministry colleague. And it's an interruption I can do without.

So my personal life intersects with my professional life. Vivien is luckily able to contact my son and have him retrieve Beau and lock him in the house. It would be a few more, Oh no, not again s, before Beau's escape route was fully diagnosed and his school visits curtailed.

Valerie Bourke