A Constant Stream of Stories And a Lesson for the Teacher
I'm not a schoolteacher - nothing like that - but I am told by one who is that some children have this burning need to tell their teacher things. Well, not just things. Just about everything.
''Some of them,'' this teacher, Mrs. A, informs me, ''you just have to stop. You say: 'I haven't got time to listen to this now. Go and get on.' ''
But some of them are like Craig.
Craig is one of several brothers. His teacher from last year told Mrs. A, his teacher this year, that Craig's mother ''just loves her boys.''
''You can tell he comes from a caring home,'' Mrs. A says.
He accosts her with news - of his new bed, just installed; of one of his brothers getting a job - with the help of his Mum - and lets her know what his pay is to be. He tells her all about his fishing exploits. He is, I gather, sold on fishing.
''Craig,'' says Mrs. A, ''is not someone you can stop from telling you things.'' The point is not that Craig is a ''very nice'' lad, though he is. And not merely that he is somewhat sensitive about being told off - though he is, mainly because he is good, obedient, and never looks for trouble. Nor is it a matter of the teacher having favorites.
It is because of Craig's sense of self-respect, it seems, and because of what really matters to Craig, that his teacher listens to what he has to tell her and does not command him peremptorily to stop pestering her and go back to his seat.
''He is just one of those children who communicates a lot. With adults,'' she says.
And it does not pay to only half-listen to Craig. An instance of this occurred when he was launching into one of his latest home-news reports. His grandpa, he was telling Mrs. A, has a friend who ''has a boat on Loch Lomond - and I met him when Grandpa was out with me walking my dog, Bambi - and this man, he was walking his dogs - this man who Grandpa knows - has promised he'll take me and Grandpa out fishing in his boat on Loch Lomond next spring - and he's the owner of Marks and Spencer - and he says....'' Craig went on with his story, but Mrs. A was stopped in her tracks.
Marks and Spencer? she mused, somewhat baffled and bemused. Craig's grandpa knows the owner of Marks and Spencer? Craig's grandpa? Marks and Spencer?
It might make the degree of her puzzlement more understandable if I explain, to those who have the misfortune never to have heard of Marks and Spencer, that this nationwide retail clothing and food store is as much a household word in Britain as Macy's is in the United States. It is, in fact, such an established British institution (though it has many branches abroad, too, if not in America) that the country would seem as inconceivable without it as the Tower of London would be without its ravens or Buckingham Palace without its guard.
The overwhelming reason M&S (as it is usually known) is so integral a part of - I was going to say, ''the British national character'' - is that almost no truly British person would ever dream of buying his or her underwear from any other place. In recent years, M&S has branched out into food, an enterprise to which it applies the same rigorous quality control that it applies to underpants. (I particularly recommend the ginger biscuits and the cartons of fresh extra-double-thick cream).
This is why the idea that Craig, in an obscure and hardly affluent outpost of Glasgow (however much his Mum adores him) might have a grandpa who is on fishing-trip terms with the owner of this inordinately successful High-Street chain, did seem a trifle surprising to his all-ears teacher.
So when Craig's bulletin finally wound up, Mrs. A asked quietly: ''You met this man when you were out with your dog, Craig? What kind of dog is Bambi?''
''He's a West Highland,'' Craig answered earnestly, ''and the man's two dogs - 'Marks' and 'Spencer' - are both Dobermans.''
''Aah. Yes. I see.''
Teachers have to know how, and when, to keep a straight face.