Chapter 1

Written by: Ken Burns



The right-hand blue wooden school gate was swinging open onto the road: clearly not tied back.  The socialist/researcher in me provided collective will power to step in  to fix it.

“Dad,” whined Esther.

“Don’t do that.”

There is some stuff I keep to myself verbally with these girls so I just looked over at Esther poking my tongue out and tied the gate in place.

“Shame,” laughed Nestor. We carried on with our shuffling walk, in a close-knit family kind of way, to the first interview of the day with Mrs Irving in room 16.

The girls have four more years at this school.  The intermediate years (7 and 8) are included with primary here.  This makes a great catchment area for first time home buyers with young families.

 The carpark today is fuller than I’ve seen it.  Loads of seven seater wagons are double parked in the staff carpark. The soccer/cricket field at the back of the school is overrun with families disengaging from their cars.  Crying and yelling is happening everywhere. This Autumn day is dry, so no mud is being splattered on freshly groomed families.

The windows of room 16 are open, with music drifting outside.    Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel’s “Make me smile” is clearly keeping a smile on Mrs Irving’s face. She dances around her colourful classroom moving desks and placing artwork carefully.

Her six-foot two frame, hair cut really short and dyed peroxide blonde made her a pleasure to see.  I haven’t met Mrs Irving before. Last year it was cranky Mr Bevan.  He was clearly past his use-by date like Desmond on the walking bus.  The girls speak with a lot of affection about their current time here.

“Nestor, Lester and Esther.” 

Mrs Irving looked us up and down with delight on her face.  She waved us in with her long arms.

‘You three have my favourite group of names ever.”

Her workman like right-hand extended for a very embracing handshake.

“I specialised as an English teacher while in training. Names I get a lot of pleasure from.”

I looked at the girls just a little embarrassed.  The girls had not one bit of shame on their faces just pride in presenting their one-off dad to a favourite teacher.

Mrs Irving’s desk was piled high with workbooks and files.  Exercise books still needed to be covered at primary level.  The girls had their preferred choices.  Nestor had what looked like a library on hers: she’s an excellent reader and Esther’s were covered in space.  Science was her pick of best subjects.

“We don’t need to be here dad,” whispered Esther.  She grabbed Nestor’s hand. They ran out to the jungle-gym.

Mrs Irving did not look surprised.

“Call me Amy, Lester.  I am less of a Mrs now.”

I looked surprised.

“We have what I call common ground.” She used her fingers to make imaginary speech marks around the words.

“My husband Donny died of bowel cancer three years ago.”