Mr Clarke for the defence

Date: 22nd June 2021

The SFSA’s Donald Stewart’s latest blog: “Mr Clarke for the defence”

It is that time of year when the headie is ready to decide to whom prizes for the year must go.

It has been one hell of a year and the school have been participating in a competition, as well as trying to deal wi aw the COVID malarkey!

The school is all very nervous as the time is close when they will find out if they have made it from this round to the next one…

This year, headie Mr. Clarke must contemplate his revolting staff…

Picture the scene…

The staff room is poised. The kettle has been emptied and all have their playtime cuppas perched on the edge of their seats as the headie, the aforementioned Mr. Clarke surveys the room from his vantage point: the corner near the sink.

A hush descends as the teachers who all have their favourites, await a verdict. They expect to hear who has the prizes but some suspect this shall not be the big announcement. After all, despite a near disastrous dress rehearsal for the school concert on the Monday, last night’s performance, when it mattered, was sensational. And so, with one more run to go – the game is afoot and not altogether run.

Mr. Clarke had always said that the big show would be a triumph. If people had listened, they would have heard him. But they didn’t listen because he rarely shouted loudly. The rest of the staff made enough noise on his behalf… or so they all thought…

And now the room was quiet for the penultimate headie sermon. The final day address was still to come, after the final show.

Whenever that was.

Mr. Clarke surveyed the room. He saw the critics from last week who had reserved harsh words for the wee boy O’Donnell. They did not look shame faced. They appeared bold and unrepentant. How would he be able to shine a light into their darkness, he wondered.

And then there were those who had punted the wee boy Gilmour as their saviour. They had harried and harangued Mr. Clarke for not putting him in the dress rehearsal but now, given his performance last night they sat smugly nodding and expecting him to acknowledge his error on not listening to them sooner.

He was determined that they too would not get the satisfaction they were already enjoying from last night’s performance and have his words added to their turgid smugness.

He tried to smile. Most people thought he had bad wind and were glad when no noise followed through.

He began.

“Right folks. A wee word or two about last night. Obviously, I’m delighted for the pupils. It was a great performance. We knew we had to go and suffer a little bit, but I was delighted with the way things went.”

A gentle murmur of content ripples through his crowd as people recognise an introduction that says very little but captures enough to have their attention focussed on what is to come. After a suitable interval to allow the room to settle once more, Mr. Clarke began again.

“I’ve said for a long time, we’re a good team. I thought the reaction after Monday was over the top.”

A few begin to look towards their toes and a few others are starting to wonder if Mr. Clarke got their memo at all. Mr. Clarke can feel the change in the room and rather than become nervous about losing the room he feels emboldened.

He may finally be getting through.

He continues, “I think we showed the real us on Monday and got harshly criticised for it. I’ve said for a long time we’ve got a really good group and we proved it last night. The boy, O’Donnell was a top performer, and he was very, very unfairly criticised, the other night. His performance last night was outstanding, and it was justice for the boy.”

A voice from the corner intervenes to ask about the other star from the night, the boy Gilmour.

Mr. Clarke is expecting it and he does not disappoint in his answer. He adds, “Never in doubt. Billy is a top wee boy. He’s rehearsed well in the group, and it was nice to get him on the stage.”

With that, cementing his reputation of a man of few words he takes his paper and starts to fold it. Realising that the staff are waiting to see who is getting the prizes for the year, he attempts another smile. People move this time in case it means more than happiness.

Mr. Clarke responds, “We are far from finished. If we manage to do what we are capable of, then we should see our shows extend beyond the next one. Getting into the next phase of the competition will be important to us, to the legacy and to the confidence of the young people. We need to remember that, until this is over, we should not allow confidence to get to our heads and criticism to get into our hearts.”

With that pithy saying, Mr. Clarke turns on his heels and leaves the staffroom. As he wanders down the corridor, he reflects on how lucky it was that, for Father’s Day, he got that saying a day toilet roll. He shall be surveying the next few sheets for what to say if they don’t get to the next phase of the competition. If they do manage it, he expects a knighthood. After all, he thinks, with all the expert critics he has to deal with, it’s the least they could give him…

Or there could be a calling elsewhere as he hears there are vacancies at the Everton Primary and that new school over in Tottenham…

But surely, he wouldn’t consider a move at this stage…

Whilst the author asserts his right to this as an original tale, there is no evidence that a Mr. Clarke has ever been in charge of a school end of year concert, however much of his interview after the England game by Mr. Clarke has been used.

The fact is that after the England game, Steve Clarke called the criticism his team had received over the top and singled out the way Stephen O’Donnell was criticised as exceptionally harsh. His exact words have been altered to fit the script above, but the sentiment drips through them…

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