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San Miguel – continued

A boy at the back of the class asks the Mother if her red hair is dyed. It is difficult to tell if he is being facetious.

“Yes, it’s dyed,” she replies. “Now, open your books and start your work, please.”

At last, the Mother has a few valuable seconds to read through the teacher’s notes. She is desperately hoping that no one asks what the learning objective is, as she doesn’t know. She also is not entirely sure what they are meant to be writing. However, a quick search on Google instantly reveals a wealth of information on the Shang Dynasty.

“Thank God for the internet,” thinks the Mother. Now, she just has to read all this stuff. In a few minutes, children may ask her for more details about the whole saga. She can’t very well wing it on this subject.

“Miss, why did so many Shang clans decide to migrate northeast during the Western Zhou period?”

“Well, why do you think so many clans migrated to the northeast?” This worked sometimes, but it wasn’t going to work today.

The Mother manages to get up to the Shang Dynasty artisans’ use of piece mould casting before she has to stop reading. The noise in the classroom has gone up and up and is now just below screaming. She stands up, walks over to the behaviour chart on the wall and moves two names up on to the sunshine. She doesn’t actually know who Mohammed and Eva are, which can mean only one thing – those two particular children are behaving themselves. It seems to do the trick. Even in Year 5, the allure of being on the sunshine is still strong. Rebellion has not taken root yet. The class quietens down, for a few seconds. Over the next few hours, the Mother will repeat the sentence, “Keep the noise down” so many times that, by the end of the day, it will feel like they are the only words she is capable of saying.

At four o’clock, all the children have gone home, and the Mother is busy marking their history books. George and Davonte have only managed two sentences, and Samuel had just written the date – well, part of it. While Brittany has written absolutely nothing, she has at least drawn a picture, a picture of a princess riding a horse. 

“Well, that’s four books I don’t need to mark,” thinks the Mother, and she begins writing the words “Could do better” in the margins. At Brittany’s book, however, something makes her stop. Her drawing of a horse is actually really good, and animals are notoriously difficult to draw. Ancient Chinese history isn’t for everyone, and maybe Brittany’s talents lie elsewhere, like the Mother and the bingo. She gives Brittany a sticker and a “Well done”. Who cares if the school doesn’t approve? The Mother will be somewhere else tomorrow.

An hour later, the Mother has finished marking the history work. Just the literacy, maths and science to go. “Shouldn’t take too long,” she thinks as she reaches for her paracetamol.

Finally, the Mother has finished the books, and it’s only six o’clock. She signs out, and as she leaves the school, she instantly feels a sense of freedom, like a lion who’s escaped from the zoo. On her way home, she must remember to buy pudding, Coco Pops and croissants. This will prove to her children that she loves them and ease the guilt of having a childminder pick them up. She walks into Nisa and sees a can of San Miguel, it’s £1.29 and all shiny. Shiny things make the Mother happy. “Well, it’s cheaper than a diamond,” she thinks

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