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The Iron Lady

The story continues at the Church of Immaculate Conception Primary School

“Esther, you’ll be in Year 5 today,” said the receptionist abruptly as the Mother arrived the next morning. Her name wasn’t actually Ester but she was just going to go with it, why ruffle features?

“Oh, ok whys that? I had year 3 yester,” but before she could finish, she was cut off.

“Because they need you there, that’s why,” said the receptionist curtly.

Oh Ok, thought the Mother, It’s like that is it.

“Now you can sign in please?”

Also, at the very second, a permanent member of staff, buzzed in and entered the main building. The Mother pretending not to hear not the belligerent reception slipped through behind. Why ruffle features when you can pull them straight out! She could still hear her shouting her name, well Esters name as she reached her classroom. Now what awaits me today thought the Mother.

As she entered the classroom, the Mother was greeted by a tall, slender black woman in her early 50’s. Dressed in a black tailored suit, figure-hugging pink blouse, the lady oozed confidence and authority.

Her outfit was complemented by a pair of enormous gold hoop earrings and surprisingly a pair of black Nike running shoes. She was wearing deep purple lipstick, Chanel probably, and her hair, she wore in a skinhead of course! This woman had managed to combine perfectly Business and Elegance with “Street.” This annoyed the Mother as she had never been able to pull off either look successfully. This ‘Iron lady’ was dressed to kill, but sharp as her attire might be, her tongue was even sharper.

After acknowledging the Mother, with a stare followed by a nod the Iron Lady scanned the classroom, it was silent. Total silence in a classroom as any teacher will tell you is an unusual occurrence. Ask children to work quietly, they will chat. Ask children to work in silence, they’ll whisper. But not these children, they clearly had, ‘the fear.’

The Mother knew at that moment that that even with eyes barely open this was a teacher that saw everything. And no discrepancy went unpunished. The Mother too had better watch her back.

The register was called, quickly, and once finished, the teacher stood up and nodded to the class. Everyone instantly lined up; there would be no tomfoolery in class today thought the Mother. Then suddenly a boy put his hand up, and said hesitantly,

“Miss, I’ve forgotten my swimming kit.”

“Then get out of my sight.” came the reply.

The child quickly got out of her sight, the Mother never did find out where he went for the duration of the swimming lesson. But now she at least knew why she was needed in this class that morning. Thursday was year five swimming lessons, and she was back up.

The Iron Lady insisted the class walk to the leisure centre in silence, and no one said a word for about two minutes. Then foolishly, a boy spoke; not only did he speak, but he also accidentally dropped his kit bag. The whole line of children immediately stopped, and all eyes turned to him.

The teacher stared at him.

“This is not the behavior I expect.” she barked.


“You are a Nigerian child, are you not?”

“Yes, Miss.”

Then I should not have to say a word, just give you a look, You know what a look means don’t you?

He nodded

Does your Mother give you a look?

“Yes, Miss.”

“Then you know, now pick up your bag boy and stop laughing, you are not back home in your village now!

Was that racist? It sounded racist. Should she say something? But how could she, when the words came from the lips of a black, quite possibly Nigerian woman? It was every white liberals worst nightmare. But before the Mother had time to make up her mind, another child transcended the schools’ code in some minor way. This time she didn’t even break her stride or turn around, just bellowed.

‘“Jesus Christ, Olufemi It is the All Saints Day the very least you could do is let Jesus into your heart. “

But this was too much even with her serious teacher head on; the Mother smirked. She hadn’t meant to the grin. It just naturally appeared and then spread across her face. Regrettable Miss caught the smirk, and then the Mother got the look too. Luckily the look was all she got. There was no follow up. There was no,

“Show some respect; you are not back in your council flat in Peckham now.”

Had it not been for the fact that she was “the muscle” in charge of the Year 5 girls, she was sure she would have been condemned to eternal damnation there and then.

On arrival at the swimming pool, the Mother took her group to the girls’ communal changing area, and quickly chaos ensued. The second the girls were out of sight of the Iron Lady, their volume went through the roof. Bombs have exploded and have made less noise than these girls. But before the Mother had time to worry about the noise level, she had another issue to contend with, namely nudity!

Girls stripped and in seconds here were half-naked as well as entirely naked kids prancing around the changing rooms. Although it was delightful to see these girls were unashamed of their bodies, the Mother did not feel at all comfortable. Where the hell was she meant to look, she couldn’t just close her eyes, that would be weird. She thought about leaving the changing room, but that wasn’t really an option either. In the end, she decided that the best place to look would be up to the heavens. It wasn’t a bad view, but it was slightly obscured by the opaque, moss-covered glass ceiling of seven seas leisure center. But better this, than bare bums and Mary’s thought of the Mother.

Once changed, each child needed help putting on their swimming hat. Ah, the faithful swimming hat, the second most unattractive item of clothing ever invented. The sanitary belt, of course, always took first place, nothing was ever going to knock that off its top spot.

Now putting a swimming hat on your own hair was bad enough. But trying to get it over afro hair, dreadlocks, and worst of all rapunzel sized extension was near impossible! Finally, the last child left the changing room, hat on head, and the Mother snuck out of the exit to where she’d seen a hot drinks machine. Surely the Iron Lady wouldn’t mind, Even the good Lord himself would have needed a latte after all that.

Instant Coffee Break

Forty minutes later and the Mother was ready for changing rooms, part two. Swimming hats had to be removed from heads, and wet costumes had to be uncurled and separated from bodies. Then there was the preening. Once changed, the girls set to work on their hair and skin. Bottles of castor oil, coconut conditioner, serums, deodorants, and tubs of talcum powders suddenly appeared. Sprays, Oils, and perfumes filled the air with a pungent mist, a smell, not even the chlorine could compete with. Even at ten years old, these girls all had a particular beauty routine. The Mother sat waiting on the wooden bench while trying to avoid slipping into a chemically induced coma,

Girls shouted to be heard over the constant roar of the hairdryers. Knickers were dropped in puddles, socks were lost, plasters discarded. All the time, the girls talked at a hundred miles an hour. Yet surprising in just seven minutes, every single girl was changed and had lined up outside the outside swimming pool. Their hair was immaculate, their uniforms pristine. There were fashions shows in Milan where models could not boast this level of organization.

“Did they get dressed in silence?” Asked the Iron Lady

Christ, how can I even answer that thought the Mother?

‘Yeah……mostly,” she said.

And with that, she was struck down by a bolt of lightning and reduced to nothing more than a small pile of dust. Which was a real shame because she was actually beginning to enjoy working at the school.

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