The children and I were having tea in a cafe after school and the Princess was still resplendant in her uniform.
An elderly lady came up to us and said to the Princess “Cén fath nach bhfuil tú ag caint as Gaeilge?” She blushed and subsided into silence and it was left to me to pick up the conversation in my very threadbare Irish (before the interruption the Princess had been telling me about how she had won a prize for speaking Irish at school – obviously not something she was going to be trying out outside the school grounds). After some rather basic conversation with me, the elderly lady turned her gimlet gaze back on the Princess. “Cad is ainm duit?” Upon being met with silence from my unexpectedly shy child in the face of this very basic query, she said quite sternly “Bi dea-bheasach!”
Memories of my own primary school days came flooding back to me and I realised that I confronted that most alarming of specimens, a retired primary school teacher. She put me forcibly in mind of big Miss O’Hea (big to distinguish her from her sister small Miss O’Hea who also taught in the school) who taught me in second and third class. She was effective (I probably learnt more at ages 8 and 9 than any point subsequently) but distinctly alarming. “Were you a teacher in my daughter’s school at some point?” She was indeed. Had she overlapped with the present (very kind, good and hard working) principal? Only for a short space of time. I see. “Of course,” she said meaningfully, “his wife teaches there too.” I see. “Agus a colceathair” she said nodding significantly. And then with no more than a pat on the head for the boys, she was gone. The Princess’s current teacher is a very sweet (very trendy) young woman in her 20s, I don’t think that she quite realised that teachers came in such formidable guises and she was pretty shaken by her encounter with the old guard. There’s nothing like a múinteoir to put you in your place.