Camber Sands


We moved back to England after living in Botswana for eight years in 2021 and I got some part-time teaching assistant work for the first three months.

On this particular day, I rang the buzzer for my afternoon shift.

After a few moments, the head mistress opened the door dressed in an extremely tight (some may say X-rated) Alice in wonderland costume.

   “World book day.” She explained, noting my expression. “And if I don’t finish this pay roll, nobody’s gonna get their wages.” She ushered me toward the toddler’s room and firmly shut me in.

There were Angelina Ballerinas and Buzz Light years galore, running amok, and a part-time Montessori teacher, who tended to stay in her organised Montessori corner, eying me beedily to see what I was going to do about it!

Time for some top-notch diversion, I thought.

I hastily gathered a large bag of flour, a few bowls, some oil and a big jug of water, laying them out on a round plastic table with a lip around the edge, about two inches high.

This first caught the attention of the identical twins, who stopped amok-ing, and wandered over curiously. I gave them some flour in bowls, and added a little water to get them started, silently congratulating myself for taking the initiative.

Along came Angelina Ballerina, swiftly followed by buzz light year and a few others, not all in fancy dress, and suddenly there was rather a lot of them.

By the time they all had balls of dough to mix, the twins said they were too sticky, and needed to go and wash their hands; in order to return and get sticky all over again.

I prepared a big bowl of warm soapy water to keep them nearby, rinsing their little hands as I went along, limiting mess which certainly needed limiting at this point.

I wondered whether I could reach the aprons without losing control, and slightly regretted starting the project after-all, as a general feeling of panic threatened to overtake me.

I looked around to call for assistance, and in that moment the twins got hold of the soapy water and tipped the contents into the middle of the table, along with the massive bag of flour.

Instantaneously a highly viscous, sticky glue was formed, into which Angelina Ballerina slammed her little hands with glee.

The rest of the table soon followed suit, and the air was filled with whirling flurries of white globules, splatting on all surfaces encountered, including me.

Two full-time staff members thankfully returned from lunch, quickly put their coats away, and started to ferry kids to the bathroom to hose them down.

There was gluey stuff hanging out of kids hair, splashed up coats, on hooks, on walls…one had so much over his face he could only see out of one eye.

It – was  – everywhere!

I’m sacked, I thought.

As the other teachers restored order and got them all settled for tea, I was still trying to scrub the tenacious mixture off the round table and various items of expensive-looking clothing we had peeled off them, fighting away tears.

They kept reassuring me all experienced similar situations, but I was sure they were just being nice, and wondered how on earth they ever did a full day. I only did three-hour shifts, and it more or less killed me.

On my way out, I apologised to the head mistress, who misses nothing – closed door or not.

   “Oh get over it, the kids had the time of their life, no one was hurt, and messy play is good for them!” She retorted, going back to her admin, chuckling knowingly.

I thankfully saved the car from eternal play-dough-glue-idge by putting my large coat on before getting in. Once I got home and took it off again, it looked like I had set off a smoothie maker without the lid.

I could tell my husband had a few questions when he saw the state of me, but rightly thought better of asking them – too soon!

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