Lesson 43 on the Acceptance of Loss.
Despite all sorts of security, we suffered break-ins on a regular basis.
The school was single storey and was built as three and a half sides of a square. It had been planned as a two storey square block with an atrium in the middle, but the funding had run out. A path connected the half side to the other end of the school. That was fun in wet weather.
Our thief used to climb onto the flat roof and break in through a perspex skylight conveniently situated above the store cupboard. He obviously had inside information because he never made any mess and went straight to wherever we had concealed the saleable electronic equipment. The only other thing he took were the potted plants.
The head had tried to beautify the unpromising building with a tasteful selection of planters and every time the thief paid us a visit he would take one of these. His crowning achievement was to manoeuvre the huge mature bottle garden through the skylight. How he managed it, nobody could imagine, but he had obviously saved the best till last. He never returned.
Nor did we replace the plants. After all that effort, it was felt they had probably gone to a better home.
The Science lab housed a number of small animals whose presence was only tenuously connected to the biology curriculum. They were really the school pets. People took turns in caring for them, and there was a rota of volunteers who had permission to take them home for school for weekends and holidays.
Over the summer holidays one of the gerbils unfortunately reached the end of its natural span and the host family kindly replaced it with another from the pet shop. All was fine, until the gerbils were returned at the start of the Autumn term.
For some reason the Science department received a visit from a minion of the local authority. Perhaps they were having an audit of livestock in schools, who knows? The terrible fact then emerged that one of our gerbils did not have the required paperwork. Small mammals had to come from approved suppliers. Our gerbils would all have to be destroyed.
In vain pupils (and staff) offered to provide homes for the condemned. The local authority were adamant. It was a matter of public liability. Our gerbils had to go.
The school went into mourning. Even the comfort of burying them in the school field was denied. The gerbils had to be removed by the appropriate official for humane disposal.
All we could do was hold a memorial assembly, where everyone could be reassured that they had gone peacefully to their rest.
After a decent period of time had passed, the Science technician did tentatively suggest replacements, but the pain of loss had been too great.
The gerbil cage was sadly put to the back of the biology cupboard, never to re-emerge.