Christmas shopping in the 'swinging sixties'

It was the week before Christmas…. well, a few weeks before, actually, and I was teaching in a secondary school in Pimlico. Just before the first lesson after lunch, the Head received a phone call from the manager of a swish department store in Victoria Street, nearby. Apparently a boy had been seen stealing from store during the lunch hour. He was well known locally, so they named him

I was due to give an English lesson. At the start of the class I made an announcement:
“The manager of a large department store has been on the phone. He says that somebody has been doing a bit of early Christmas shopping, but seems to have forgotten pay for it. He has kindly decided not to press charges on this ocasion, so long as the shopping is returned undamaged.”

I made sure I did not catch the eye of the known guilty party, but swept the whole class with a stern look.

‘Right’, I said, ‘I am just going to the staff room to get some books for the lesson. When I return, I expect the shopping to be on my desk, and no more questions will be asked’.

When I returned to the classroom three minutes later, I was overwhelmed by the sight that met my eyes. Instead of the one stolen ‘present’, my desk was piled high with about forty stolen items, which were duly returned to the amazed store manager.

Everyone in the class must have been out on a ‘shopping expedition’ that day!

In the staff room that afternoon, the general consensus among the amused teachers was that these were deprived urban children and the things they had taken could be likened to the apples ‘scrumped’ by their rural cousins…….

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