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Dressing for the Occasion

Updated: Jan 12, 2021


I worked at the teaching and education game for over 42 years. It was a tough enough assignment trying to please parents, children, boards of management, inspectors and the general public.

I worked for the first 19 years as an assistant teacher, slogging away with chalk and talk, while teaching classes with up to 56 pupils in small classrooms. Our mission then was mainly crowd control. You went into class in the morning, threw the anorak over the chair and off you slogged for the day.

I spent the next 23 years of my life as principal of a large primary school. This was a different ball game altogether. The principal, the head ,the leader was seen in a different light. The polo necks, loose jumpers and 10-year-old anorak had to be dispensed with.

I now had to portray a new self-image, someone who looked like a leader, spoke like a leader ,dressed and behaved like a leader.

New slacks, a couple of jackets ,smart shirts and ties were purchased .The shoes were polished more regularly. The new broom was all dressed up and ready for action. We all know how first impressions are important, so I dressed to impress.

I retired from this demanding position and moved on to working with Mayo Education Centre in setting up and implementing the active schools’ project.. I spent 7 years with them travelling around South Leinster assessing schools for the active flag. This also required a certain smart casual level of dressing .

When I reached the ripe old age of 70, I called a halt and said, enough is enough.It was time to spend more time at the more leisurely pursuits of walking, talking, reading, writing and gardening.

I somehow allowed myself be appointed Secretary of RTAI Wicklow . I must admit I am enjoying this busy job helping keep 227 retired teachers active.

As I began to spend more time at these activities there was a discernible change in the clothing apparel. I had woods and beach walking gear, front and back garden gear, everyday about the house gear, painting gear.

The powers that be in the household fashion department described my new image as somewhere between Del Boy and Worzel Gummidge. Quite frequently the lines crossed, and I could finish up in a shop wearing my back-gardening gear . Orders were issued that I had to buck up a little on the self-image and fashion stakes.

You know we all need the little nudge now and again to keep us on the straight and narrow.

And so, it came to pass that I had to visit the doc last week for my 6-month check-up.

Before that event however I had to visit the barbers and I was shorn of my woolly locks. Management told me that I looked 10 years younger.

Then I had my senior fashion adviser pick out my Sunday best slacks, jacket ,shirt and jumper.

Having showered, I dressed up as directed in the chosen matching gear and I had a peep in the mirror. I was really impressed with the rejuvenated me.

Senior management told me that I was ready for the catwalk. I assured her that I had no intentions of straying in that direction.

Having had that moral boosting comment, I toddled off to the medico.

I arrived at the appointed time, pressed the buzzer and a person stood there at the entrance dressed in PPE [working gear] ,checked my name and date of birth, checked my temperature, quizzed me on my movements and I was pointed in the direction of my chosen medico.

I was duly called in and he said” My god Mick you are looking so well, lost a bit of weight and told me he hadn’t seen me looking as good in years.

The chest swelled with pride and after a few pleasantries and checks I was despatched back into my world for another 6 months.

Meanwhile as we were talking ,he was typing , pressed a button and my prescription was winging its way to the pharmacy in a superb fast ,paper saving, Covid induced modernisation of systems.

Naturally my next port of call was the pharmacy . I was greeted with a “ Mick you are looking great and weathering your years so well. I have never seen you looking so well. Keep up what you are doing”. At this stage the buttons are nearly bursting off my shirt.

Generally, when I call in to the pharmacist I am coming back from a trek in the woods or beach. I would usually be attired in my Worzel Gummidge casual gear. I suppose it was strange to see the souped up version of me for a change.

While there I get a phone call about a book I had ordered and so I pointed my compass in the direction of the bookshop, mask in hand. The manageress commented that Mick must be going somewhere because he was all dressed up and looking so well.

I arrived home and reported to Senior management and she was very impressed and suggested we go for a walk all in our finery ,which we did, post prandium.

I promised I would examine my many casual outfits and I have sorted them out starting with Level one with the clothes used for Painting and back gardening gear. I also have a front gardening set, just in case any of the neighbours came out for a chat while I'm weeding flowerbeds.The outfits go right up to level 6 which are used for socialising and special occasions and sadly much redundant lately.

Having ascertained that some of the Worzel outfits were 17 years old ,a sizeable portion of them have now departed the scene and are languishing in a clothes bank.

I further promised that the better-looking image would appear on the scene more regularly than heretofore.

I am now searching for my best Hallowe’en outfit, my Christmas jumper and musical tie that chimes ‘Silent Night’.

That night we cracked open a bottle of one of our special ‘put aside’ bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and polished it off in high fashion ,drinking from our best Waterford glass goblets .

My dressing up day deserved nothing but the best.

Cheers

Mick O Callaghan

15/10/ 2020

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