May The Best Team Win – Episode 14

Gerard Fay © Neil and Rachel in their local pub Illustration: Gerard Fay

Rachel looked around the restaurant and smiled. It was her second meal out this week.

This time it was the local Italian with red tablecloths, pictures of Pisa and the Ponte Vecchio, and “La Traviata” playing in the background.

The Smarty Pints had decided to celebrate their last-minute win over the Quizzee Bees.

They were also taking the opportunity to discuss their strategy for the second round of the Quiz Quartet.

It was being held on Saturday night at the Flying Duck.

“Well, cheers, everyone!” Neil looked round at his team and smiled as they clinked their glasses.

“And a special thank you to Graham, whose quick thinking got us through to Round Two.”

“To Graham!”

The deciding question had been a sports one and to the team’s delight, Graham couldn’t have been quicker off the mark.

The Quizzee Bees had been knocked from the competition and the Smarty Pints were through.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the niggling worry about Sophie’s love life, Rachel would have been feeling great this evening.

The quiz was going well, Neil had assured them that Apollo was on the way to a full recovery and she was looking forward to her next date with Ewan.

She had been petrified before the first one, but her confidence was growing.

“So, what’s the plan for Saturday, then?” Graham asked, as the waiter departed with their orders.

“I think an additional strategy would be a good idea.” Neil pushed his glasses up his nose.

“But the most important thing is that everyone enjoys themselves.”

Dawn grinned.

“You’re a sweetheart, Neil,” she said. “Of course, we’ll have fun, but let’s see if we can beat those Master Minds!”

“Oh, yes.” Rachel and Graham nodded enthusiastically.

“All right, then. I’m open to suggestions, but these are my thoughts.

“We’re good on history, politics, science, popular culture and sport – of course!

“It’s usually geography or music that lets us down.

“I suggest that Graham and Dawn take one topic, and Rachel and I the other, and see if we can do some research before Saturday.”

“That sounds like a good idea.” Rachel smiled.

He was absolutely right. Those topics were their Achilles’ heel. Graham, however, didn’t look happy.

Neil turned to him.

“We don’t have to go with that, if you don’t want to,” he said. “I’m quite open to other options.”

“Thanks, Neil, but it isn’t that,” Graham replied. “It’s just work. I don’t think I’ve got time for extra study.”

Of course – Rachel suddenly remembered that Graham had only just finished an OFSTED inspection at his school.

Now he mentioned it, she could see he was tired. He looked paler than usual, with dark smudges beneath his eyes.

Dawn patted Graham’s arm.

“I think you’re spot on Neil, but you’ll have to let Graham off.

“It’s been a really tough week and he’s now got a load of policies to rewrite and a stack of sports fixtures to sort out.”

“How did the OFSTED go?” Neil regarded Graham with a frown.

“Not as well as I would have liked. I mean, I think the school will come out of it quite well overall.

“It’s just frustrating, when you work hard and don’t get the chance to show everything off to best advantage.”

“You’re a fantastic teacher, Graham. Committed and hard working.” Neil clapped him on the shoulder.

“I’m sure they were able to tell that.”

Dawn nodded.

“I’ve told him it wasn’t as bad as all that, but he won’t listen to me.”

“I daresay you’re right.” Graham gave a wry smile.

“It’s frustrating when they only visit two classes – one, your worst behaved, and another where a child takes a tumble!”

Rachel shook her head. Poor Graham. She could understand his frustration.

“Their judgement will be based on more than that, won’t it?

“Didn’t they look at paperwork, marking, team matches?”

Graham nodded slowly.

“That’s true.”

“Yes.” Neil smiled encouragingly. “And they’ll look at how you dealt with those difficult situations.

“If I know you, you’ll have reacted professionally.”

“Of course you did,” Rachel agreed and was pleased to see Graham looking brighter.

“Perhaps you’re right.” He smiled. “They certainly liked the visits I’d arranged with you and Apollo, Neil, so thank you for that.”

“My pleasure.” Neil grinned. “I enjoy them.”

He smiled round at the Smarty Pints.

“So that’s decided then. You two ladies can research music, I’ll mug up on geography and Graham can recover from OFSTED.”

“Agreed,” they said.

Neil refilled their glasses.

“To victory in Round Two,” he said.

“To beating Priscilla!” Rachel and Dawn chorused.

To be continued…

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