A gathering made glummer by the assumption
our colleague’s life was drab as this February day.
I thought her a nun in all but habit.
A strictly soap-and-water woman,
camouflaging her gender in neutrals.
As deputy head she patrolled the school day,
with a nose for bad teaching and behaviour,
stealthily entering a classroom abetted by soft soled shoes,
diminutive, she still discharged a glare that
winded gobby teenagers, caused junior teachers to stutter.
In the staff room no lexicon for small talk, only school business.
Her personality impenetrable as a safe whose code very few could crack.
I imagined a life regulated by the school year,
last to leave the building and lesson planning into the early hours,
any free time devoted to mass and confessing small-fry sins.
But in the packed eulogy; her qualification as a PE teacher
has the congregation raising eyebrows;
a nifty netballer herself, took no sick note nonsense from pupils.
Lifelong Celtic supporter, sang in the stalls as a girl,
green and white scarf, nailing her colours to her study walls
every bit as the gold cross and chain around her neck.
Still energy at the weekends for Scottish dancing,
first up at a ceilidh, capering her way to competition cups.  
Greedy for off grid travel too, leaving a footprint in every continent.
Since God the only man for her, settling down meant a Master's in English.
The glass ceiling as deputy head smarted, but
became the woman behind the bungling headmaster.
In later life a serial committee member, not rank and file
but on the board of Medway hospital and church council,
after meetings enjoying a good whiskey with the local priest.
We leave the church smiling at her hoodwinking us all. 
Later in the pub -  dark horse - no idea - good for her,
as we feast on the buffet, and on her life rich as a Dundee cake.

Fiona Sinclair

If you have any thoughts on this poem, Fiona Sinclair would be pleased to hear them.