Thursday 2 May 2019

The Life Coach

By Dawn Knox

energy-boosting green chlorophyll smoothie

It soon became apparent why the number of pupils attending the after-school Science Club had increased dramatically that week. 

“When’re we going to have the taste test, Mr Primm?” one of the new children asked.

Word had got out that the usual attendees had been growing something which they were going to eat this week. 

‘D’you think it’s going to be bacon?” someone asked. 

“Or pizza?”

Several children packed up and left when Mr Primm brought out the tiny cress plants. To those who were now gathered around his desk and who had planted the seeds the previous week, he explained about the miracle of germination and how plants feed themselves using sunlight.

“My grandad takes tablets for that,” Polly said.

“Is he infected with cress?” Zoe asked.

“Nah, stupid. He takes them to bring his chlorophyll levels down, if he didn’t, he might have a heart attack,” Polly said condescendingly.

“What d’you do if cress has a heart attack, Mr Primm?” Zoe asked. 

“That’s not possible, Zoe, cress doesn’t have a heart. Are you thinking of cholesterol, Polly? Plants contain chlorophyll. Humans contain cholesterol and it’s high levels of cholesterol in humans which can cause heart disease.” 

 “Possibly,” said Polly, who’d lost interest and was eyeing up the gold stars Oliver kept in his desk drawer. 

“Well, I think we’ll finish there, children. I expect your mothers are waiting for you in the playground.” 

No one mentioned that they were supposed to be taste-testing the experiment.

“They’re very green, aren’t they?” a boy muttered with a frown.

Polly took one long regretful look at the gold stars and left. 

Oliver glanced at the chart on the wall showing who’d earned the most stars. Polly had six so far this term. If she suddenly acquired more, he’d know where they came from. 

The headteacher’s PA, Alice Skipper, poked her head around the door, “Your cab’s here, Ollie,” she trilled, “Oh, and don’t forget you’re on playground duty first thing in the morning.” 

She smiled a knowing smile. 

This wasn’t how he’d planned his teaching career to go, but the All Saints’ Junior School Christmas Nativity play had put paid to any hopes he’d rise rapidly through the ranks and manage to avoid minor irritations like playground duty. 

And it would have worked too, if it hadn’t been for that stupid play and the headteacher’s amorous advances. 

Well, the ex-headteacher’s amorous advances. 

At least Miss Skate, or as the children had very aptly dubbed her Mistake, had abruptly left All Saints’, taking all her unwelcome opinions on running a successful, politically-correct school with her – much to his relief and to that of the other members of staff.

Unfortunately, Ruth Abraham and Laetitia Gibbons, his colleagues, simply wouldn’t believe that despite he and Mistake sharing a room at the Wickleston Arms on the evening of the Nativity Play, everything had been completely innocent. 

But it had been completely innocent. 

They’d both passed out after the landlady had liberally bestowed her powerful punch on all the patrons that evening, to make up for the fact that many of them were sheltering there because of the freezing fog. When they’d woken up in the morning, Mistake had apparently been feeling a little frisky but Oliver had hastily pulled his clothes on and left. 

He felt particularly aggrieved because Ruth and Laetitia had almost forced him to offer the headteacher a lift and then pretend his car had broken down, to prevent her turning up at the Nativity Play and now, he was paying the price. And the price was that he had to do more than his fair share of playground duty. 

He picked up his bag and went outside to the waiting cab. And that was another thing he had against Ruth and Laetitia – his car had never been the same since he’d pretended it had broken down, it was as if it was paying him back for casting aspersions on it when it was perfectly healthy.  

“Bad day?” the driver asked as Oliver got into the passenger side of the cab. 

Oliver nodded. He didn’t want to talk. He’d spent hours today, talking to children, who, if their comments about cress and heart attacks were anything to go by, only half-listened. 

“I’m Harris,” the driver said, holding out his hand, “I’m new.”

Oliver shook his hand, “Yes, I can see,” he said. Cab drivers usually just drove. They didn’t, as far as he knew, introduce themselves with a view to becoming life-long friends. Oliver looked at the identification card in front of him – Harris Tweed. 

Harris saw the direction of his gaze, “Good, eh? Harris Tweed. Sounds really posh, don’t it?”
Oliver agreed it did. 

“You know what you need?” Harris said.

Oliver could think of plenty of things but he didn’t want to discuss them with the driver. 

“What you need,” said Harris, “is some life-coaching.”

Well, that hadn’t been anywhere on Oliver’s list. 

“I do?”

“Yup, definitely. And it’s your lucky day because I can offer you some.”

Inwardly, Oliver groaned. 

“Now let me guess,” said Harris, “you’re not happy in your career?”


“Say no more. I’ll sort you out. Now, what d’you like doing? What’s the most important thing to you?”

“I like to make a difference.”

“Right, I’ve got the perfect job for you,” said Harris after only a moment’s thought.

“Yep. Fork-lift truck driver. They make a difference. They move stuff from one place to another and make things look really different.”

Oliver glanced sideways to see if Harris was joking but it appeared he was serious. 

“I’m not terribly spatially aware, so I’m not sure that’s quite suitable. And I was thinking more of making a difference to people’s hearts and minds.”

“Oh, I see. Well, how about a doctor, they dabble with hearts and minds?”

“I think there’s quite a lot of training involved in becoming a doctor. I might’ve left it a bit late for that.”

“Never say never, mate! If that’s your dream, make it happen.”

“Yes, but it’s not my dream. I faint at the sight of blood. I was thinking more of helping people to be the best they can be.”

“I’ve got it!” said Harris, “Cheese-maker.”

“Why?” Oliver asked after a few moments.

“Everyone loves cheese. Lots of protein and calcium. Makes people strong – and happy.”

“When I said ‘the best they can be’, I was thinking more of helping children develop and grow into useful, well-adjusted adults.

“I’ve got it!” said Harris, “Why don’t you become a life-coach?”

“Well, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what qualifications I’d need.”

“No, me neither,” said Harris.

“But I thought you said you were a life-coach.” 

“Me? Nah! I just said I could offer you some life-coaching. I’m an amateur. I throw my advice in for free with the cab ride.” 

“I see,” said Oliver.

The cab drew up outside Oliver’s flat. 

“Here’s one last bit of advice I’ll throw in,” said Harris as he turned the clock off, “whatever you do, keep your chin up, put your best foot forward and don’t let ‘em grind you into the dirt.”

“Thank you,” said Oliver, looking through his wallet to find a five-pound note as a tip. He didn’t usually give cab drivers that much but he felt Harris had been trying so hard, he deserved something extra. His own car was going to be delivered later, so hopefully, he wouldn’t need a cab again. And if he did, he fervently hoped it wouldn’t be driven by Harris Tweed – he couldn’t afford to spend so much on travelling to and from work. 

But, don’t let ‘em grind you into the dirt was good advice. Tomorrow, Oliver would assert his rights. He’d done nothing wrong, so there was no reason why he should have to suffer playground duty more than anyone else. He’d get Alice Skipper to alter the rota. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t simply insisted on that in the beginning. 

As he let himself into his flat, he was already planning next week’s science club. It would be about keeping fit and healthy and he’d make sure to emphasise there was an important distinction between cholesterol and chlorophyll. 

There was nothing wrong with teaching, he decided, nothing at all. And thanks to Harris Tweed’s life-coaching, he now knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

About the author

Author of: 
“THE GREAT WAR - 100 Stories of 100 Words Honouring Those Who Lived and Died 100 Years Ago.”

“EXTRAORDINARY" Tales to take you out of this world.
“WELCOME TO PLOTLANDS” and “A TOUCH OF THE EXOTIC” - historical romances set in Essex.

All available on  

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