Space is big. Really big. Unless we are speaking of that galactic anomaly the government teacher’s staffroom. Which is small, really small. Think of the Tardis. Bigger on the inside than it is out. By contrast, your average rundown government school (yes, a tautology) is big on the outside.

All over the place, in fact, like the madwoman’s knitting with portable classrooms sprouting like poisonous fungi around the central Fifties admin block. The first-time teacher does not quite appreciate the magnitude (or enormity as even ABC journalists will sometimes insist) until he is required to transport himself from A block to F block without benefit of GPS or emergency supplies.

Logic says that within this architectural vomitus there should be ample space to accommodate teachers and their work desks. Not a bit of it. In the galactic anomaly, teachers are forced into a hugger-muggery so confining it might be mistaken for a working model of the Black Hole of Calcutta. Particularly on those days when the ancient aircon is straining like Elvis at stool.

Alternatively you are reminded of the ant farm which so engrossed the tin lid. Without benefit of formic pheromones you could get lost in the labyrinth. The horror of it is that you might one day encounter old Nuttal the classics master who has not been seen since ’73. In these recesses it is possible to displace all sense of time and space. Which even now seems to be shrinking.

You return to your desk on a Monday morning convinced that it was bigger somehow on the Friday. Like the Eskimo Pie, the space allotted one contracts by imperceptible degrees. Is there a scientific law in operation here? Was an explanation supplied in a science lesson we failed to attend sufficiently (O, how the wheel becomes it!) all those years ago? In the confined space where EVERYONE can hear you scream, you ponder these imponderables. O God! I could be bounded in a nut-shell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams. Space is an enigma.

Peter Fray

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