It started out as Coronation Chicken on a crispy baguette – big enough to stop the most ravenous appetite with some left over.
It was the left-over that was the problem.
When the builders finished at the school, the summer holidays had three-and-a-half weeks left to run.
Three-and-a-half weeks with no air conditioning and ventilation. By which time the classroom for 4CH was decidedly ripe.
Opening the windows sort of fixed it. But of course the school had to be locked up at night. Air fresheners didn’t crack it either. A few seconds of lavender, then back to the yuck.
Allan Armstrong was the caretaker. He’d been there for yonks and knew just what was needed. A good swab out with a hefty dose of bleach would sort it, no problem.
Unfortunately, it made it worse. The smell was so strong it made the kids’ eyes run. Christa Holmfirth, their teacher, went further and burst into tears.
The classroom had to be abandoned, displacing them all to the assembly hall – unwanted, unloved and shoved to one side.
But tears or not, Christa was no helpless female.
Determined, she braved the classroom during her lunch break and tracked the smell down to the new panelling under the windows.
The heck with asking for permission, she kicked it in with her shoe, snapping the heel in the process – and there was this crinkled packet, half-covered with green gunge.
Smell was one thing, but what kind of GERMS were her children going to come down with? The thing must be crawling with bacteria.
She took it out at arm’s length and marched it to the wheelie-bin behind the school kitchen.
Her colleagues complained that she was stinking the place out.
Then they looked at her face. Whatever they said, Christa was taking no prisoners. And they shrank visibly when she pulled the aerosol out of her handbag.
She showed them the label. Total release fogger – kills germs in seconds. Clobbering the smell did nothing, so she was going to sterilise the whole room.
Fighting her nausea, she went back to the classroom and shut all the windows. She put the aerosol on a desk in the middle, pressed the button and actually ran for the door as if the smell we attacking her.
It took five minutes for the sick feeling to die down. By that time, as she saw through the glass panel, the room looked like a sauna gone wrong, everything ghostly in a cloud of mist.
Her big mistake was telling the kids about it, they wanted to see too. Well, you try telling thirty excited kids with no home that their classroom is full of fog. They were kids and curious.
Curious, but not brave enough to go in. Which was probably just as well.
Christa’s aerosol was based on ammonium chloride, a lighter than air mist which killed germs by oxidising them – ripping them apart by shoving oxygen atoms at them. Lower powered than the super-oxidiser, hydrogen peroxide, but it did the business.Handy in an aerosol too.
Not harmful, but not a good idea to breathe in either.
Twenty minutes later, the room was clear – and the other teachers were complaining about the noise in the passage. Christa went first and opened all the windows wide.
“Oooh!” They all stood there sniffing.
Christa was in tears again. Because the smell was gone. No stink, no germs, her kids were safe.
Which made the waterworks start Big Time. Difficult to resist when a bunch of eight-year-olds suddenly burst out clapping.
Miss Holmfirth, their heroine. The most popular Year Four teacher in UK.