Geoff’s work permit

Three-minute story

Geoff’s work permit

No tie, sleeves rolled up and concentrating hard in front of a computer. I had found the careers office, tucked away behind the library, and I was interrupting a member of staff. The governors had appointed me to the headship of the school only a few weeks beforehand and this was my first visit since, to get to know the staff, and the building and the kids.

“There’s nothing here for you mate.” He spoke without so much as a flicker of an eye in my direction. Had he added, “You’re wasting your time here mate,” I would not have been surprised. One of my best friends was a Kiwi and there was no need for me to ask this fellow where came from or to ask him which number follows five; in New Zealand it’s sex.

I left him to get on with his work; at least there was no loaded information or advice that newcomers to a school sometimes find, laid out meticulously in front of them, just to let them know of course about mister so and so or class 9Z. Geoff had not wasted my time.

The next time we met my initial term was under way. One of my first jobs was to spend a short while with each of my colleagues so that I could learn from them about the school and they could get to know me. Geoff, the Kiwi, had a problem.

As he was not a citizen of the European Union Geoff had to renew his work permit every year for four years. Then he would no longer need one. This year he needed a fourth work permit, but, before it could be issued I was required to advertise his job openly so that anyone from the European Union could apply for it. I advertised for a native speaker of English who could teach Maths and Chemistry to advanced level and coach rugby and cricket. There were no applications for Geoff’s job and he got his permit and could stay and work in the UK for as long as he liked.

“Why did you do this Mr Inson?” he asked. I didn’t want to embarrass this naturally modest man who was so well-regarded by his colleagues. I asked him a question,

“Tell me Geoff, who was it who sank The Rainbow Warrior?”

(The Rainbow Warrior, a ship operated by Greenpeace, an organisation that had been trying to monitor French atomic tests in the southern Pacific Ocean was attacked and sunk by French security agents in in Aukland Harbour, in New Zealand’s North Island.)

“French spies.”

“Geoff, tell me, how many Kiwis were killed fighting to save France in two world wars?”

“Thousands, hundreds of thousands.”

I had a second question. “Geoff. How many Frenchmen are buried in New Zealand?”

And then the penny dropped and there were no more questions to ask.

What do you understand by the phrase loaded information in the third paragraph?

Why do you think the writer refers to Geoff’s job?

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