The Parent Teacher Organisation at the Boys' school is all-encompassing. It reaches into every corner and has a positive impact on the children's education. Over the years it has paid for a multitude of facilities, from playground improvements, to sports equipment (and I'm not talking about a couple of netballs here, rather a fully fledged ice rink that's in place for a couple of months most winters), to interactive technology for the classroom.
In addition it provides an invaluable support structure for the student's parents; for those struggling to cope with the often brutal transition from living somewhere warm and efficient to somewhere that is... not; for those who are looking for an outlet for the skills which as a trailing spouse (god, how I hate that term) they find themselves unable to use in the work-place of a land where they don't speak the language and even if they could, wouldn't be able to get a work-permit; and for those who find that removed from their comfort zone they don't even know how to begin making friends and building new networks
Amongst it's many other roles, it puts on events for the parents and teachers of the school. One of these is the Silent Auction, when parents are requested to provide goods that are packaged up into hampers of similar themed products and then auctioned off during an evening of fun and frivolity.
They're very organised in the PTO, of course; the first requests for contributions to fill the baskets came home at the middle of last term, and have been increasing in frequency (and urgency) since that point on. Each of these notes have been headed up 'Bring us something you love for the Silent Auction', followed by details of suitable items along with an explanation of themes of the different baskets that would be available. The most far-reaching of these is a range of baskets by country; US, UK, France, etc etc.
Having benefited myself from the community spirit fostered by the PTO I was keen to do my bit for this, and before Christmas gave the request to bring something I loved from home back for the baskets due consideration.
Something British was called for. Something easily transportable. Something not available here. Something - I'm afraid to say - not too expensive. And something I could bring 2 of, since contributions are accepted by class and there is heavy competition within each year group to bring the most gifts (this may be encouraged by the opportunity to win an ice-cream party if your class is top of the tables, although of course I'm sure I don't really know...).
Regular readers of this blog will not be suprised to learn that I plumped for 2 presentation boxes of miniature Green & Black's chocolate bars, since they fulfilled all of the above criteria. I brought them back after our Christmas trip to the UK, and stowed them safely out of temptation's way at the back of the kitchen cupboard.
The week just passed brought the deadline for contributions.
And did I surrender my two boxes of delicious chocolate?
Did I hell.
I meant to. And - oh ye of little faith - I hadn't eaten them, it wasn't that they were full of empty wrappers; they were still intact. It's just that as I was about to bundle them up (along with, it has to be said, a number of items from our present box that had been sitting unused since we got here last January due to the fact that we no longer know any children of the right age to give them to), I remembered an incident just before Christmas when I handed the same thing - a presentation box of Green & Black's - to the Russian mum of a friend of Boy #2's in an attempt to educate her in what real chocolate tastes like compared to - no offence intended - the rubbish you get here, only to discover a couple of days later that she had given the lot to her childrenafter trying it and not really liking it very much. For chrissake. Didn't she understand that in that case she should just have handed the rest back to me?
So the thought that I might be casting yet more pearls before swine was bothering me even before I had a conversation with a friend last week, when I voiced my misgivings and she pointed out that my precious chocolate was likely to be used to bulk up a basket and not be appreciated for the edible gold it actually is.
And that it would make a far better gift, say, for people who invited us for a meal, and who would know it's true value.
And, by the way, had I forgotten we were due at their house for dinner in a few week's time?
She's a woman after my own heart, that one...