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I was in Prêt à manger the other day, and the counter assistant (as she had been bidden by management, no doubt) started asking me with fake enthusiasm what I was doing in the area etc.

‘Oh research,’ she beamed, ‘how interesting! What subject? Ah! Education, how interesting. Just education generally, or some special subject in education?

‘Music education’, I replied. She might have replied ‘Oh cool’, and carried on. But instead, her face fell, and suddenly, her training and happy smile deserted her.

‘Eurgh’, she said, ‘I always hated music at school. I always think of music teachers as being, like, forty, and living alone with a cat.’

‘Really?’ I said, ‘that doesn’t fit any of my fellow students. Most of them look pretty cool, actually’

‘Yes, but if you think back to what your teachers were like when you were young.’

When I was young. She made it sound as if it must be so far back I could hardly remember. I was on the point of saying ‘Oh, yes, actually now you mention it’, but then remembered that wasn’t true. There were a few teachers who were mad or depressed or best left alone, but mostly my teachers were a pretty impressive lot. If we’d used the word then, I would even have said some of them were cool.

When I thought of that, this spinster-phobic waitress suddenly seemed very uncool. It was definitely not a good look, to be uncooled by your own coolness.

Ah well, that’s customer service for you.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist