Friday, August 24, 2012
"In July the sun is hot.
Is it shining? No it's not.
August, cold and dank and wet
brings more rain than any yet."
Actually, if there had been just a little less of the wet stuff, I'd have been quite happy: despite years in the Middle East, hot weather doesn't really suit me, and I tend to wilt in proper summer weather. The cooler season this year preserved more energy than usual, though I have not always used it fruitfully.
Spring, when I last wrote, flew past in a blur of work, and the Easter holiday was mostly spent gearing up for the exam season. The summer term gets less productive each year in terms of teaching, as GCSE and A level exams creep back a day or two from year to year, so even with an early return to the classroom after Easter, we had less than four weeks before exams started. Once I'd coaxed and nurtured my own flock through their Theology papers, I was then straight into examiner duties which continued through overlapping papers, standardising, marking, awarding and reviewing until the end of July.
Just before the end of term, my mysterious black cat had to be put down after a road accident, so there was one quiet, peaceful evening when I buried her under the apple tree and mourned the pet who had been my constant companion for more than 12 years. A few days later, the departure of students for the summer brought a little leisure: I could get up a little later, read into the night, and fit in a few visits to friends and family.
Summer sees two family birthdays, second son in July and youngest son in August, so two wonderful evenings out in London punctuated the holiday. Now I no longer have any teenage children, and with my delightful grandson more than adequately grandparented by his maternal grandmother, my duty to society has been largely accomplished, and there's a gleeful sense of possibility in the air. I hasten to add that grandson is a source of utter joy when I see him, and even more so for the blooming contentment he brings to first son and daughter-in-law. I have promised to become a properly functioning granny when he turns into a snarling teenager and no-oe else can bear him, because that is when I really start to enjoy young people. Perhaps that is why schoolmistressing is such a delicious profession: they actuallly pay me to teach a subject I love to young people whose education I enjoy.
But it is exhausting, and with the extra time devoted to examining responsibilities, holidays time is precious. I've been doing some research on recusancy, and spent a wonderful day at Rushton Triangular Lodge and Rushton Hall in the only really seasonal weather of the month. The odd picnic or meal out loses nothing by being on my own, though asking for a "afternoon tea for one" tends to fluster staff at even the most venerable venues. Driving through the Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire country villages with the roof down and the wind blowing through my hair, stopping to look round a church here or a ruin there, is the best kind of holiday, and I can do it all without having to pack a case or change any currency.
My heavier exam load and his fragile health have combined to limit time spent with my lover this summer, but with him on the mend and a brief hiatus between examining and the looming start of the school year, we plan a couple of days together before the summer ends. I'm already starting to feel the bubbling excitement as the Michaelmas term appears on the horizon: new ideas to develop, new students to meet, new possibilities to explore...
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Fortunately, I have a most accommodating lifestyle. With all the offspring now fledged, I can be flexible outside the conventional working day, and with a few exceptions, touching base with them can be fitted around school duties. There was one potential exception recently, though.
However, my daughter-in-law, in a most dutiful fashion, delivered my grandson a week early, on the Saturday afternoon of my only free weekend of the term, allowing me the chance to race up the motorway and spend time with the new family without encroaching at all on school life. Needless to say, he is quite the most perfect baby ever born.
This lull in the term offers the chance to enjoy a different pace of life. After a weekend city break with my lover, the rest of the week holds other pleasures: a trip to London to wish daughter Happy Birthday, and a trip to the theatre with son number 2; a drive through the Cotswolds to visit my Dad, who has been feeling under the weather recently; lie-ins and the boxed set of "Goodnight Sweetheart".
There are things I have to do, though. With an eye to the exams in summer, I have school revision materials to edit and exam board materials to write, and there are plenty of jobs to do around the house. The joy is having the time to pace these chores, interspersing them with self-indulgent trifles, and doing them after enough sleep to feel energetic and motivated. So I am enjoying the lull, knowing that next week I will be plunging headlong into the mad rush towards Easter.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
I'm ashamed to discover that more than half a year has whistled by without a single blog post: mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Life has been busy and happy, but there's been little leisure to gather my thoughts and compose them into considered prose. However, I've promised my Dad that I will try to follow his example and update my musings more often and in this season of new resolutions, it's a good time to make a start.
The Michaelmas term started at a run and continued that way. My most daunting task each year is learning the names of new students, closely followed by re-orienting my picture of familiar faces into new year-groups. I love the buzz of energy at the start of the school year, and the settling back into the rhythm of a day punctuated by bells and familiar tasks. Who would have thought that the awkward, stroppy schoolgirl I once was would eventually find comfort in the repeated patterns of school routines!
There have been some delightful interludes with my lover when we have found space between his work and mine, including a city break early in summer, but his illness clouded the end of the long holiday which has put our collaborative project on ice. Instead we've spent time together clearing the backlog of his daily work to give him more time for rest and recuperation.
Sunday, May 08, 2011
Friday, December 31, 2010
Recapping that amount of activity now requires me to exercise another failing faculty, my memory for detail. The death of Bertie, my lovely old gentleman springer, at the end of July was a great sadness. He was staying with youngest two sons when he suffered an inoperable leg injury and had to be put to sleep. He was with me such a short time, but he ended his days as a much loved companion after a lot of struggles as an elderly and unwanted stray, and I consider it a privilege to have shared my home with him.
I recall August as a time of blissful idleness, but I know there was a period of mad activity when I realised that the new term was looming and needed proper preparation. (Such a period is now once again upon me, of course. I'm learning
the rhythms of the schoolteacher's year, which are quite different from the academic's.)
Tne highlight of the summer was a couple of visits to Smiths of Smithfield for breakfast. The first time, second son and I started the day thus before an exhibition of Picasso works at the Gagosian Gallery. Penultimate son, a Masterchef groupie of the most fanatical hue, was so envious that I promised him a visit when it could be arranged, and so a few weeks later, two sons, daughter and I converged on Smithfield for a return visit.
Oddly enough, one of the best things about September was the arrival of new colleagues so that I was no longer the new girl. It was good to be there for the start of the school year, to write my own plans for my department and to have my own timetable, rather than one inherited from a part-timer. Starting new after school activities was fun: my survival cooks spent the term learning to feed themselves well on a student budget, and after the first session when we were locked into the cookery room, we decided it was safer -
and more authentic to the student experience - to squash into my small kitchen for an hour each Monday. Meanwhile, my TV and Religion slot later on in the week has prompted some lively thinking about prejudice, social disadvantage and community life.
October provided an autumn of astonishing beauty this year. I gather from various online reports that this is the result of a sequence of traditional seasons. Whatever the reason, driving over the Cotswolds through trees in every shade from palest yellow to deepest brown to visit my Dad at half-term was a joy. The return to school in November coincided with a visit from the inspectors, who gave us a warm endorsement and the encouragement to keep going as temperatures dropped and fluey bugs raged through the school. When the first snow fell in early December, the cycle of the year moved towards completion. The village was under snow when I arrived, and as term drew to a close, another blanket of white covered everything to a depth of 18 inches.
The last of the snow is now melting after a beautiful white Christmas day. It was clear and bright enough to drive down the motorway with the soft-top on the MG down and my Santa hat blowing in the wind.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Summer here has produced other pleasures, too. I had a bumper crop of strawberries from a patch in the back garden which would have been a slug fast-food joint in Sheffield, but which in the less clay-bound Oxfordshire soil produced pounds of strawberries a day at its peak. I plan to be