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I’m completely in it now. The transition period has passed. What was is now in the past. In the process new priorities haven made. No point in spreading myself too thinly. Curiously, it simplifies things. Establishing new routines was always going to take a little time but now that I have done I don’t find myself hankering after what was. What’s replaced it is just fine. It’s prompted me to deal with issues I might otherwise have avoided and in doing so I now have a better grasp not only of who I am but of what I’m capable of.
The train stops on a bridge over a road. A couple of sad excuses for Christmas lights hang from the streetlights below. Cars are snaking along rained washed streets. At first I’m unaware we’ve stopped, having slipped into that limbo state so well known to train commuters – dreaming yet not sleeping, resting yet not completely unaware of what’s going on around you. The driver announces that we’ve been held up for a while but should be on our way soon. In the meantime I close my eyes again, enjoying the lull in noise and the oddly pleasant stillness of the carriage.
I’ve actually reached the point where if they were to offer me my old position back I’d have to think seriously about accepting. For all its challenges and impossible demands on my time I’m actually beginning to enjoy myself. With each passing week I’m becoming more established both in my own eyes and in the eyes of others. I’ve even taken on a new student this week. Another one joins us next week. We’re a growing enterprise for the first time in months. I always said I didn’t want to take on a role like this. Funny how things change.
It would be hard to imagine a more wretchedly miserable start to the day. I’m referring to the weather. It’s cold, dark and wet. The bendy-bus I’m riding in is filled with people rugged up against the elements and while it’s a lot warmer inside than out, every time the doors open an icy blast sucks out what little warm air accumulates between bus stops. It’s not all grim though. I didn’t have to wait long for a bus and the first to arrive was the 436, ensuring I don’t have to walk any distance to catch the connecting 321.
On a good day I get it. There’s a sense of challenge and purpose mixed with the satisfaction of seeing things change for the better. On a not so good day there’s a creeping sense that I’m not really cut out for it; that while I may be making some sort of difference it’s not really enough. And on a shit of a day like today it’s enough to make me throw up my arms in complete exasperation and wonder that’s the point of even bothering. It’s not that I’ve lost my sense of humour. I’ve simply mislaid it somewhere.
I wasn’t really worried about the Ofsted inspection until I was informed that it was going to take place next Wednesday and Thursday. Now I’m worried. The fact that both inspectors are special needs specialists only fuels my sense of unease. That being said, I’m relieved inasmuch as it means it will all be over by Christmas and that I’ll be starting the New Year without it hanging over my head. Between now and Wednesday however I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep. Still, nothing like a bit of pressure to focus the mind and lay procrastination to rest.
I’m not usually one to wish my life away but I’ll be glad when the next few days are over. In the meantime I can’t afford to allow procrastination any reign over what I need to get done. As long as I work smart, maintain my focus and my cool (or as Martina would say, keep my eye on the solution rather than the problem) I should be able to do all the things that need to be done. Beyond that, my fatalistic streak kicks in and I figure I’ll just have to let the cards land where they may.
In the night you stir, your dreams filled with . . . what? Is that laughter I can hear, or are you troubled by unseen demons, fears kept hidden from your waking mind that now seek expression when you are at your most vulnerable? It’s difficult to tell. Should I wake you? Do I have the right? It may indeed be laughter, and who am I to intrude upon your nocturnal mirth? So I roll over and allow myself to sink back into the sanctuary of my own inner world where the line between laughter and tears can sometimes be a blurred one.
The level of stress in incredible. People are looking ill at the prospect of Ofsted walking through the door tomorrow. I’m one of them. Whether there can be any justification for it remains to be seen. If we do well there is. I’ve had numerous reassurances from various quarters, including the boss, but I’m still feeling vulnerable and at a disadvantage due to the short period of time I’ve been in the post and the overwhelming number of things I should have achieved and haven’t. And to top things off, the kids have been really off the wall this week.
Had I known it was going to be so simple and straight forward I wouldn’t have worked myself into such a state. Then again, had I trusted my gut instincts more I wouldn’t have been quite so worried. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a temporary shot of stress. Needless to say things went extremely well. We were the first to be inspected and Michelle, bless her, carried it off with aplomb. There will be a meeting tomorrow at which I’ll be expected to talk the talk. But that doesn’t worry me. I can talk for England when I need to.
Well, it’s official. We are an outstanding provision. We achieved outstanding in each category. It’s apparently a first for the borough. I won’t pretend we’re all not a little stunned given the constraints we have to work under but we’ve managed to pull it off and that’s not to be down played. We can all look forward to the festive season and the coming year with the decks cleared. Though I haven’t got a mind for it right now it means when we come back I can focus on what really matters rather than having to worry about ticking boxes.
It was smiles all around today. The sense of relief is palpable. I was also able to approach the boss on the matter of pay, too. I was drafted in to save her skin and I’ve met my side of the bargain. She’s not unsympathetic to the idea of an increase but it’s a matter of how to apply for it under the new pay structure that comes into effect next month. At the very least I don’t want to lose anything which, if nothing changes, I will do under the new arrangements. She’s assured me she’ll pursue the matter.
I decided to make the most of what little daylight there was today and went for a stroll down to Battersea Park. I listened to Fionn Regan while walking beside the river kicking through piles of leaves and watching various bits of flotsam and jetsam floating down on the surface of the water, enjoying the echoes of Nick Drake in Regan’s music while remembering similar winter strolls through Kensington Park and along the Serpentine in the last few weeks before leaving London in 1994. Sometimes the best way to appreciate winter is to rug up and go out into it.
For me, the days leading up to Christmas and New Year are the best in terms of the season. Although the days are short and the weather often inclement there is the anticipation of down time and the rest that, in our household at least, Christmas allows for. And whereas I tend to have a lot going on during my time off throughout the year, when it comes to the festive season I prefer to do as little as possible. When people at work ask me what I have planned I take great delight in telling them, “Why, absolutely nothing!”
With the pressure of the inspection behind me I’m able to take a couple of steps back and more clearly evaluate what has been achieved over the last couple of months. It’s amazing to think that’s all it’s been, almost to the day! And while there is a great deal to be done still, not least of which is dealing with the staffing issue, the bottom line is I’ve established myself with the kids. They’ve accepted me as the boss and while they’ll kick against the boundaries they nonetheless know where those boundaries are. And that is no small achievement!
This week is shaping up to be a much more relaxed and enjoyable one than last week. With the pressure of work now off we are able to enjoy the kids and they us. Instead of structured lessons we’re playing games, watching movies and generally being with them in a way that seems to be putting them more at ease. It allows for a more light-hearted day which in turn pays dividends in terms of relationship building, and that’s very positive.
Meanwhile, there’s no solution in sight to next term’s staffing shortage. Words like hats and rabbits come to mind.
In amongst everything else the art room is beginning to take shape. The new tables and chairs have arrived. So have the easels. Now itís a case of getting the plane chests and cupboards moved in and stocked and getting some art work up around the walls. Thereís a certain irony in the fact that itís my old room, the one Ben and I used when we ran our little venture a few years back. I have fond memories of that time which perhaps bodes well for the new memories to come. Yes, slowly but surely things are taking shape.
We didnít expect to see him back in again after his over-the-top performance the other day in which with an extraordinary range of colourful expletives he made it abundantly clear just where we could shove our school. But in he came, clearly expecting some kind of bollocking and just as clearly confused when he didnít get one. So with no resistance with which to kick against he was left with little option but to settle down and, much to his surprise, actually enjoy himself. I suppose it must be confusing to discover a place where old expectations have no currency.
There were a number of things on my Ďto doí list today that I had hoped to achieve before going home but one by one they fell off the end of it, or more to the point the list got shorter and shorter as the day wore on. The kids went at midday and then it was time for the Christmas lunch. With some good food and a couple of wines in me all thought of work soon evaporated and by the time I left at the end of the day my Ďto doí list was still largely intact, sigh!
Sitting on the bus listening to Emmylou Harris on the way to Bronwen and FranÁoisís for lunch. Sunlight pours in through the window. An impossibly blue sky stretches overhead. Itís chilly outside but here on the top deck itís warm. People are smiling. Sunshine can do that, especially at this time of the year. And itís all the more sweet by virtue of the fact that I have sixteen days ahead of me during which I donít have to concern myself with anything other than relaxing and enjoying myself. Ah yes, thereís more than just the weather to smile about.
It takes a little while to let go of things. Iím still carrying stuff around in my head that I donít need to concern myself with for now; fragments of conversations, appointments I need to amend, reports that will need to be written up, not to mention the headache thatís going to emerge if Iím a teacher down. Bit by bit though I'm letting go. It will all be there when I get back. Nothing is more certain. In the meantime I have my own things to be going on with, whatever they may be - or not for that matter.
At home, alone.
Ah, what bliss! I sit at my desk and go online. I gaze out the window and watch the people pass by below. I stand at the kitchen sink and look out at the plants on the terrace. Yes, I know I should clamber out through the kitchen window (our only means of access) and tidy them up Ė the daisies are long past their prime and the weeds in the far corner have clearly won the battle. Well, maybe another day. After all I still have 14 of them left.
Plenty of time for doing that stuff later.
Thereís a particular skill involved in doing nothing. It requires a certain dogged determination to ignore the temptation to engage is some kind of useful activity. Not that Iíve become a total slob. I havenít had enough time for that yet. But I am allowing myself to veg in a way I havenít done for a while. Iím closing my ears to the nagging voice at the back of my mind thatís trying to berate me for my lack of industriousness. I spend enough of my time at the beck and call of others and being responsible.
But not today.
It was a last minute decision to hang the lights. I usually have them up before now but after finishing work last week I couldnít seem to drum up much enthusiasm about Christmas. Nonetheless, within 20 minutes Iíd not only draped the fairy lights around the room Iíd also covered the light stand with tinsel and hung baubles from the light wire. By the time Iíd finished the lounge was transformed. A warm, festive glow radiated from around the walls, reflecting in the mirror and the glass of the widescreen TV.
Yes. Itís beginning to feel a bit like Christmas.
One of the reasons I prefer to stay at home for Christmas, quite apart from the fact that there's no public transport, is because Christmas Day here on Wilton Road is unlike any other day of the year. Itís like waking up in the country. You canít hear a thing. All shops and restaurants are closed and very few, if any, venture out onto the street below. Itís like having the whole city to ourselves in a way that one rarely experiences in a city of this size.
And with that in mind we had ourselves a merry little Christmas.
After falling asleep on the quietest night of the year, free from the clamour of pedestrian traffic on the street below or the familiar rumble of a double-decker passing the bedroom window I was awoken this morning by the slow, sonorous approach of a street cleaner as it made its way along the full length of Wilton Road. After an interminably long time it finally swept past the window and on towards the intersection of Wilton and Warwick Way. However, my initial relief at its passing was soon cut short as it circled around and came back the other way.
It was a strange thought. Watching young Felix and Ava opening their gifts it occurred to me that had I not caught a train with Tristan in 1981 they wouldnít be on the planet now. That fateful train journey set in motion a chain of events that culminated in Carol meeting Andrew when she did and the rest, biologically speaking, is history. Which in turn begs the question: what random event long before I was conceived might have contributed to that coupling in late 1958 that led to me being born in 1959?
Funny, the thoughts opening presents can generate.
Thereís something to be said for being together without having to say or do anything. You go about your business and I go about mine without the need for idle chatter. Thereís the pleasure of sharing the same space and the knowledge that youíre there if I need you but for the most part we pass the time idly, you lost in your own worldand I lost in mine. We come together at meal times, catch the news or maybe watch a game show. Other than that weíre happy to simply veg out and indulge ourselves in down time.
With each passing day I keep telling myself I ought to be doing something more productive with my time, and with each day that passes I ignore my own advice. This is the time of year when I really donít have to do anything. Thereíll be time and pressure enough to be going on with things soon enough. In the meantime Iím passing the days as mindlessly as I can. I stay up late. I get up late. I spend ridiculous amounts of time online and I keep in touch with my friends on Facebook. For now, thatís productive enough.
He reminds me so much of myself at that age. Being a teenager is never easy and being a sensitive teenager is harder still. While he was with us at the other centre he won us all over but when he sought me out on Facebook I was a little hesitant at first. I prefer to maintain a professional distinction between my working life and my private life. This evening however he poured his heart out and it felt good to be able to provide a sympathetic ear. He clearly felt a lot better afterwards.
Sometimes thatís all it takes.
And so another year draws to a close. Within a few short hours we will have tipped over into the New Year. It will be the year I turn 50. 50! I honestly have no concept of myself at 50, or even what 50 means. Maybe it doesnít have to mean anything. Maybe it will just be another year like any other. Age is a bit like that. It creeps up on you and before you know it you have a little bit less of the one thing you can never replenish Ė time itself.
With that in mind, happy New Year!
The Tip Jar