1. This summer, I wittered on a bit…
“I’ve got this clear memory of being at school – it must have been more than 65 years ago – and our teacher said something about Parkinson’s. I went home and asked my mum what it was. She frowned a little, then told me it was a brand of cigarettes. So when the teacher asked the next day what we remembered about Parkinson’s…”
There is a chortle across the room from the thirty-odd Rotarians who are listening to Colin thanking me for my first ‘after-lunch’ speech. They seem an affable bunch of chaps – they are all chaps, so just me and the waitress holding up the distaff side of things. Which is a slightly strange experience, vaguely reminiscent of taking Physics A Level.
Way back when, I was sent on a Management course. Most of what we were told has long since been pushed out of my head by other stuff. But one of the activities has stuck with me: the Lego House competition.
“However you organise the room to start with, you’ll want to change it the minute the kids arrive. At least, that’s how it was for me. It took me half a term before I had things organised the way I should have had them in September.”
I am still grateful to Simon. Unasked for, he helped me sort out my first‑ever classroom, including a lesson in the putting up of backing paper. I chose to cover all my boards in a ghastly, beige-y, custardy, blah sort of colour, I seem to remember. A good back-drop for all that free, independent writing my class would be itching to produce, was the theory. Titter ye not.
To begin at the end.
We landed at Stansted in the early hours and finally tottered through our front door at about two thirty this morning.
I’m a very poor flier, as you know, and was in a horrible panic all the way out to Naples, despite my valiant attempts to ‘man up’. Coming home was much better, partly due to the application of a large glass of red wine just before embarkation, but mostly because, by keeping my eyes fixed on a book, I managed to fool myself into believing that I was actually on a train.
Everyone was looking at me as I reached for the nappies. What on earth was I doing here, now? I skulked around the baby wipes, trying to ignore the frowns. Would I need a bottle steriliser? The NCT lady said no, but my cousin, Young Bessie, had said yes and she is a woman of infinite resource and sagacity. I tried to ignore them all tutting as I picked up the Milton, but I could smell the disapproval.
- Heat 4 fl oz of white vinegar in microwave for about a minute.
- Add 4 fl oz of washing up liquid.
- Put into hand-sprayer.
- Spray onto shower screen.
- Rub off with cloth or sponge.
Term started yesterday. I guess that now makes me officially retired. It feels surreal.
I’m not short of things to do. There’s a whole bungalow to decorate, for a start. We’ve been here for over a year now – people will start to think we actually like the brown and yellow kitchen tiles and the polystyrene ceiling. There are still swathes of the garden to reclaim for civilisation and an allotment with a plenitude of guilt-inducing weeds.
And on the subject of Family Planning, did you know that Marie Stopes disinherited her son because he married someone whom she considered to have ‘inferior traits’, namely poor eyesight? You did? I only heard the other day, whilst listening to an old In Our Time. It had passed me by completely, Marie Stopes being a eugenicist. Another hero bites the dust.
I’ve got it cornered.
The Still-to-do List is down to one sheet of paper; the accumulated detritus of my years at Thrush Woods has been herded into a corner of the ICT room and sits tamely waiting to be sorted. I’ve found no untaught children stacked away in boxes, so it looks like I’ve got away with it again.
“The ratio of the shear stress to the strain rate in a fluid is commonly known as what?”
The students confer; Young Fogey whispering to Phiz Illustration while Hockey Captain checks with Normal Looking Kid. There’s a lot of confident nodding. Paxman looks confident too, but then he has the answer in front of him.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to understand the question. A-level Physics was forty years ago and the only thing I remember now is Mr Hurst setting his jacket on fire by pocketing his pipe while it was still alight.
The individual words make sense; it’s the underlying meaning that has me fogged.