Acool Zephyr for hot climes

You know me - generally positive and upbeat about the job we do and the children we teach, and grateful to be working where I do. Yet on the last day of term when the award ceremony ended, once again I had to fight the urge to run down the corridor, arms flailing, singing Alice Cooper's School's Out.

This probably goes back to my primary school days when I liked school a lot less than I do now. Any holiday was an occasion for unbridled joy, as were weekends and evenings to a lesser but still significant extent. Our family holidays in those days were slightly revolutionary for the late Sixties because my parents bought a touring caravan.

Custard-yellow until my coach-painter grandfather sorted it out, this yawing bustle on wheels, though small, weighed about as much as the Caledonian Hotel. It gave my father an excuse to buy a big car on the grounds that nothing less would be needed to tow it.

He chose a Ford Zephyr Mark III, secondhand, in sky blue. With its bench seat, fins and a chrome grill like the smile of a third-year girl under the care of a pathologically over-enthusiastic orthodontist, this car was a Batmobile, a Gerry Anderson car, a spy car. It was cool on wheels. I was choked when he sold it, to replace it with an aircraft carrier-like Zephyr IV, and later a Ford Consul (as in The Sweeney). All of these redoubtable machines hauled our caravans around Scotland and the north of England.

There were many highlights, but a beach at Arisaig stands out as heaven on earth. Aged 17, I felt too old to accompany my family. In any case, I had a part time job as an assistant electro-hydraulic maintenance engineer and tea-boy in a plastics factory. In an act of spectacular trust, my parents left me home alone for a fortnight. I am proud to say that I did not abuse this trust, save for sitting heavy-eyed through a couple of dire late-night BBC 2 films in the hope of glimpsing an undraped female form.

When I went to university I didn't have the money for holidays, save for cycling jaunts around the Highlands or days spent at friends' houses. I might have afforded more breaks had I not been so willing to invest cash earned from seasonal employment in East European motorbikes or decaying Mini vans. I found the freedom to be able to travel locally more important than short-lived forays further afield.

When I began teaching and had the money to both run a car and have a holiday, I made a solo back-packing excursion to France. "Do you think I should leave my inhibitions this side of the Channel?" I asked a trusted female friend. She thought that I should. I lasted until my first French campsite convenience. Though I had my back to them, the unexpected presence of women suddenly arriving in the gents to do their washing in the sinks was enough to send me straight to the closet.

Thereafter, my inhibitions and I had a comfortable time together, though at one point I did fear being arrested for hysteria in a public place. I was walking down a street in Rouen when I noticed a sports shop with an English name. It was called The Athlete's Foot. Self-control deserted me and I was left laughing seismically in public with no obvious source of amusement.

Then came marriage and children. Our family holidays range from conventional spells in Mediterranean sunspots to self-catering breaks in Britain and the Irish Republic. I have thus far resisted driving on the Continent. People who have done it tell me it is no bother, usually recounting, on average, only one horror story of a bodged junction.

Playing safe, we often find ourselves following in the tyre tracks of the Zephyr. I am often amazed and slightly saddened at how little I picked up on as a child when we revisit old haunts. A beach, an abandoned truck, a shop that sold cola-flavoured lollies; these were a bairn's landmarks in a country of beautiful mountains and a fascinating history.

Aged nine, I was taken to Glenfinnan. Aware of some sort of monument to the soppy-looking prince who starred in so many folk songs, my abiding memory was nevertheless of a vending machine. Doubtless I could draw parallels between these trips and science teaching, pointing out how a series of spectacular experiments can be remembered out of context, unrelated to theory.

I could, but I won't. We're on holiday after all.

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