Am I the only teacher who lives her life in the holidays? I even go to bed after 10pm. It's like I become my devlish ego

I had a call from my credit card company after the half-term break. Was I aware that my card had been stolen? I panicked. The person reeled off a long list of spending, and it took a few minutes before I realised the purchases being described were mine. I reassured her that the card had not been stolen, and she said the company was concerned because the amount of transactions was so unusual. "Don't you know what I do?" I asked. The woman admitted that no, it wasn't really the company's business to know my profession. I explained that I was a teacher and it was the holidays. It still didn't click. "I'm a teacher," I said, "and the only time I get to live my life is in the holidays. I've been shopping like a normal person and you automatically presume something's wrong. Goodbye." The next day at the gym I won two free tickets to the cinema. The staff said it was in recognition of the fact that I had resumed my visits after a long period of absence. "It's not a long period of absence," I told them. "I'm a teacher, it's the holidays, I'm alive again."

Am I the only teacher to live her life in the holidays? I go to the gym. I go shopping. I go to the cinema. I even go to bed after 10pm. It's like I become my devilish alter ego. The diet goes out the window, the sleeping pattern disappears. It's difficult confining your normal life to the holidays. You realise you haven't caught up with friends because you've been too busy marking coursework. All the films you wanted to see when they came out have ended their run, and you find yourself travelling to cinematic backwaters to seek out the screens that might still be playing them. The need to buy a new thermal vest to keep you warm when the heating goes off after the kids have gone home is redundant because it's virtually summer. It can be exhausting, though. I always envisage lazy afternoons snoozing with the paper and watching Open House. But it never quite happens because I'm too busy trying to keep up with friends and family whom I've grievously neglected while school was in session.

I'd love to know the absence figures for teachers who've just come back from holiday. It must be pretty high. I always go back with swollen glands and a sleep debt of about 30 hours. Exactly how I was at the start of the holiday. Of course, if I'm feeling ill, I don't take any time off because I've just had the holidays, and then I get worse and worse and, of course, I'm a teacher so I have to struggle through and then, of course, it's only three weeks to the next holidays, so you keep on going because what's the point of taking any time off now, and then the holidays come, you're dying on your feet, and just about to start the next round of hectic socialising. These unsympathetic non-teachers have no idea how difficult holidays can be.

There's something amazingly comforting about having your life regulated by a timetable and a series of bells. There are a lot of things you can say about teaching, but you can't really call the routine exciting. Once you've memorised your timetable, that's it for next academic year, unless anything exciting happens like a fire alarm or an Inset day. Once the bells stop ringing, I go crazy. I think the answer may be just to ring the doorbell every 40 minutes when I'm on holiday. Sometimes too much hedonism can be bad for you.

Gemma Warren is an assistant special needs co-ordinator at a London secondary school. Email:

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