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Burnt-out candle in the wind

Monday July 13

AAARGH! Screech into school car park seconds before head in her shiny new Volvo, because rustbucket Clio refused to start until it was good and ready. "Overslept again, Lizzie? You can't hold down a responsible job and burn the candle at both ends, you know," she hissed through plum-slicked lips as she shot through the entrance clutching her Executive Briefcase. Left floundering with two disintegrating Somerfield bags full of marking and lesson plans, the results of a whole weekend's burning the candle at both ends.

Class suspiciously well-behaved. Only discover later from helpful infant pupil in playground that the back of my skirt is unzipped, revealing grey bottom-of-drawer knickers and the merest touch of builders' bum.

Tuesday July 14 Staff meeting - with luck, the last before the end of term. Staffroom festering even more than usual. Can look forward to a bad back tomorrow since, as almost-most-junior-teacher and lowest of the low, I always get the chair with one arm and half the seat elastics missing. Executive Briefcase takes opportunity to remind us all of the importance of giving a good impression to the kids and how we should arrive in plenty of time with neatly presented work. Oh, and properly dressed. She doesn't look at me. Everyone else does.

Meeting cheers up once Luke Smoulder, the tall, dark and muscular new deputy head, rushes in apologising loudly about having to comfort a distressed mother. Approving grin from Executive Briefcase.

Had hoped to casually get talking to Luke after, since he's been here almost a whole term, is drop-dead gorgeous and still utterly mysterious. Girlfriend? Wife? Past?

But Rebecca - the Flatmate from Hell - cadges a lift home, since her Polo is in for annual service. She's been more than usually evil since failing to get the deputy's job (so Luke is not exactly her favourite man), and the nagging starts almost immediately - according to the rota it's my turn to wash up today. And I still haven't done the hoovering which apparently should have been done last week, so the house is a mess and since she needs to study the distraction is just too much.

Since she is going to be cooking tuna and bean bake tonight, she expects me to catch up on the chores before she settles down to do the marking and finish the RE and maths policies before having another go at her CV and ringing her mum.


Neil - the Flatmate from Planet Camp - never makes it home from Dixons. Perhaps he guessed what was on the menu.

Thursday July 16 Have one of those mornings when I know I chose the right career. Class brilliant during apostrophe work in literacy hour, Jason manages to stay in his seat for minutes on end, and Lee comes out from behind his massive pencil case long enough to answer a question.

No baked beans on the dinner menu, either - augurs well for the afternoon.

Hopes of just one good day scuppered by the incontinent starling which flies in through the one window which we can open without sending pane into the playground and then proceeds to decorate anything in its terrified path. No doubt attracted by racket, Luke pops head round door to find me attempting to catch the beast with my bespattered cardigan, as 31 seven and eight-year-olds scream: "Miss! It's poohed on your head!" Wordlessly, he visits the caretaker to borrow the shrimping net bought for the nature garden pond in the days before the brambles took over.

Cup of joy runs over with surprise visit from Mrs Angst, who complains that Gordon has now lost two watches, a pair of trainers, three vests and seven pencils this term, and do I know where they are? And he's trying so hard, despite his wheeze and his verrucas - how is he doing?

Resist the truthful answer (that the other kids ignore Gordon, because his personality has also gone missing this year), and concentrate on trying to establish when and where child lost his belongings, and why this is the first time he's mentioned it.

Friday July 17 Mega-assembly taken by the born-again Christian with the glove puppets, so time for a cup of tea and gossip in the staffroom. Hot topic is next year's classes. "The NQT's got the nightmare class," says Jon with the relish of a man who is about to graduate from newly-qualified status himself. "Yes. She's got four on Ritalin."

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