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Culture vulture

Ruth Patterson stepped back from headship and found her perfect rhythm

New reading

I'm reading authors I haven't had time to read before: Philippa Gregory's historical novels; Robert Harris's Pompeii. That's gripping. And I read children's novels. Michael Morpurgo has a wonderful gift of language and I've read everything he's written. My favourite is Kensuke's Kingdom, but I also like his latest, Private Peaceful, set during the First World War.

Favourite music

I discovered music when I worked in a library at the age of 15 and found you could borrow scores of musicals. My piano teacher would say: "What have you brought to play to me this week?" And it would be Cole Porter (pictured) or Gershwin or Irving Berlin.

Back to the classroom

I became a head in 1988, at Chambersbury primary school in Hemel Hempstead, and left headship in 2001. I wanted to go back to the classroom; I told my current head I was applying for a support teacher's job in her school and she said, "you're joking". I loved being a head but I've got no regrets.

I'm discovering creative parts of me that have been dormant for a long time.

Conductor training

I did a foundation choral conducting course this summer with Sing for Pleasure, as the first step towards setting up a choir at school. Standing up and conducting other people was a nightmare at first - horrendous. But the tutors were very supportive and I felt my self-esteem grow.

Treats in store

I want to join a choir; maybe a chamber choir. That was something I looked forward to about stopping headship: to be a performer, not just an observer. I wrote a couple of musicals in the 1980s. One was about the Prodigal Son, set in a 1920s Chicago deli. My current head was wonderful. I said: "I've got this thing I wrote years ago," and she said: "Let's do it."

It was lovely to see it come alive again. I've got lots more scribbles I'm looking back at now. I'm at the beginning of a journey."

Ruth Patterson, 54, teaches at St Cuthbert Mayne RC junior school in Hemel Hempstead. She was talking to Karen Gold. See www.singforpleasure.org.uk

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