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Dealt a perfect summer hand

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Rioja or Merlot . Merlot or Rioja . decisions, decisions. Don't you just love the summer holidays? I'm sitting in my garden with a pack of cards in my hand, contemplating which bottle to crack open, when my daughter, an oxymoronic motivated and cheerful teenager, marches over.

"Mum, I hope you're not going to waste the next six weeks just drinking and playing solitaire?"

"No, darling," I smile, fanning out the deck with the finesse of a seasoned Las Vegas croupier. "You see, when I look at the deuce, I know these are my last two bottles of wine until September, by which time I will have lost two stones. And When I see the three, it reminds me that I'll be on stage from Wednesday to Saturday this week as one of Macbeth's three witches."

"No change to your usual self then," chuckles oxymoronic Miss.

"Yes, darling, pass the corkscrew please. And when I see the four, I'm reminded that most folk only get four weeks' holiday, so I'm going to raise my first glass to them."

"But you'll work every day."

"No, I will not! When I see the five, I'm reminded that last year my school achieved 31 per cent five A*-C grades, missing the "failing school" label by just three and a half jammy pupils. This year, we are hoping for 37 . 38 per cent." I take a large sip of the Rioja. "Maybe 47 . 48 per cent. I will think about that every day: what I would have, could have, should have done.

"And when I look at the six, I register that it really is a six-week break for relaxation, recuperation and reading . but perhaps I ought to be running a drama group for a dozen disaffected youths, inviting them to stay here in our rural idyll."

"No, Mum, stick to the three Rs."

"Aha, the seven is divine. It reminds me that I'm going to Spain on a seven-day creative writing course, which will enable me to write a best- selling novel, sell the film rights and give up teaching."

This Rioja is clearly damn good.

"The eight reminds me that I'm going to run eight miles every other day. Three miles to Bradgate Park, two miles through it and three miles back. I've managed it twice . maybe just eight kilometres tomorrow.

"The nine reminds me that, to compensate for my athleticism, I'm going to stay in bed until 9am every day. I shall lie in a luxurious, semi- conscious paradise, intoxicated on the scent of honeysuckle, while vaguely aware of the soporific hum of cars wending their weary way to offices, factories and supermarkets. I shall relish every second of that selfish, indulgent lie-in.

"When I see the 10, I think of those two stones I shall lose, causing size 10 jeans to be oh-so-loose. But will you get the olives from the fridge, darling? And the Pringles.

"When I see the King, I think of Jim Knight, schools minister, or Mr Melvin, my headteacher."

"Mum, you so do not!"

"OK. When I see the King, I think of the Gallagher brothers, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Shane MacGowan and other great poets who have yet to appear on the A-level English Literature syllabus. Yes, I will write poetry every day.

"And when I see the Queen, I think of Shirley Williams, who helped abolish the educational apartheid that was the 11-plus."

"What's the 11-plus mum?"

My daughter's blissfully naive question remains unanswered, but spurs me on, smiling and inebriated, towards the last two cards.

"And the Jack reminds me of all the jack-the-lads at school who sometimes disrupt lessons and test my patience, but who make my job a far richer and infinitely more rewarding experience."

I drain the bottle and stare with Rioja-tinted spectacles at the last card, its normally stark clarity obscured as the sun slips below the horizon.

Yes, the job is demanding, challenging and rewarding: but the holidays - they're ace.

Genevieve Lovegrove is head of English at King Edward VII School in Coalville, Leicestershire.

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