First encounters

Nicholas Lind wants time off

It's 3.15 on a warm Thursday afternoon in 1998. The young Newbury accountant stares at the file in front of him. He could finish the job in hours, but why hurry? He's under budget, so why not take it easy until the weekend?

His attention is grabbed by a grey box on his computer screen - "You have one new message". The e-mail is from Dave, his fat City banker friend. "All-day session tomorrow at the Oval. Kennington Station, 10am. See you there." Decisions, decisions. A day in the office looking through grain receipts or a day drinking cold beer in the sun watching England lose another Test?

No contest.

Time off? Easy. He starts to work hard so the accounts are finished by 5.30. He starts to cough, making sure everyone notices. By the time he leaves the office, his face is red, he looks weak and various people tell him that he looks terrible.

Eight o'clock the following morning, the office manager gets a phone call. "Mark... (cough)... Nick here... feeling awful (cough)... I finished Hotz Farm yesterday (cough, splutter)... no, don't think I'll make it in...see you Monday."

Cut forward to a Sunday afternoon this year. I get back at my flat about 1pm expecting to write some Year 7 reports and find I can't open my front door. I presume it's just my key so I wait for my flatmate to return.

He arrives at 8.30pm and, lo and behold, his key doesn't work either. We call a locksmith who turns up at 10.30 but who proves to be as useful as a chocolate fireguard. We're still locked out.

This leaves two big problems. First, where do we sleep and, second, we'll have to take tomorrow morning off to get it fixed.

The first s easy, but the second? D-Day was probably easier to plan than a day off in teaching.

It's 6.45am on Monday and I phone our cover organiser to tell him I won't be in. That's the easy bit. Next I have to phone through the work. I don't have my planner so I have no idea what it is I'm supposed to be doing.

During my PGCE someone told me that I should be planning a couple of days in advance, but that lasted only a few weeks. Nowadays, I seem to be a few hours ahead. My planner, which would at least tell me what classes I have got, is locked inside my flat.

I eventually work out who I should be teaching and phone my HOD to set some pretty random work. But this, of course, is not the end of the story. When I finally get in to school, I will have to pick up the pieces of the lessons, check on the behaviour of the kids and follow up any problems.

Nowadays I'm invariably told how lucky I am for the huge amounts of holiday I have. Fair enough, I have more days off in one year than I had in all my three years as an accountant, but I have no choice when I take them.

Not only that, I can't throw a sicky. It takes up too much time. There must be a way round this. I can't survive a summer without slipping away for an illicit afternoon at a Test match and I'm sure that one of England's Euro 2000 games will be midweek.

So I ask for your help. I need a supply of "ready-to-use" 50-minute lessons for all my year groups. If any of you have any suggestions - apart from word searches, not even I will stoop that low - then please e-mail me. See you at the cricket!

Nicholas Lind is an NQT at Ashton Park school, Bristol. E-mail:

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