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Laid back until the day to go back

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I think I like this life, the one that revolves around being a teacher on holiday, that is.

It is a whole new world, and I'm sliding into a rather haphazard routine.

It was supposed to be that I would get up and go swimming, then maybe go to work for an hour or two as the pool is in the school. Then, by mid- August, everything would be in order.

The other plan was that I would get up and write for three hours every morning, and my novel would be as good as done by the time the school bells rings once more.

The reality is that days slide into each other in a very pleasant, undemanding way.

Books haves become a lead preoccupation. Having time to be eclectic, I have finished Cherie Blair's bleat and laughed through Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader. I have been rereading books written 50 years ago (Patricia Highsmith's Carol), and even ventured back over a hundred years (The Awakening by Kate Chopin). Both those books were considered somewhat shocking when published and yet, although moral values have changed since then, the way we love and feel is just the same.

In between chapters, I am gardening, digging up potatoes, lettuces, radishes, broccoli and picking raspberries for dinner and feeling smug. There is something deeply soothing about the ritual of watering tomatoes, brushing against the leaves to release that wonderful aroma, or bending to breath in the heady scent of roses.

And there has been a gush of "feel good" films, such as Sex and the City and Mamma Mia. I read the reviews of the latter and critics seemed to mind that it is a bit amateurish, that the singing is slightly below par and the dancing less than perfect. Ignore that. Meryl Streep and Julie Walters do us middle-aged women proud. A woman in the cinema audience had her profoundly disabled son with her, and he shrieked and laughed and clapped all the way through it, while I wished I could do exactly the same. At the end, sporadic applause broke out.

I have time to see my granddaughter, and time to notice the cat's ears need attention, and I enjoy wandering down the high street with an old pushchair because I can't be bothered struggling back up the hill with heavy bags. The charity shop has rich pickings early in the day, as does the supermarket reduced goods shelf.

Even eating is a pleasure - reading the paper over breakfast and having the energy to invite friends around for a meal. We are torn between eating at six, when it is usually still warm enough to eat out comfortably, and eating slightly later, when it is a bit chilly and the smoke from the chiminera threatens to do more damage than all the cigarettes of a misspent youth.

The holidays are so wonderful; yet when the day comes to be back in school, we'll instantly feel we have never been away.

Penny Ward is a secondary teacher.

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