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Put cynics straight on the long-holiday hoo-ha

Sarcastic comments about teachers' holidays are rife at this time of year. It doesn't matter how much you defend yourself with the classic: "You should see all the planning I have to do for September - I'll probably only get about two weeks' actual rest." No one who isn't a teacher believes this.

You need to be more convincing. Tell them the real reasons you need a long holiday. Here are eight for starters:

1. You need time to be ill. You were meant to have a cold last October and flu in January and didn't have time because of parents' evenings. You were due a bout of diarrhoea and vomiting in March but had reports to write, and so on throughout the year. You need six or seven weeks now to give all these ailments a decent chance to floor you.

2. You have a backlog of birthday cards to send. You wrote them all on time and even put them in envelopes, but never bought stamps. Now you have to write long apology letters to go with them. And, for some - your mother, partner, children - you will also need to consider presents.

3. You have no decent clothes and need to shop. You naively hoped the kids at school didn't notice you wearing the same jacket and trousers all through the summer term, especially as one of the hems was dragging and you never had time to sew it up.

4. You need to do some gardening. The lawn is so overgrown that you can't get to your shed without the use of a compass and a scythe. Indeed, one (or was it two?) of the children remain missing in it, having gone out to play last Tuesday, but you had urgent Year 10 coursework to mark at the time.

5. You need to visit your doctor, your dentist, chiropodist, optician, physiotherapist, a hospital consultant, your chiropractor and your three therapists. You have had appointments in your diary for all of these during the year, but for one reason or another (no, just one reason - you're a teacher) you've had to cancel them.

6. You borrowed 14 public library books last summer which you haven't returned and you are too embarrassed to take them back all at once.

7. You have some DIY to do. Your three-year-old redecorated the hall last November using the indelible pens you left lying around, and however much you protest that her designs would fetch millions in the Tate Modern, this hasn't convinced your partner or the Relate counsellor they are seeing.

8. You need to spend a considerable number of days that aren't split into six periods to remind yourself that normal life isn't like that. Your insistence on waiting for a bell before you can move from one room to another has made life difficult for everyone, especially when visiting country houses and art galleries. The fact that you refuse to change topic unless you hear that ring has severely limited the pace of dinner conversation. Also, one of your neighbour's children recently bought a new bell for his bicycle, and every time he passes your house you leap up, clutching any nearby papers and books, yelling: "Get out your homework diaries, FAST!"

Once these reasons are explained to your cynical friends, I'm sure they will leave you alone. In fact, you may well see none of them ever again. But hey, look on the bright side - you don't have time for friends anyway.

Fran Hill, English teacher at an independent girls' school in Warwickshire.

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