Trevor, my neighbour, claims that teachers are more boring than librarians. "Only talk about kids and flaming Ofsted," he will say. I've always claimed it is untrue. Then I return to the staffroom after jubilee half-term.
"Good one?" asks Hamish to nobody in particular. "Finished all my reports," is Viv's response. "How about you?" says Joe, jabbing me in the ribs. "Off to the Costas weren't you? The apartment that you never share with your hard-done-by colleagues." An eternal response. My wife and I own a small apartment on the coast near Barcelona. But you can't share something with people who holiday at the same time as you.
"I did get away for a couple of days," I confess. "Your missus enjoy it?"
continues Joe. "Um, no. She was at a conference." "Oh, yes," says Joe. "Was thinking of going but couldn't get anyone to pay. Any good?" "Don't know. She took her new deputy and said that he was just what she'd been looking for."
"Did you take some photos of the shutters then?" bursts in Henry. "Need them as a visual aid for the next woodwork topic."
"Don't talk about damn visual aids," shouts Sam. "Last year I sent my wife flowers for our anniversary and she used them as a teaching aid with her class."
I hope this might divert the conversation away from my brief excursion. "Didn't you get lonely?" says Henry. "Actually,I didn't. The Senco from St What's-Its went with me." This is a mistake: nobody is supposed to know about me and RuthI "Good idea," says Joe. "Give you a chance to talk about that new code of practice stuff."
To hell with it. I'll bluff itI "We didn't talk that much, really. Spent most of the time in bed. Or on the bathroom floor."
"Tiled, is it?" asks Henry. "It's a wooden floor - but we have a carpet."
"Colour?" asks Jackie. "Bright colours." "Shouldn't have carpets in bathrooms," responds Lorraine. "Absorbs the damp and encourages germs."
The strange thing is that nobody has made any comment about me being in Spain with Ruth - or that the sleeping arrangements at the conference my wife attended were a tad more cosy than I had imagined.
This blinkered view of life - that everything is part of some learning experience - prevails. I've always put it down to the fact that it's part of the general catching-up chat that everyone has after an absence.
But here it is. First morning back. In the midst of the World Cup. Not even chat about the weather. And then I as much as announce that I'm having an affair, and still people talk about education.
We are supposed to be preparing kids for life in the big wide world but seem unable to acknowledge its existence or talk about our own lives out there beyond the school gates. During registration, the kids ask me about what I did during half term. "Finished your reportsI Anyone seen Brett this morning?"
The author manages a learning support unit in East Anglia and wishes to remain anonymous