Shepherds watch

I was the Angel Gabriel as a child, resplendent in bouncing tinsel halo and glittery frock. So much more glamorous than Mary in her dull navy blue.

My wings were magnificent but as I mounted the stage I lost my balance and fell off in mid-proclamation to the stunned shepherds. The reality of the holidays, like being the Angel Gabriel, doesn't always match up does it?

For starters, why are you even reading this? Please tell me that you are not doing so on Christmas Day. Another teacher avoidance tactic from doing real work. Yet not as bad as the thousands who log on to teacher sites or dfes.gov.uk after their Christmas pudding. Why people why? Surely the afternoon film wasn't that bad this year?

My avoidance tactics are always the same. I tidy my underwear drawers in the belief that so long as I can access a clean pair of knickers every morning in the new term, the world will be a better place and I will be a better teacher. I have even been known to re-discover the bottom of the ironing basket, a festive miracle.

The holidays are time for us to regain our lives. Our troll-like winter existence, up in the dark, shuffling home in the gloom has temporarily ceased. We don't have to spend all day indoors, the pale flabby beings we've become since the glorious summer.

Now there is time to simply sit and be, without our day being ruled by demands of the bell and needs of others. I produce impressive lists of films, theatres, and galleries to attend, books to read, a veritable feast of cultural improvement. It never happens.

The holiday is rather like sex. All that excitement, tension and anticipation then bang! it's all over and you're left lying there sweaty and probably not that satisfied wondering, "was that it?" In my case the sweat, flushes and breathlessness are usually caused by 'flu that inevitably follows once term ends. Many's the time I have toasted in the New Year on Lemsip and Lucozade.

Since my Angel Gabriel trauma the festive season's always made me flinch slightly. I still love dressing up, but that's another story.

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