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Strong cocktail of work and life

Month-long hangovers take time to recover from, which I suspect is the real reason we started the new term with an inset training day. Facing the little dears just four days after New Year would be too much.

Reclining in the staffroom, I regale colleagues with my best New Year resolution since I bought 12 pairs of identical socks. I'm determined to keep up with marking this year. It will be even better than not having to match similar, but non-identical, socks.

Our inset centres on the work-life balance agreement, which we're really going to try to make work this year. But by the time we've read through the enormous list of what we're not supposed to do, it is time to rush off and get on top of last term's marking.

Enthused by a new term, it is hard to believe that the recently-ended season of excessive drinking started just four weeks ago. OK, only two weeks were holidays. But it is necessary to drink to forget the festive cajoling and bullying which are the rehearsal period leading up to a primary school nativity play. Never mind national tests, Ofsted or parents' evenings. Is there anything more stressful than trying to convince kids that they're having fun as they repeatedly mumble a batch of half-forgotten lines? But then, like the miracle of Christmas itself, it all comes together.

Which seemed like another good excuse to head into town for an end-of-term celebration.

Boozing in a trendy London bar, older staff members were experiencing something of a new world.

"I'm keeping an eye out for my nephew," chuckled our deputy head mischievously. "This is one of his hang-outs. He'd be horrified if his auntie sidled up tipsily and embarrassed him."

Surrounded by bright young things in tight young clothes, we tried not to talk about work. But when I admitted to looking forward to next year, colleagues were concerned that I'd already written off spring and summer terms and had my eye on 20045. Only a lethal cocktail of teaching and alcohol can cause confusion over when next year starts.

Heading home on the Tube, our rowdy singing of key stage 1 Christmas songs got us noticed.

"Don't look at us like that," glowered one of our number. "We look after your children." You could just imagine horrified commuters making New Year resolutions to thumb through the Yellow Pages for prep schools. Maybe reduced class sizes would contribute to a better work-life balance. I might even get all my marking done.

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