Anne Thrope (Ms) The dark side of the whiteboard - No creature comforts for me

16th April 2010 at 01:00

It was not a great Easter holiday. My glass, which is half empty at the best of times, is upside down, completely drained and has a hairline crack in its rim. When people tell you that life will get better, they are lying. It doesn't; it just gets different.

The first low point was Tuesday. Just as I was ready to mark the final drafts of "To what extent is Death of a Salesman a modern tragedy?" my own tragic tale took a turn for the worst. Tom the sheep took ill. When you take on pets, make sure they are the sort you can flush down the toilet when the kids get bored.

Eight years ago, when I was being Felicity Kendal and knitting my own lentils, we adopted three lambs and two goats. Four of the buggers are still alive. I put Arthur Miller on hold and went to save Tom. He outran me for five laps of the field, pausing only to impale himself on a barbed wire fence. Sheep have only one desire: to die in the most gruesome way possible. They usually choose bloat or maggot infestation; death by foot rot with secondary tetanus complications was a new one. I finally managed to dump-tackle Tom into submission. While I rucked over him like the Welsh front row, a friendly farmer gave him a shot of antibiotics, an ovine pedicure and a flyer for the Countryside Alliance. Result. Tom lives to die another day.

Disaster number two was the arrival of an unwanted guest in my kitchen. Judging by the size of its stools, it was either an XXL mouse or I had a rat. I set a trap. That night my guest disarmed the trap and ate the cheese, leaving me several faecal deposits and a first down payment of Weil's disease. I'd had enough. I burst into tears just as the nice lady with the cauliflower curls was knocking at the door with this month's Church Times. She hugged me to her upholstered bosom and muttered something incoherently in my ear. I nodded, hoping for a cup of tea. Instead, I was prayed over in tongues. I used to be a punk rocker. Now my life had hit an all time low.

I called my estranged husband to beg for help. Recently, for the sake of our kids, we have worked out a way of being together, without "being together". It is like drinking alcohol-free lager. It is a similar bottle, a vaguely familiar taste, but you are only pretending to enjoy it so that others feel more comfortable around you. Our marriage has been to the taxidermist. All the visceral parts, the heart and spleen of 23 years, have been sucked out and what is left is a hollow travesty of our former relationship. This new, ersatz version shares as much in common with our gutsy, feisty marriage as a chicken dipper to a Rhode Island Red chicken.

While my husband baits his vicious new rat traps with peanut butter, we exchange forced civilities and the smallest of small talk. I can't believe that this is the man who held me as I gave birth to his children. I blink back tears. Just as he leaves, he says that he thinks we are getting on better now than we ever have, happy in this land of frozen indifference. I pick up an ice pick and write this column.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary English teacher in the North of England.

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