Bang goes the nail polish

29th August 1997 at 01:00
New pencil case, new suit, reconditioned car, reconditioned thumb. Hilary Moriarty is ready for the new year

You know it's the end of the holidays when there's blood under your thumbnails and a hole in your bank balance because the car you haven't needed for the past six weeks must be tarted up for another academic year and the garage man draws his breath over his teeth saying, "That'll be a thousand quid, Guv'ner. "

At least thumbs will recover at no expense. They have NBS, Notice Board Syndrome, like Repetitive Strain Injury, only produced by hours of prising drawing pins out of noticeboards to release dead notices and the faded patchwork of backing paper. A cathartic clear-out of last year is good for the soul, and the clean-slate effect for the new term is lovely, but your thumbnails rise from their beds and bleed, and it shows through the nail varnish.

Ha! That'll have to go, of course - nail varnish is a bit fast for teachers, isn't it? A day in the classroom (or at the noticeboard) will ruin it, so you'd be replacing it daily, and heck, who has the time in term? Much more a job for lazy patio hours, when the most exertion fingers can expect is wrapping themselves around a cold glass and flicking the pages of a good book.

That's another sign of Holiday Game Over. Even hardened readers find that around A-level results time, the good book that is pure airport-buying-sex-and-shopping-self-indulgence and-you-can't-put-it-down, gives way to the good book which you have to teach next term - Pride and Prejudice, Hamlet. No matter how familiar they all are, they need to be zapped in the microwave, then served, in September, piping hot. But no worries - for a woman who read The Mill on the Floss in two days, anything is possible.

Reading anything is actually displacement therapy: anyone in school administration right now is frantically producing lists. Rotas and timetables - homework, lunch, cover - that seemed perfectly logical when I wrote them are about to be tested against the whims and wishes of pupils and staff, who will find them weird and not at all wonderful. "How could you! Don't you knowI?" I stand braced to be enlightened on all that I didn't knowrealiseappreciate. Don't they know that all I ever wanted was for them to be happy?

And in the right time, at the right place, teaching the right things to the right people, of course. Never mind the tiddly bits, does the timetable work? My colleague timetabler and I will be holding our breath for a week till we know.

Meanwhile, the magic of New Year in September. I have a new pencil case and a new suit, and I'm too excited to sleep. Roll on Monday.

Hilary Moriarty is deputy head at The Red Maids' School, Bristol

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today