I've just come back from my annual pilgrimage to the Lake District. Every year I head over to this area of Outstanding Natural Tearooms in the hope that, halfway up Helvellyn, I'll meet a man in gaiters who will offer me undivided love and a half share in his flourishing Bamp;B.
Compared with teaching, running a guesthouse is a doddle. I've seen that cinema verite of the tourism trade, Three in a Bed, and it's obvious that it's easier to gain a four-star award for poaching eggs than it is for delivering plenaries. Nor does it take much to pip the competition: if the last few episodes are anything to go by, a couple of wooden coat- hangers, a melange of strawberry bath oils and some speciality sausages made from a Gloucester old spot squeezed into a valeted cow's intestine are enough to do the trick. Cooking a full English breakfast might sound like hard work, but it's got to be easier than cooking up another full set of key stage 3 English results.
There is something very soothing about the Lake District. After a few days on the fells, all your epic anxieties become reduced to domestic ones: instead of thinking about mortality and mortgage arrears, you worry about whether or not you'll find a parking space in Ambleside and what would make a good contingency dessert if the local cafe runs out of sticky toffee pudding.
And since my holiday cottage - like most in the UK - came equipped with Maeve Binchy as standard and had a television reception limited to picking up Red Dwarf on Dave, the stresses and strains of the past academic year quickly faded from view. Even the local news stories were heart-warmingly bland: the local paper's morally indignant "20,000 bees stolen from hive!" proved a more reassuring headline than its usual urban counterpart: "Drug- crazed man eviscerates neighbour's wife then plants out uterus as hanging basket."
Another wonderful thing about the Lakes is the fact that - unless you climb a mountain - Twitter is strictly out of bounds, which means that you can go a whole week without hearing what your boss thinks about the cricketfootballathletics or having to look at a TwitPic of a vegetable that looks like a penis. The Lakes are also joyfully heterogeneous. For every Brasher-booted Berkshire family that makes it to the summit of Scafell Pike with walking poles, GPS and half the Kielder reservoir sloshing about in their backpacks, there is a Year 9 posse from Blackpool who get to the top in flip-flops, playsuits and carrying only their iPhones. If only the same could be said for our top university places.
While scrambling up and down mountains for a week did wonders for my flabby thighs, it did a notable disservice to my hair. I arrived home dishevelled and exhausted to discover that, during my absence, my daughter had pinched my make-up and my eldest had snaffled my column. I should have seen it coming: the concept of private ownership is alien to kids; what's yours is theirs and what's theirs gets trampled on the floor, left at a mate's or traded for a pirated copy of Meet the Parents: Little Fockers.
Still, I'm getting my own back. I've just pinched my daughter's salon- professional hair-straighteners, so the next time I go on holiday I won't end up looking like James May.
Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the north of England.