The last week of the summer holiday always leaves me feeling flat. Teachers across the land are desperately seeking out their last few pleasures before the social Ramadan of term-time begins and eating, drinking and other sins of the flesh are renounced forever (or until October 22, which amounts to the same thing). Like Sisyphus, all we can see is a huge rock in front of us and the 1:3 gradient of the autumn term rising sharply ahead. There must be easier ways to make a living, like becoming a Colombian drugs mule or a school Senco.
So I perked up enormously when I received an email from the TES editor inviting me (well, perhaps that's too strong a word) to London. Bred more from good manners than earnest intent, his exact words were "If you are ever in London, do call in," which for some reason I misconstrued as: "Anne, I love you. Please be my musemistresscub news reporter." An easy mistake for a middle-aged mainscale teacher with a failing marriage to make.
As you can imagine, the trip took some planning. I spent longer preparing for this jolly than I did on my KS5 marking: a good 10 minutes skimming through back copies in case he had ever written anything worth remembering, then a further six hours in Debenhams squeezing myself into clearance frocks from their Blue Cross sale. What would a junior newshoundeditor's mistress wear? I plumped for a navy, plunge-necked day dress, bravely accessorised with the lime green shrug (or "cardie" if you're from Teesside).
Ticket in hand, and heart on my sleeve, I set off on a hot, crowded train and became wedged into my window seat by a keen young city buck, darting between his iPhone and his MacBook Pro. As we pulled out of Peterborough, I furtively attempted to reapply my roll-on and accidentally took out his coffee and tuna melt ciabatta. Not an auspicious beginning to my dream date.
When I arrived at the TES building, things went from bad to worse. The security guard eyed my neckline suspiciously. He obviously thought I was a working girl on the lookout for a new trick. Finally, he relented and buzzed upstairs: "Mr Kelly, there's a young lady at reception to see you." No sign of irony. He really should have gone to Specsavers - I had at least five years on him.
The lift doors slid open. A rangy, athletic figure ambled slowly out. A mop of tousled hair fell over piercing grey eyes, smudged from lack of sleep and too many close calls on deadlines. An aquiline nose and high cheeks hinted at authority and a darkly cruel nature. Through his crumpled suit I could see that he was muscular and well toned. His curved, full lips parted in an easy smile, revealing perfectly even, white teeth. In a husky voice, thick with early morning espressos, he murmured: "Anne, how marvellous to meet you." His warm, musky breath carried top notes of Armagnac and Prada cologne.
If only. In reality I was whisked to a local cafe, given a piece of bruschetta hardly visible to the naked eye and told that I might like to tone it down a bit as I was in danger of becoming too offensive.
And that was it. Fantasy over. Tail between my legs (sadly mine, not his), I headed back to my cold Northern house full of its damp dogs, fusty towels and unfinished SoW. Back to school it is, then. Oh fuck!
Ooops. Sorry about that, Mr Kelly.
Anne Thrope (Ms) is still a secondary teacher in the North of England.