The dark side of the whiteboard - Making a go of it. Again

11th February 2011 at 00:00

If this last year has taught me one thing it is this: never look a gift husband in the mouth. As our partners grow older, they need lavishing with care and attention, and if we don't do it then someone else will. I spent last night consoling a grief-stricken colleague whose husband has taken a permanent leave of absence after 30 years of marriage. What makes it worse is that her partner is a deeply devout Christian - so devout that he has set up home in a pebbledash semi with a buxom young parishioner from his church. But apparently it's his wife's fault. Because she regularly rejected his sexual advances, he was forced to seek solace elsewhere.

Middle-aged men are prone to migrating when their kids move out. They start off by measuring their existing relationships against the full Ofsted criteria: "Does she meet my emotional needs? Is the sexual provision sufficiently differentiated? Are there opportunities for stretch and challenge? Is there evidence of progression or will she always wear a BHS nightie and insist I go on top?"

If the tangible buzz in your relationship comes from the whirr of the dishwasher rather than the vibrations of a Rampant Rabbit, the chances are that you're heading for special measures and hubby is probably running for the door.

To be fair, before men up sticks they usually offer us some pertinent assessment for learning. But we choose not to hear. Let's be honest: who is going to listen to a man whinging about the last time you made love in the afternoon when you've got Year 9 reports to finish? When you work in education, every child matters, but our partners seldom do.

When my husband left last year, my worklife balance was completely out of joint. I spent hours producing elaborate lesson plans with plenary loops, GT extensions, Palladian colonnades and a ha-ha, before collapsing into bed at midnight, then rising again at six. But now I'm back to basics. I've taken a Premier Inn approach to teaching: everything is still there, it's just rudimentary.

This shift in my professional attitude has tempted my husband home. He returned, contrite, after an accident on the motorway. Luckily no one was hurt. After hitting ice, he careered across three lanes and collided with the central reservation. Suddenly he realised that there are worse things than living with a teacher. It's grim, but it's better than waiting for a tow truck, 10 miles short of a Little Chef.

So here we are, trying to "make a go" of things. At least, I'm making a go of things; he's happy making a mess in the kitchen, dragging an extension cable through some spilt bolognese sauce in an attempt to connect his laptop to the national grid. He has also filled up the fruit bowl with plectrums and loose change. I'd forgotten how often men empty out their pockets; it is as if they are being driven by some vestigial polygamous urge to scatter their small coins into every empty beaker that they see.

It helps if I put his past behaviour down to temporary insanity, like the principal choosing to buy the school a snow plough, or the decision to air the 10 O'Clock Show live. In the land of bad decisions, the middle-aged man is king.

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

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