The dark side of the whiteboard - In praise of feather dusters

20th August 2010 at 01:00

Hurrah! We are off to visit friends in France. We leave this afternoon on a cheap flight from an airport that can't decide if it's in Leeds or Bradford. I only hope it makes up its mind before we get there, otherwise boarding might be a problem. While the kids and I are away, my estranged husband is looking after all the livestock, including the bionic rats squatting in the alcove behind the washing machine. He was quick to volunteer his house-sitting services, which suggests he may be hankering after coming home. Now that I've refurbished our downstairs bathroom and upgraded to BT broadband, he is tempted by the power shower and our much-improved music streaming facilities. While his mother undoubtedly bakes the best fruit cake, we now have mightier megs.

I suspect that his interest in coming home has been rekindled by recent press stories revealing that women turn to Sapphic pleasures in later years. The titillating prospect of watching some girl-on-girl action - free of charge - has rejuvenated his appetite for married life. Either that or he's flat out of cash. Nor would a trip "on the other bus" be a first-time for me: at university I was all in favour of Virago paperbacks, feminist critics and political lesbianism. Had this not also been twinned with a predilection for the curly perm and the ra-ra skirt, it might have proved a studentship-winning combination.

The odd thing is that, despite all the misery he has caused me, I genuinely want him to come home. Not just for the "man jobs" such as emptying bins, doing the tyre pressure and removing the wasps, but to share in simple pleasures such as finishing The Guardian crossword, walking the dogs or bitching about my SMT over a bottle of red. Since he left, desperation has reduced me to tackling the Telegraph's SEN crossword and accepting primordial life forms as my Facebook friends. Although I wonder how dim you have to be to respond to the wall post, "My grandmother has a malignant tumour" with the phrase, "I am liking this."

If my husband does return, I am determined to do things differently. I'm going to take a leaf out of the Bumper Book of Classroom Management: if we can keep disenfranchised, disruptive teenagers on task by making our teaching edgy and unpredictable, surely it would be easy to keep our partners engaged with the same strategy? Most of us are happy to use smoke and mirrors and a few good drama games in the classroom, but how many of us bother to bring such magic home? My relationship collapsed under the weight of too much gritty realism: too many dirty dishes and not enough dirty weekends.

I should have recalled the words of Jonathan Swift, the 18th-century relationship counsellor, who identified happiness as being "the perpetual possession of being well deceived". In true agony aunt style, he warned: "How fading and insipid do all objects accost us that are not conveyed in the vehicle of delusion ... were it not for the assistance of artificial mediums, false lights, reflected angles, varnish and tinsel, there would be a mighty level in the felicity and enjoyments of mortal men." As sexperts go, he certainly has the edge over Pamela Stephenson.

So while I am in France I might just find myself a French maid's outfit. It's aesthetically more pleasing than a ra-ra skirt, and it might just lead him to say, "I am loving this."

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

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