Freed from the corset of time

8th September 2006 at 01:00
When the summer term ends, time flings off the corset of the school timetable and breathes freely in the bright air. She no longer has to squeeze herself into uncomfortable lessons. She can flop about all afternoon, watching the sleepy clouds. Time has no boundaries but lazy light and languid dark.

Ah, July. In the hot honey of that month I found myself stupefied by small choices such as "Shall I buy this tin of sweetcorn, or that one?". It was gorgeous. In the background, there were soft whimpers from the unsorted garden shed and the unopened Teach Yourself Spanish course.

I completely ignored both of these worthy projects and, in doing so, really enhanced the holiday feeling. Judging by the TES online staffroom, I was among many whose cramped bones relearned the curly joys of laziness - of dozing with the radio on and cooking food slowly.

Now another shiny term begins. Time sighs and squashes herself back into the corset of the timetable. It may be a different shape this year, but the basic whalebone of boxy lessons and hard bells is the same. How suddenly it's gone: that feeling that time is squashy and relaxed. And how flabby my mind feels now as it struggles to do three things at once instead of humming happily around one.

Well, I'm going to try something new this year. Now and again, when I'm feeling rushed and grumpy, I'll revisit some of those bad habits I enjoyed so much during the summer. Bad habits can do you a lot of good. They should not be reserved for the holidays alone.

I usually start in September with squeaky and doomed attempts to finish such and such by Thursday, so I've got all of Friday to blah blah blah, and within two weeks I'm failing to meet my own targets as well as other people's.

Why did I set them? Surely the angular pressures of the timetable are enough to prod me along. I don't need to do push-ups as well. No, what I need is some laziness targets, kept in the Indian summer of my own mind.

They will be like new year resolutions in reverse. Put things off. Don't finish things. Enjoy making an unimportant decision really slowly. That last one is probably my favourite, because teachers make so many crucial decisions in a hurry. Well, now and again, I'm going to take my own sweet time.

The question is, will it work? I hope so. But I'm not holding my breath.

Catherine Paver teaches English in a London secondary school

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