Holiday preparations are a slap in the face

29th July 2005 at 01:00

Our summer holiday preparations are almost complete. Gail is cleaning the house from top to bottom (for reasons unknown to me, but presumably in case anyone comes to inspect it while we're away), and has finally taken down the multifarious "thank you" cards from her adoring Primary 5 class. These were accompanied at the end of term by the (only recently consumed) enormous selections of chocolates and the countless other presents offered to the average primary school teacher these days.

And what did I get? Nothing. Not a single token of gratitude from any one of the children - or their parents - who benefited from my educational ministrations last year. It's a little dispiriting, to be honest, especially as we're providing the more important part of their education in the secondary sector.


Gail says that I have to reduce the number of books that I want to take to Tenerife.

"But Gail," I insisted. "This is the only time of year that I get the chance to do some proper reading for leisure."

"That's as may be, Morris," she rejoined, "but 22 books is an average of nearly two books a day, and they'll put us seriously over our weight allowance! And you need to leave book space for Margaret and me, remember?"

I agreed to thin them out a little, but it proved harder than I thought, and Gail decided to move the process on by the simple expedient of selecting seven at random, and placing them to one side.

"Hang on a minute!" she exclaimed with disbelief. "What on earth are you taking these for?" She sneered in derision as she held aloft two titles on continuing professional development and one on developmental psychology.

"They're from my preparatory reading list for the chartered teaching programme," I defended myself stoutly. "I want to prepare myself properly by reading them."

"Morris Simpson, you have got to be kidding," she made instant judgment.

"What a complete bloody saddo you really are if you think you're taking any of these on to the beach in my company. It'll be like going on holiday with Noam Chomsky! What about John Grisham? Have you got any of his with you?"

Clearly, Gail hasn't realised that these kinds of educational books can be much more entertaining and down-to-earth than in our day. I bit my lip and continued to argue, but to little effect. Eventually, I made false surrender and agreed to take them out. I'm putting them in my hand luggage...


Nipped into the town chemist this afternoon for some last-minute requirements, including shaving gel and razor blades, plus a supply of, er, family planning items to ensure that any amorous liaisons that might occur in Tenerife do not add to our happy family unit. This became a source of potential embarrassment as I queued in line, only to realise at the last moment that I was about to be served by Tanya Thomas, a member of next session's fifth year.

"Ah!" I held up a finger before stepping up to the till. "Forgotten something!" I turned and scurried away, making sure that Tanya wasn't watching as I replaced the economy 12-pack of protectives on the shelf, and chose some toothpaste instead before returning. Unfortunately, my ruse didn't work. "Is that everything, Mr Simpson?" she arched her eyebrow.

"Yes thanks, Tanya," I nodded.

"Nothing else you want, then? Anything for the weekend, perhaps?" she smirked. "Or maybe the holidays. Hmm... ?"

"No, thanks," I gazed fixedly ahead and awaited my change, mentally reminding myself to get them at the more anonymous surroundings of the airport, and wondering how long it would take for this story to get round.


We finally set off for the airport only 20 minutes late, after Gail had insisted upon washing the kitchen floor and Hoovering the carpets throughout the entire house one final time. Meanwhile, I clenched my fists in frustration and tried valiantly to answer Margaret's questions about the need for such pre-holiday household cleanliness without appearing too disloyal to my wife.

Then we had a dreadful time at the airport, which was completely overwhelmed by appallingly noisy and unkempt families on their way to sun-kissed beaches, plus an unwholesome selection of adolescent youths who were using the airport for recreational ventures including playing slot-machines and dancing on video "dance mats". It was like walking into the jaws of hell.

Needless to say, I could identify several of Greenfield Academy's finest among the seething throngs, but I tried to avoid hearing any of the cheery salutations that were thrown our way as we stood patiently in a check-in queue that seemed to stretch from here to eternity.

Unfortunately, things deteriorated further as we peeled away from the check-in desk some 40 minutes later, only for me to become the latest unfortunate victim of a minor assault, otherwise known as "happy slapping", for heaven's sake!

Let me tell you, there was nothing happy about it, as I felt somebody ruffle my hair from behind - gently at first, and then more persistently - until I turned round in annoyance, only for somebody else to tweak my ear from the other side. Then, as I turned around to brush him aside, the shell-suited "hair ruffler" slapped me firmly from behind on both cheeks at the same time and finished off with a hearty wallop to my scalp. They ran off, and the incident had finished almost as quickly as it had started, but with no little loss to my dignity. Indeed, it all went so quickly that I had to ask myself several times if the perpetrators were really who I thought they were, but I'm pretty sure they were: Michael Kerr and Peter Westhouse, no less. Just wait until I see them at the start of next session.

Frankly, it made the start of the holiday a little less than perfect, even if Margaret seemed to find it all mildly amusing. For my part, it quite put me off reading my professional development books on the plane. Even more alarmingly, it made me forget to purchase our family planning requirements from the airport chemist. Never mind. I'm sure they sell these things in Tenerife.


Our hotel, thankfully, is a haven of peaceful relaxation and calm. Although this is not Margaret's idea of a perfect venue, she has her MP3 player, a selection of puzzle books and the new Harry Potter to keep her amused by the poolside.

So it was with a blissful sensation of soporific calm that I settled down in my swimming trunks on a poolside lounger with my developmental psychology book open at page 5 and a lager beer shandy at my side.

Unfortunately the soporific effects of the lager were more than enhanced by the tedious nature of the psychology book, and the next thing I knew was that Gail was shaking me roughly and telling me to get out of the sun before my skin turned completely lobster pink. "Plus you've got a message on your phone," she tossed it onto the sun lounger.

I picked it up to discover that it was a video message preceded by a textual commentary: "You've Been Slapped By The Rockston Slappers", which predicted all too accurately the content of the accompanying video snippet.

With growing horror, my face turned an even deeper shade of pink as I witnessed the humiliating image of Kerr and Westhouse - so I was right! - hitting me about the cheeks and scalp with all the dramatic poise of Torvill and Dean at their peak. While I just looked like Charlie bloody Chaplin.

I am thinking of launching a legal action when we get home, partly to recover physical and emotional damages, and partly to recover the enormous financial damages (as explained to me by Gail) that are involved in simply receiving such a memory-heavy message so far from home.

It has been quite the worst start to a holiday that I can remember in many years, and I desperately hope that things will improve for the rest of our stay.

Meanwhile, of course, I need to find out the Spanish word for "chemist", not to mention certain other personal items that I'm hoping to locate therein. I just hope I don't have to mime anything when I'm asking for them...

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today