At melting point
The half-term break begins badly. I arrive home on Friday night to discover the remains of my husband's lunch spread all over the table. We're supposed to be going away for a romantic weekend, but instead of coming home to packed bags I'm met by a congealed line of egg yolk that leaves a tell-tale yellow trail from his plate to the edge of the table. A discarded slice of bread and butter adds to the offence.
Brandishing the evidence, I track him down to his shed where I find him peering intently at the games on his new phone. "What's this?" I demand, waving the greasy plate under his nose and causing him to misfire an Angry Bird. His defence that he's been busy all day leads us into the usual cul-de-sac where we argue over who gets to wear the "I'm the most tired" trousers. Given that I've just finished a gruelling week of teaching commitments, twilight sessions, lunchtime meetings, an after-school theatre trip and two whopping periods of cover - while he jogged to the Spar for some milk - I come out an easy winner.
The word "tired" doesn't even come close to what I'm feeling just now. Tired is how you feel when you've done a spinning class; it implies exhaustion or fatigue - a temporary, surmountable setback to your usual healthy state of being. Teaching does more than tire you; it mechanically reclaims your psyche and turns you into a reconstituted chicken nugget version of your former self.
It strikes me that teaching is as much a form of torture as it is a career. You spend each day pushing an enormous boulder up a steep hill while a sadistic Nazi dentist intermittently drills into your teeth. And occasionally an officious grey-haired woman called Marjorie will fly down to peck out your liver if you fill in your register five minutes late. I try explaining to my husband just how emotionally drained I feel, but give up when I realise he's gone back to launching irate birds.
It's an inauspicious start to our supposedly "romantic" break at the seaside: the dishes debacle, compounded by his lack of empathy, have destroyed the last vestiges of passion. I chuck a few things into a bag, pointedly packing bobbly fleeces rather than frilly knickers. Two hours later we arrive at our cottage and continue with the armed truce.
The next day, after an early breakfast, he clears the table and with a series of grand gestures fastidiously wipes away all the croissant flakes that have failed to fall on his plate. As a reward for good behaviour, I listen while he names all the birds on the beach, dutifully nodding as he points out raucous herring gulls, skittering knots and a lonely curlew in flight. Unexpectedly, he tells me that I am so busy teaching nowadays that I rarely listen. I think he expects me to share some spiritual communion. Instead I hurl the word "tired" at him like an armed grenade.
Our hostility stretches long into the night. Finally we switch on the television and the final episode of The Thick of It bursts into the room. Malcolm Tucker is telling Ollie Reader about the pressures of work: "This job has taken me in every hole in my fucking body. Malcolm is gone ... Malcolm fucking left the building fucking years ago! This is a fucking husk. I am a fucking host for this fucking job."
My husband glances at me knowingly; I stare at the screen and shudder.
Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England. @AnnethropeMs.