Our time off

15th August 1997 at 01:00
Park House School is an 11-18 comprehensive with 1,050 pupils in Newbury, Berkshire, taking predominantly middle-class children from 39 feeder primaries from the town and outlying areas.

Veronica Butcher, 48, teaches English and is head of upper school.

"The first thing I want to do is get well. We had an inspection before Easter and I was living on adrenaline and stress, so my system went into total collapse during that holiday. I'm still on the steroids. Also, it takes the long holiday to break the circles of infection going on in school.

"I tend to come in to school on autopilot as my body clock favours evenings, so I'll have a ritualistic lying-in-bed day. It's the no-alarm clock syndrome that makes the holiday for me. I've got one of those dreadful wired-up-to-the-mains things that you can't turn off unless you get out of bed, so it'll be heaven living without it.

"I'm going to paint my house, which I'll enjoy. The brushes come out and Radio 4 goes on dawn till dusk because I'm an addict and it's something physical that's repetitive, with no responsibilities.

"Also, I've got a cat and he's one of my great joys, so we shall have time to walk around the garden together. I live in Great Bedwyn, an idyllic place in Wiltshire, and it will be nice just having day-to-day contact with people in the village, going to the shop and things like that.

"I'll have time to go to local nurseries to buy plants. I'm not a gardener; I don't garden or take the PH of my soil. I'm just a flower freak.

"As I'm a spinster I'm the one who looks after Mum in my holidays. She lives in Bognor and will be coming to stay after the painting. She is 82 and I love her dearly. She's had a hard life and she's not an easy woman; like me, she's never learnt to be grateful, but we get on very well. She's not very mobile and it takes her an hour to get to the shops instead of five minutes, but that's good for me; it slows me down.

"Because of work I've almost lost the art of reading for pleasure, so I hope to pick up a Fay Weldon or Iris Murdoch and ignore those crates I'll lock in my study full of weighty documents and books on behaviour management.

"The fantasy is sitting in the garden with the chilled white wine, the cat at my feet, the garden done, getting up at 10 o'clock. The anticipation of it is half the pleasure."

Paul Greenup, 15, son of the headteacher, will be taking his GCSEs next year.

"I spend quite a lot of the holiday staying over at friends' houses. I've got a girlfriend in Year 11 and I'm friendly with all her friends, so there's a lot of people to see. Sometimes I plan a couple of days ahead, but most of the time it's spontaneous. It's such a nice feeling, not having to worry about doing homework. I'm quite lazy but I don't get bored; the end comes too quick for me. When people are away I tend to stay in bed or watch TV but something's usually happening, somebody comes round or there's a phone call you didn't expect.

"Because Dad's the head and Mum's a teacher as well, they like to unwind during the holidays and that has an effect on me. School gets a bit heavy with exams, and you need the break. Dad lets me forget about school; I don't think he wants to be reminded of it. It's a nice feeling not having to worry about doing anything. I've got two brothers - one's 21 and the other, Adam, is 19. He'll be back from university in Southampton, and sometimes when he drives off with his friends he takes me with him. I am more into their interests now. We get on quite well; we understand each other more.

I usually go away with Mum and Dad to Greece for two weeks, which is good because I meet other people. We stay in this small hotel and we get on with the owner. She just treats me like anyone else, respects me as an adult, not as a child.

"I've got an old primary school friend who moved down to Devon. We were best mates. He came to stay with me at Easter so I'm going down there in the summer. We'll go along to the bowling alley or play laser games and dabble in golf. At home I'll also play a bit of cricket and football in the park and have days out going for cycle rides.But I don't take sport too seriously; you lose the enjoyment of it that way.

Elaine Williams

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