Revving up for the great escape

17th July 1998 at 01:00
Robert Garioch, the Edinburgh poet, used to remark somewhat sadly that while the churches used to convert the sinners, nowadays the roles were reversed. The recent sight of Woodlands Teachers' Centre transformed to the Hogshead pub (why not the Drunken Dominie?) has been followed by a planning application to change 129 Bath Street into a hotel. Whether it will be called Heartbreak Hotel and will offer reduced rates to teachers is still unknown, but such a development comes too late for this summer's hordes of travelling teachers.

One of my child-free colleagues has always had an exotic holiday itinerary - Alaska, Galapagos Islands, Madagascar - but mundane European destinations are more usual. Not that all teachers choose to experience foreign climes and habits. "Monoblocking the driveway" has become the late 20th century equivalent of "we're not going away" and even the caravan at Elie, or Arran for the 20th summer in a row, seems attractive by comparison.

When she retired some years ago a teacher in our department delighted in sending postcards from wherever she travelled - Bali, Brighton or Berneray. Teachers would return to the base after coping (barely) with the bottom third year to find sunny greetings wondering how we all were.

And from the same school a teacher who rarely went on holiday himself became an expert at finding holidays for others. "John", folk would say, "I need a house, 6-8 people, pool, direct flight, Appennines, mid-July" and true to his word it would be arranged within days. Obviously a missed career as a travel agent.

For some teachers holidays represent the yawning ennui that spoils the other 40 weeks. Our staffroom was shocked recently to hear a previously respected and politically correct teacher say that he would forego two weeks' holidays in exchange for a really good pay offer. As that's not likely, the rest of us can sleep easy on the lilo.

Tales circulate of teachers arriving on the last day with camper vans packed and raring to go. As the last crumbs of celebratory strawberry tarts are wiped clean, they are already heading for the Channel. I only tried a fast getaway once. Having no car it meant suitcases being left in Central Station the night before. The connections were painstakingly crafted, the arrival in Toulouse would be less than 24 hours after the close of school. The train refused to start in Glasgow, we left four hours late and all the connections were neatly missed in sequence.

Much as I like my job, there is still a frisson about heading down the M74 on the first day of the holidays, and pointing along the big white road south.

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