Summer loathin' happened so fast

1st July 2011 at 01:00

This is a hard term for teachers. Correction. This is a hard term for older female teachers. While my younger counterparts frisk about bronzed, bare-armed and spaghetti-strapped, I have realised the only spaghetti strings I will ever wear will be covered in carbonara sauce.

Since God saw fit to give me shoulders like a buffalo, even my bra-straps look like string round a brisket. Summer makes me feel excessively middle- aged. Not only do I have to deliver unrealistic end-of-year targets, I also have to squeeze myself into my unflattering end-of-year wardrobe. For the past few months I have been clinging on to my cardies while the rest of my department have sloughed off their winter woollies. So far I have resisted relinquishing my tights. When your thighs are mottled like a ripe dolcelatte and you have not been near a razor in a year, bare legs are best left to the bairns.

Slipping into a summer wardrobe is easier for younger women. Because they were weaned straight off formula milk on to depilatory creams, their skin is always as hairless as an Egyptian cat. Not so my generation. We grew up with a more relaxed attitude to our hairy bodies, choosing topiary over total annihilation. So while the younger generation favour waxed legs and Brazilians, my age group stay true to the French Poodle: a classic 70s look featuring shaved calves, curly thighs and a pubic pom-pom.

Choosing a hot weather wardrobe becomes more difficult as you get older. Plunging necklines are less impressive when they are twinned with a plunging jawline, so I regularly camouflage mine with beads, scarves or a wimple. As a rule of thumb, the older you are, the greater the distraction you will need around your neck, until finally you are unable to leave the house without Coast's back catalogue of costume jewellery strewn about your throat. This English custom of adopting chunkier and chunkier necklaces to camouflage our necks mirrors that of some Thai tribes, except that while they opt for metal coils, we prefer graduated cultured pearls.

Sadly, it's not just the choice of summer clothes that proves a problem for us older teachers: shoes are also a bugger. Peep-toed sandals lose their appeal when what's peeping out is a fungal nail infection, as do espadrilles that smell of cabbage when they are wet. I'm envious of male teachers because they have it so easy. Their shift to a summer wardrobe seems to consist of spraying the crotch of their suits with Febreze and swapping to a pale lemon tie.

The summer wardrobe is just the half of it. We are about to face a gruelling series of lesson observations, cunningly repackaged as "coaching" sessions. These are similar to Come Dine With Me: someone visits your classroom, sneers at your starter, then tells you how they would have done it better. Once they have finished pointing out your pupils' lack of progress, they will move on to criticise some other poor sod. But what is making us even more anxious at the moment is the imminent arrival of next year's timetable. As soon as it comes, we will compare our workloads: it's like a big family barbecue where everyone is happy with a banger in a bun until someone sails past with a shish kebab. Somebody is bound to have fewer classes.

Teachers' timetables are never fair: we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at more frees.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.

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