Sun, sea and sangria, here we come

4th August 2000 at 01:00
YOU know you need a holiday when you want to pick a fight with the mildest person in the staffroom and even the photocopier glowers at you in a mean way. There's nothing more childish than teachers desperate for their holidays.

But the last day of term brings a second wind which imbues us all with total euphoria. Every fibre of our being is energised at the thought of escaping for six weeks. No wonder teachers do the office party thing at least as enthusiastically as any other group of workers. Not personally guilty this year, I must add. Too busy packing for my imminent departure.

The very next day saw the family and me sunning ourselves in a quiet Majorcan resort. Without too much prompting, the jugs of sangria seemed to know exactly how to achieve radiation in classroom-wearied teachers. Given the frantic but unsuccessful attempts to clear my cluttered desk in that last hectic week, I was astonished by the swiftness with which school was wiped from my consciousness.

On the beach without pupils. Oh, the pleasure! I'd naturally like to claim that it was the intricate embroidery which did the trick or the reading of some tome at the cutting edge of intellect, but relaxation came through more much more basic activities. People-watching wins every time but this year I finally worked out why it's so pleasurable on holiday. It offers all of the intrigue of the classroom with none of the active annoyance.

Wicked, wicked children. Impatient adults. Excitement, happiness, frustration and malice - a mere shortlist of some of the emotions available for viewing as you cultivate your tan.

I love it all. Frazzled parents yelling. The brats manipulating their exhausted mothers and fathers. The whining and sparring of kids thrown together and expected to enjoy themselves. A gallimaufry of incidents exemplifying what we - note the superior touch - see in classroms every day. And the best part? We can sit there smugly savouring the thought that the adults are making an absolute pig's ear of it. Revenge at last.

And we can't get involved. A doctor on holiday - Hippocratic oath and all that - probably feels obliged to offer assistance when a fellow tourist starts having a heart attack. But not us. Now it's our turn to wreak revenge on a society which blames us for every blemish on the human landscape. Conjure up the scene.

Junior is causing a bit of a headache. A scenario replayed in your classroom countless times. You aerate yourself to step forward to his elders with the immortal words: "Can I help? I'm a teacher." Bang! Can you contemplate what the reaction might be?

Think of your postcards to the folks back home. "Have been offering conflict resolution on the beach. Glad I took out such comprehensive insurance cover." Maybe it's a trifle exaggerated but you get the drift.

There are some occupations one should keep quiet about on holiday and teaching is one of them. On our return journey we were held up at the luggage check-in because the computerised conveyor belt failed. The operator explained the problem very succinctly and sympathised with the exasperated travellers.

Memories of explaining to your Higher class why you have not yet managed to mark their essays. The familiar mutinous mutterings frisked through the multitude but they didn't acquiesce as your pupils would. Loud, grouchy and very unforgiving.

I was close to dropping my disguise. Fortunately, my own kids are pretty tuned into their mother's next move, so they cautioned me with these withering looks which just about lobotomise you on the spot. Venting my spleen right then would have been very bad news. So I contemplated the bottle of Pimm's secreted in my rucksack and remembered that during the holidays I'm not a teacher.

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