Thank God it's Friday

4th September 1998 at 01:00
Monday: Removal day dawns bright and fair, and we are only just up when the container van arrives. After 40 years of living on the edge of a city, we are about to plunge into village life in the heart of Lincolnshire, and I still cannot believe it. Caleb, our border collie-cross can't either. He spends most of the day sitting in the car, determined not to be left behind.

By 6pm the furniture is gone, taken into storage for two weeks while we bide our time in a caravan. Being married to a Methodist minister has its drawbacks - the main one being that everyone moves house in the same month, like some glorious merry-go-round. Our next manse is still occupied, so we are "of no fixed abode" for a short time.

Tuesday: Our initiation into rural life begins. We open the caravan door to be faced by a herd of curious cows staring at us over the fence only a few feet away. We walk to the field gate with Caleb, and they start a mini-stampede as they hurry along the fence to re-group and stare even harder. I just wish my classes were as attentive.

I am supposed to be using the time to read up on next term's teaching, especially the unfamiliar Agreed Syllabus, but I can't concentrate. Every time I look up I am being watched. Do guardian angels ever take the form of Friesians, I wonder? Perhaps that should be included in Year 9's "Ultimate Questions".

Wednesday: The trauma of removal begins to fade as we explore our new surroundings. We begin to unwind and the cows allow themselves time off from surveillance duty - although they are never far away. In the morning, I cautiously cross their field on an errand into the village, Caleb close to my heels. They scarcely raise their heads.

Emboldened, we try the route in reverse in the evening, but only make it halfway across. First one, then another, and soon the whole herd, lumber towards us, heads down. We soon realise they're after Caleb, not us. He seems unperturbed, but like a coward I turn and run. Then the thundering hooves stop abruptly and I force myself to look. My husband stands facing the lot, clapping his hands and crying "stop". To a beast they halt in their tracks and begin to back off. He'll make a teacher yet.

Thursday: Each cow has a number stamped on her rear end, the sequence of numbers indicating when each will calve. That is the theory. But cows, it seems, are like children - unpredictable and mistresses of surprise. A great deal of lowing during the night leaves me short of sleep, but I'm fascinated to see a tiny calf stagger out of the undergrowth the next morning, born without human intervention and weeks early, according to the farmer.

The sun continues to shine. I express my sympathy to one farm labourer: "Oh don't you worry," he replies. "All our tractors are air-conditioned these days."

Friday: The weather has broken. Deep rumbles of thunder wake us early and Caleb climbs on to our bed, quivering. All of a sudden lightning strikes a nearby electricity line and we are treated to a brief fireworks display. Then all the power fails. Worse still, the caravan springs a leak. It reminds me of my classroom of eight years ago, which had a hole in the roof and in the floor - the rain went straight through. This won't happen in my new school as it's just been re-roofed. They must have known I was coming. Roll on the new term.

Kathy Cowell is head of RE in a Lincolnshire secondary school

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