Thank God it's Friday

18th September 1998 at 01:00
Monday I helped my daughter to pack today. No longer the charming I-want-to-join-everything-now child, the lippy you-can't-tell-me-anything teen-ager or even the determined I'll-party-my-way-through student. The daughter, the I'll-change-the-world, make-a-brilliant-job-of-it-and-be-a-headteacher-with-in-10-years-just-you-wa it-and-see careerist.

"Bye Mum, I'll phone you," she promises as she leaves for London, staggering under a mountain of stacker boxes I My daughter, the NQT.

Tuesday The house feels strangely empty and quiet without her. No The Verve blasting out, no constant clumping up and down the stairs I Even the phone has been spookily silent.

And it's so tidy. Every mug clean and hanging in military rows in the kitchen.

7.10pm: The phone rings. "Hi Mum. It's me. Just a quickie - it's so busy! The flat's great, right in the middle of everything. My room's all organised - you'd never believe it. Mum, I've left two of my best black tops. Can you post them, please?" Wednesday The black tops posted, I discover the house is even emptier than I had at first realised. A trip to Boots to restock the mysteriously spacious bathroom cabinet - cotton buds, shower gel, shampoo. My favourite black top cannot be found either.

6.45pm: "Mum? I'm shattered - I've been at school all day. I took lots of my stuff in. My room is tiny, but I know I can do loads with it. I've been shifting stuff around. I met the caretaker - he was great. Did you post my tops? Oh, brilliant. Thanks, Mum."

I forget to ask after the whereabouts of my black top. And had I advised her wisely, adequately, on the nurturing of invaluable caretakers?

Thursday Today I tackle all those tasks that I promised myself I would do over the summer holidays. By the time I've had my third coffee, the prospect of a spot of light shopping, lunching with a friend and finishing a novel seem far more tempting. An evening of TV and making name cards for my new reception class, the cat dozing contentedly I 6.10pm: "Mum! It's great. A few more of the staff came in. I've been at school all day. I've got lots of my shelves sorted and I moved some of the furniture again. Eric, the caretaker, helped. He's really friendly. Didn't seem to mind. Thanks for my tops, Mum, they arrived today. Must go, I've got masses to do and we're going to the pub."

Friday Life is too short to clean the cooker on the last "real" day of the holidays. The weekend, I know, will be filled with a million tiny tasks, all to be completed before Monday - a new school year, another group of four-year-olds to nurture. But I am beginning to readjust to enjoy my solitude before the bustle begins.

11.15am: "Mum, I'm desperate! I've left my song book and I'm useless. Please, can you send it? And any of yours you can spare. By the way, I borrowed your Walker Poetry."

My afternoon disappears as I sort through books, parcelling up a box that Parcel Force will need Lennox Lewis to deliver.

9.35pm: "Hi Mum! My classroom is all sorted. I've made a reading tent and a role-play area and I've got all next week organised. Everyone is really nice. I can hardly wait for Monday and the kids to come in. It's so exciting, but really scary too! Mum, what do I do if lots of them cry? And if parents ask me things? You won't mind if I phone sometimes? Pick your brains? Oh, I found your black top in my bag."

Andrea Slater is a deputy head in a Norwich primary school

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