Thank God it's Friday

7th April 2006 at 01:00
Handing over responsibility is not as liberating as you might think, writes Judith Lees

Monday My first Monday of retirement. I still wake up at the same time, even though the alarm is switched off. Yesterday was very strange. Sunday is (I must learn to say "was") always hectic, planning for the week ahead, wondering what we would eat, ironing enough clothes. Yesterday I didn't do any of that, but perhaps the consumption of red wine was a little enthusiastic.

It won't seem real until the children go back to school. I do go in today to finish off everything, and start the impossible task of moving all personal traces of me from the office.

Tuesday I go into school and meet my successor. And although we already know each other, it's very odd. I feel like an intruder in my office. I hand over a set of keys, passwords to the alarm, school e-mail and all the rest. She looks around school, and I can imagine all the plans forming in her head about what to do. It's 16 years since I did that, and it seems only like yesterday.

I hope she has as much fun planning for all of it as I've had. Of all the applicants, she's the one I feel easiest about handing over to. So why, in fact, do I feel so uncomfortable?

Wednesday Another day of clearing out. What a lot of junk... and all those files on the shelves. I'm not sure some were ever opened. I spend some time looking through the filing cabinet at copies of letters (did I really write such impressive letters?) and recalling the incidents behind them. They seemed so big, often insurmountable, at the time. But they were all resolved to everyone's satisfaction - at least that's how I remember it.

With a start I realise how long it's been since I updated the log book. I'm retired and still have homework to do.

Thursday My successor is in school again today, and for the first time I feel it very strongly. Somehow, and I don't know how, I've moved over and she's moved in. Even though nothing has physically changed, it's happened.

My secretary notices it too. "I think you have just been replaced," she says. I've nearly finished the clearing out and clearing up process. I need to pass over the spare set of keys as soon as possible, and draw a line under this part of my life. Why do I feel so unhappy about it? I thought it was supposed to be liberating.

Friday So ends what has probably been the saddest week of my working life.

If I could rescind my decision, I would. I'm glad to get home and have a good cry. Then I look properly at the letters and cards from colleagues, children and parents, and feel humbled at some of the exceedingly kind words. I read again the words of the poem the children wrote and recited.

The gifts I have received have been very, very generous, but the words I have just been reading are beyond price. I hope the comfortable feeling of liberation isn't too long in coming.

Judith Lees wrote this diary when she retired last year as head of Red Rose primary school, Chester le Street, County Durham

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