Thank God its Friday

16th May 1997 at 01:00
Monday: The garden's looking lovely, the house is tidy and the ironing's done. In my first term of retirement I'm having a quiet life which is very relaxing. But something's missing - it's the banter of staffroom gossip.

I visit an accountant friend to discuss being self-employed. He tells me to keep my petrol receipts and note any "printing, postage and stationery". I have a lot to learn. I have coffee with a colleague who retired with me and she's off to a stately home for lunch. I take to the greenhouse, the garden and my own thoughts.

Tuesday: I thought I'd miss the children. Everyone told me : "You'll miss the children" but I don't. The children were the job, the adults were the friends, the problems sharers and the jokers. That's what I miss.

Off for a sunbed. Should I be doing this? Time to indulge means time to worry. But yes, I need to acclimatise my pale skin for the school-time holiday in Cyprus. Not for me the crowded airports and screaming children. No more wilting in the departure lounge as mothers leave their children to rampage and trip over my belongings.

I pop into school this afternoon. I need to check up on bedroom allocations for the educational visit in a fortnight. I can't opt out and I don't want to.

Best to break the ties gradually. My last venture as a freebee - after this I need to toughen up on payments - my accountant told me so.

Wednesday: A day on supply for my friend. They've got an Office for Standards in Education week soon and are all very tense. Some know me and ask how things are and I smile and say "fine". They've got enough worries, they don't want mine. The class is lovely. Year 3 and I know one child already, he has moved schools and views me with suspicion. After I chat with him, I hear him telling the others, "She was my headmistress at my old school" and we achieve an occasion of awe and wonder. OFSTED would love it.

At the end of the day, my mate the deputy head asks how things were. "Fine" I reply, smug in the knowledge that I can still cope.

In the evening I go to my daughter's school for a work experience talk. I'm amazed that all the senior staff and year group tutors are present - even though they've got the big O this week. Teachers really are amazing - they plod on optimistically, with so much energy.

Thursday: Into school for a work session with the children who are going on the educational visit. I was wrong! I do miss them. Lots of children clamour round and hug me. They say "Hello" in their funny little voices, the infants, shy and coy and the older ones more bold, "Hi Mrs Sandercock, how are you?" The teachers are busy but that's how it always was. I meet a mum in the car park and she uses my christian name. We're just two adults chatting. It's easy, friendly and I like it. I meet my husband in the pub for lunch and don't miss not doing dinner duty. I do the shopping on the way home and the supermarket's practically empty. Bliss.

Friday: I have two cups of tea before getting up for a leisurely breakfast and going into the garden. My seedlings need nurturing.

After lunch I go into school to compere a fashion show for the Parents' Association. I'm very pleased they asked me and they're very grateful I could do it. What an up-side down world retirement is - who's doing who the favours? And only one third the pay but three times the amount of time to spend it.

Margaret Sandercock lives in Canvey Island, Essex

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