Thank God it's Friday;Features amp; Arts

12th November 1999 at 00:00
Monday Into my sixth week of sick leave, I decide it's time to get back into a routine by offering to do the school run with my surrogate children (next door's).

I'm ashamed at how quickly I resort to the bribery of the sweetshop to overcome William's cringing embarrassment at being seen with a strange woman at the school gates. I restrain myself from volunteering to help with reading.

Tuesday Part of my illness has been caused by a dormant condition and talk has been of scans, biopsies and mild chemotherapy (is there such a thing?) Check-up today. The scan results are reassuring and I feel in safe, knowledgeable hands - eventually.

I am seen first by a doctor I've not met before, who scans my notes as he walks in the door and who gives me a completely different message. I ask to see my original consultant.

Wednesday I experience a strange dizziness as I go back to school for the first time, but am touched by the warmth of people's greetings. My Year 8 class breaks into applause as I walk in, even if the main question is: "Are we still going to Chessington?" I stay till four o'clock to thank the cleaners who sent me a card and leave on a high, feeling that I belong somewhere.

Thursday Predictably, I'm wiped out. I go back to bed after the school run. I'm awoken by the man delivering my gravel - my main achievement on sick leave has been to dig up mylawn. His customer care doesn't extend to carrying it round the back, so mypensioner neighbour helps me lug half a ton through the house. Good physical therapy.

Friday A teacher is doing lollipop duty. I flash my copy of "The TES", like a secret masonic greeting. He doesn't notice.

I have come to value my time off as a blessing in disguise, a sort of unfortunate sabbatical. It has given me time to think, to consider seriously if I want to return to a job that is consuming me. I realise that there is a vibrant world out there when we're locked away with our heads full of action plans.

I'm tempted to renounce feminism and become a kept woman. I'm doing the lottery twice a week. But I know, deep in my heart, that sooner or later my feet would point in the direction of a school, back to a world that I find too hard to walk away from.

Helen Murray is a deputy head in a Hampshire secondary school. She writes under a pseudonym

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