Thank God It's The Holidays

11th August 1995 at 01:00
Monday: With memories of the recent term still near the front of my mind, I head for the golf course. I chuckle as I recall the leaver who wrote that if he wins the National Lottery he'll buy an erotic island. Presumably he meant exotic, but I could be wrong. After all his report did say "he has an anal tical brain" - or at least it did, until I spotted the error. His teacher has a habit of missing out letters of words she's unsure of until she finds a dictionary. But "anal tical" escaped.

I tee off, and it's pleasant to be doing something where the rules don't keep changing. True, there are some traps ahead of me, but at least I have a plan of the course and can aim to avoid them.

Tuesday: I've probably read a whole forest during the past year, but haven't picked up a novel since last summer. Ogden Nash may have described stress as a hardening of the oughteries, but I ought to do some light reading. I scan the bookshelf and my eyes rest on Widecombe Fair, one of a compelling series about Dartmoor at the close of the 19th century. Then I settle down and am soon whisked away to the part of England I love most. There's simply no comparison with the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document or the Special Needs Code of Practice.

Later on in the supermarket, I notice a bottle of bleach with the word IRRITANT printed below a black diagonal cross on a red background. Perhaps the label should be mandatory on OFSTED envelopes.

Wednesday: Another golfing day. There's a group of youngsters to my left having a lesson with the club professional; some of them attend St Mary's. The thought gets to me. "Fore!" bellows my partner, as I hook the ball badly and it soars out of bounds towards them. They all look up. There's nowhere to hide and there's no way I'm going to fetch it either, even if it is new. Will this be another good walk spoilt?

I try again. This time it's a respectable effort, but my partner stays silent. Walking down the fairway I ask him why he didn't shout "Great shot!" to compensate for my embarrassment. Ah well, perhaps the children will have forgotten by September.

Thursday: I'm awake early, I've no commitments and it's great to be able to lie in. Then I have an idea. The sun's shining and the forecast's good. Why not make the most of it? Moments later I'm packing my bags for an impromptu trip to Dartmoor. I've arrived in Princetown by lunchtime and soon find lodgings before walking to the Visitors' Centre to buy a map. There's a need in both my professional and private lives to know where I'm going.

Some advertising leaflets remind me of the summer holiday playscheme organised by our local secondary school. I was at the meeting when they were distributed. It included abseiling, archery, caving, canoeing, etc. "Give them to your rising fives," we were told. "What?" we exclaimed. "Rising Year 5s," said the track-suited enthusiast.

Friday: Miles from the road I find myself with two back-packers. They're also headteachers and they prattle on about education. I protect my identity and wish they'd talk about something else. Then they ask what I do, but before replying I consider the range of multi-disciplinary skills I've gained since becoming a head; tyre-fitter, drains inspector, milk distributor, stray dog-handler, not to mention fence-mender and pest-controller. Then I reluctantly admit having the same job.

"You don't look like one," they both say in amazement. I'm uncertain how to react, but later on I astonish by-standers by leap-frogging joyfully over a bollard in the car park. What it is to feel young and refreshed again. And I remember the caretaker's parting comment while watching me fill my car boot on the last day. Seeing my golf trolley, he had inquired "Is that your Zimmer frame?" Luke Darlington is head of St Mary's C of E Primary, Yate, Bristol

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