The breadth of expertise found in FE makes college staffrooms akin to a human internet, but with less porn. The answer to any question is only a shout away: Why’s my exhaust rattling? Will interest rates go up? What are high-definition eyebrows?
When you’ve worked in FE for a bit, you collect a colleague knowledge base that’s on standby when you need a trusted source.
I had to call on such specialist FE help this weekend. As an unconscious rebellion against my rural upbringing, I’ve spent adulthood avoiding the countryside like the plague. I’m a devoted city gal. I do like scenery, but from the window of a fancy hotel. I don’t want any nature on me. It either stings, stains or stinks.
So imagine my surprise this summer when I became mildly interested in gardening. My husband got involved too, and now our place looks far less like an abandoned wasteland. There’s a smorgasbord of bird pals, squirrels galore and the cutest addition – a gang of hedgehogs.
These spiked lovelies waddled their way into my husband’s heart. After extensive research, he bought dried worms to feed them, and a custom-made hedgehog house with a lift-up roof. He planted shrubs round it so the hogs feel camouflaged and left hay for them to make little beds.
We suspected that the Tiggywinkles had settled, as hay was being dragged inside. After a week or so we peeped and there inside was a snuffling, spiky ball. It had worked. The next thing was to persuade Spike into wrangling his pals to hibernate there. We continued leaving worms outside and night after night he came back. Our Beatrix Pottered suburban bliss endured throughout summer.
This weekend it ended. As I bathed in the glow of Saturday morning, gazing out of the window, some unfamiliar activity in the trees caught my eye, as we both saw something foreign disappear into the hedgehog’s doorway. We stalked up the path and gently lifted the roof. There were no hedgehogs. Just a big, fat rat.
Now, rats get a bad press. The plague did no favours for their brand. I was concerned that by automatically deeming our new guest “unwelcome”, I may have turned animal-racist. So I did what any FE teacher would do: called an FE chum who teaches animal care.
She’s a devoted outdoors person who lives on a small holding. Such is her compassion that she regularly drives across the country to pick up some manky beast to nurse back to health.
She listened calmly to my conundrum and, without hesitation, replied: “Kill it. Kill it today.”
I was expecting Snow White and got Scarface. But I trust her judgement more than any website or professional rat-buster. She’s in FE.
So now we’ve got to pay a rodent hitman to come and sully our little Eden. Obviously, being city types, we can’t kill it ourselves. This is what happens when I get involved with nature. It’s just not natural.
Sarah Simons works in colleges in the East Midlands, and is the director of UKFEchat. She tweets @MrsSarahSimons