The building work at college continues apace. We’ve had new doors, new lanyards and now the college is getting a facelift. The 1970s fascias are all getting the architectural equivalent of Botox. Gone are the multicoloured panels and in come the warm tones of spruce laths. It’s all part of the merger with the neighbouring college up the road. A learner commented to me: “I don’t know who they’re trying to fool, it’s still the same knackered building underneath.”
The workman drilling outside my window have been pleasant enough and it’s all been going rather well. That was until Monday afternoon, when there was a loud bang, an even louder expletive and finally a shooting jet of water. They’d managed to cut through the water main to the college. A part needed to be sent for and it was going to need to come from York. In our naivety, I think we all presumed we’d only be dry for a matter of hours.
The next morning, the loos were still out of order, the staffroom had no working tap and Julie in the canteen was about to burst a blood vessel if she didn’t get some fluid for the lunchtime hotpot. While we waited for the part to come, the queue at the only working loo in our block grew longer. Some learners stoically refused to heed just what “Toilet out of order” meant, which resulted in Steve the caretaker having to manually flush the loos with a bucket and a pair of marigolds. The guy is a hero.
It was then that the inevitable rumours of “shutting” started. Murmurs of health and safety, hygiene and working conditions trickled through the corridors, but a stony silence from the top corridor was maintained. I can only presume that the reason we were all so keen to “work from home” (ie, watch daytime telly and eat teacakes) was because so far this year we’ve been denied the perk of a snow day.
An unexpected afternoon off is, in theory, a thing of enormous joy. Nothing, we imagine, tastes sweeter than the cup of tea from the sofa when you should be at your desk. “Brucie bonus days”, we call them. An email that begins “Due to unforeseen…” is all it takes to transform grown-ups into air-punching adolescents. But the reality is never as good you imagine. Daytime telly is rubbish, the time passes too quickly and, before you know it, you’re texting your mate who sits next to you, talking about work.
But that doesn’t stop us wanting one. I think the reason is something to do with the unexpectedness. While working in education is never dull, it’s nice to have a change once in a while. A snow day or burst pipe day is a college event, something to talk about and remember afterwards.
It wasn’t to be, though. The part came from York, the pipe got fixed and we all settled back to our desks, wondering what might have been. So near, yet so far.
Rev Kate Bottley is chaplain of North Nottinghamshire College @revkatebottley