Category Archives: First post

New Endings

Back on September 6th I wrote a blog post about the start of the school year which saw me not starting one in the way I usually did. I wrote about how weird it was not being part of the whole back to school brigade and the almost sense of loss it induced. That blog post led to me co-writing a piece which was then published in the Times Educational Supplement online and received a great response from people who had felt similarly when they left teaching.

Anyway…fast forward to July 7th and it’s nearing the end of the school year, and once again I find it is not the usual end I have to the school year and this is all quite new to me and I’m having some odd feelings again!

So first off, what’s happened in the interim period?

Well, back in September I embarked on setting up a homework club and doing some private tuition. The private tuition took off more than the homework club across the year so that was an interesting direction I wasn’t necessarily expecting. I ended up even doing some English Literature GCSE tuition which, as a qualified primary teacher was unexpected and challenging, but I loved it. It made a great change from tutoring 11 year old children for Maths SATs!  However, I found I also had to top up my income from tuition (as the business model for the homework club relied on a much larger intake than I ended up with), and this I did, if you recall, by accepting a couple of hours a day at a local school doing Maths interventions. (I blogged about that back in October here.) I was also lucky enough to have a few art commissions too and it has been great to have more time to devote to art as well as continuing writing my novels. (No, I haven’t forgotten about them. Yes, I know this is why I set this blog up in the first place years ago!)

So now we arrive at the end of the school year. The shops are full of the usual ‘Thank you Teacher cards.’ Facebook has been pimping a mug for teachers emblazoned with ‘I survived the 2016-17 academic year’ complete with depictions of fidget spinners, bottle flipping and dabbing on. (Any parent or teacher reading will know exactly the significance of this. If you are neither and have no idea what I’m talking about ask someone you know with kids or who works in a school.)

The year 6 children I did Maths interventions for SATs up until May have had their results through, as have the children I tutored, and now they are getting ready for end of year productions and leavers assemblies etc… But my end of school year has not been as linear as theirs, or indeed any I have experienced in the past twenty years. Tutoring for SATs and GCSE finished in May. Therefore quite a bit of my work dried up, although I’ve kept a few other children on who are in different year groups until the summer break.  They will finish too when the school year comes to its end. And now interventions at the school are no longer needed in other year groups as everyone comes to a wind down and the usual timetable is replaced with more fun stuff such as transition days and sports afternoons. This means I’ve finished at the school two weeks earlier than everyone else (other than a one off session next week to finalise assessment.) And, as someone on a supply contract (and as I am re-locating over the summer break to a new city) my time at the school has come to a very low key end.

And it’s all a bit weird, and yet… not weird.

What do I mean by that?

Well, teaching (as I think with any profession) has a uniqueness of it’s own. Start and end of term rituals and all that. They are something which bind those of us who work in (primary in my case) schools together:

The ‘how many sleeps left’ countdown (often written on the staff room whiteboard) as a means of final motivation;

the stress of hot June/July days, particularly the afternoon teaching sessions which are the equivalent of trying to motivate dying wasps to fly at the end of the summer;

dragging the children through the necessary end of term assessments, long after year 6 have finished theirs;

the seemingly never-ending process of writing, editing, proofreading, filing and distributing reports;

the final parents’ evening where the parents of those you taught aren’t interested in coming to see you, but instead the parents of your up-and-coming class come to gawp at you and either nod their head in approval/relief or make a bee-line to the Head to request a transfer for little Johnny;

squeezing in the final dregs of the RE/PSHE/Art curriculum there wasn’t quite time for because of all the English and Maths that had to be done;

the endless rounds of cash collections and multiple card signing for the ones retiring/ people getting married or the mass exodus that seems to be happening year on year these days. (Last year when I left my permanent post I think there were six of us all going at once for varying reasons!);

year 6 discos/proms/barbecues;

Yr6/7 transition meetings/visits;

meeting new classes and finding out if the Head listened to your request to not have to teach Year 6 AGAIN then finding out who you’ll be teaching/won’t be teaching next year;

sports days;

Spending most of July melting in the school hall watching productions, reward assemblies, final end of year music assemblies and of course the leaver’s assemblies;

ripping down displays (not worrying about removing staples properly of course) and despairing about the mess of the school, but knowing if we didn’t make that much mess across the year then September wouldn’t be so lovely in all its tidiness and newness;

loading up your car on the last day of term with cards and gifts from your class – usually comprising of chocolates (which have invariably melted. It’s July and it’s always hot on the last day of term before the weather turns arctic ready for the actual holiday!), more mugs than you could ever have people round to your house to use, flowers which you rarely get to enjoy because the next day you’re going away and if you’re lucky bottles of your favourite tipple.  All of which you are actually really touched about and grateful for.

The rounds of goodbyes, leaving ‘dos’, signing of Year 6’s shirts and autograph books and the ever increasing dramatic floodgates of theirs’ and their parents’ tears…

(Looking at this list it is not difficult to understand why I both loved and loathed the summer term in equal measure! And people question why teachers need a six week holiday! Hmmmm! I wonder how I ever had time for anything else. Oh…wait…I didn’t! )

Anyway, the list of end of year rituals, which start as early as May, go on and on and vary only slightly from school to school – in my experience at least.

Now as a part-timer for the past five or six years I’ve felt a certain detachment from all this already. It has been a gradual change and pull back for me so I’ve got used to it. This year however, has been a real eye-opener to the varying emotions I have for the profession and the roles I have held in education for over twenty years.

When children I’ve taught this year found out on Monday I’d be going this week, most were, to put it mildly, a bit put out. They didn’t understand how someone who’d only just arrived was leaving so soon. Some were really quite upset about it, despite the fact that I have only taught them in small groups for half an hour a week for just, in some cases, a couple of months. This I found very moving and made me realise how valued I am by the people who matter. The children. To some of these children I have been as important to them as the class teacher they have built a solid relationship with over a whole year. I find it weird, because, whereas I am quite happy these days to dip in and out of roles in tutoring and in schools – not getting emotionally attached or involved in the whole picture – I’ve been seen by them as  an important and vital cog. I thought that would  really  only be the case when you work in a school full time or for a long time, but in fact I have had a significant impact working on a more casual basis and have gained the job satisfaction I have always craved without the immense pressure or stress I always felt full time class teaching. That’s not to say I don’t miss it – the buzz of a school day, a school year and its cycles. There continue to be times I do, but on balance I really don’t. I have been lucky enough through the choices I’ve made this year to have flexibility which I desperately needed given my personal home circumstances. Yes, I may not have  a stable, regular or predictable wage, sick pay, holiday pay or huge pension contributions, but I have been able to live my life better, AND do what I’m good at, AND have a positive impact on the educational chances of lots of children.  It’s win-win-win. I do feel a little bit rotten for the children though at times – in that I feel a little bit like Mary Poppins. By that I mean I blow in with the wind where I’m needed, and, once my job is done, I ride out again. Not on an umbrella, but in my little Ford Ka. Never to be seen again. And some of the kids I’ve worked with (I have worked mainly with children from more disadvantaged backgrounds) have evidently found that hard.

All this got me back to thinking to what makes for a successful teacher.  What makes a good teacher? And over my year of building many, many relationships with children in a different way to the way I usually do (ie with classes of 30 where you have to build a class relationship and then the individual relationships) I know for certain something I’ve always known: The relationship you have with children comes first. It comes before you can teach them a single thing.  And that’s what I’m good at. Building a good relationship first and foremost, instilling confidence and then tackling what needs to be learnt. I also realised this year I work well by myself. I work better when I am in control of what I’m doing, rather than someone else. The parents who have hired me and the school who have hired me this year have trusted me to do my job and do it well and I have striven, as I’ve always done, to not let they or their children down. No OFSTED inspector has ever made me feel that way. Few Headteachers have made me feel that way – trusted me to do what I’m trained for; given me more autonomy; trusted my common sense to get the job done. Does that mean I can’t work as a member of a team? Not at all. I’ve just discovered I am happier working this way. Because I am at a stage of my career where I know what I’m doing without the need for too much intervention from others. That probably sounds arrogant, but I’d like to think most people get to that point eventually. It doesn’t mean we stop learning ourselves, but surely there has to come a point where there are those who have enough experience and confidence in their chosen profession to go solo or to pass on what they know to those who are early into their career without constant watching, criticism and questioning? Unfortunately I was finding the education system doesn’t support that way of working and one of the many reasons why I got out last year, and perhaps will never go back.

And how does this thinking fit into the end of school year rituals I started talking about? Well, do I miss them? Do I miss the feeling of being part of something? Maybe. A little.  Especially putting on Year 6 productions and leaver’s assemblies. I always had a love/hate relationship with the stress that bought about! But ultimately no I don’t miss it as much as I thought I might. These days I am quite happy to be the Mary Poppins: To helicopter in and help when and where help is needed, but to quietly drift out, stage right, when the job is done.

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Progress?

One step forward

Two centuries back.

Progress they call it

In the world turned black.

 

The right wing drifts

Ever further west

Falls into the sea

Drowns all on its left.

 

Capitalism capitalises

On the backs of the needy

Gobbles them up, swallows them whole

Feeds the fat and greedy.

 

The poor, once hidden,

Now stark, in plain sight.

We avert our delicate eyes ,

Leave them to their fight.

 

In ivory towers we

Cast our eyes down,

Forget what’s important

Here in our own town.

 

That is…

 

To love and look after each other,

Nurture good health;

Inspire a love of learning,

Not educate to create wealth;

 

Care for the vulnerable,

The young, old and poor;

But ‘from cradle to the grave’

Appears to be no more.

 

Preoccupied with economy

Tax and VAT,

It’s time we voted on what matters most:

Our social responsibility.

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Spring – A poem for World Poetry Day

Today is World Poetry Day. I didn’t realise this until logging on to Twitter AFTER I had been inspired (by a breezy, blue skied Spring walk this morning)to write a poem. So when I saw it was World Poetry Day, I was surprised and am clearly more in tune with the turning of the earth and its ways than I thought!

Anyway, here it is: a painting in words of what occurred to me this morning as I walked. (I’d like to point out I live in the suburbs of a large British city, not the countryside, so imagine what’s out there in the wild!) Enjoy!

Spring

December strips bare

All that

January can’t care

For.

February: snow drops

But…

Hyacinth shoots and crocuses

Hint at

Life stirring in bulbs

Beneath.

Suddenly!

Daffodil trumpets herald in

March and an

Explosion of colour

Springs to life.

Early bird bluebells burst forth and

Against blue skies

Blossom blooms

Cherry pink and apple white

Then…

Scatter in

April showers

Dotting, like a Monet over emerald carpets,

An impression of what

May come.

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Swings and Roundabouts

Just over a month has passed since the new school term started and I didn’t go back to school to work. Instead I’ve had 3 and a half hours a week of private tutoring and been setting up the homework club which runs four hours a week. On that front things have been very slow, as I don’t have enough pupils yet to quite cover even the cost of room hire. It is to be expected of any new venture that things take time to pick up, yet time isn’t always something we have financially. The truth is, it’s not paying just yet and of course this set in a little panic with me mid month when the very real possibility of by the time I reached November I’d not have enough money to pay the mortgage set in.

The possibility of selling the house reared its head (something I’m prepared to do if absolutely necessary), but I really didn’t like the thought of going into the winter with the stress of house selling.

The realities of working for yourself are this:

1) It’s great as you are autonomous and get to choose when and how you work. It’s given me more time to crack on writing my novel which is now picking up momentum and I’m nearing the end of the first draft at last. I’ve had more time to walk, keep fit, keep appointments without stressing about how it fits in around work. Get jobs done around the house.

BUT…

2) Mortgage companies do not like it. They do not like you not knowing how much you’re going to earn each month. Their nervousness feeds down and you feel it. It’s a bit like the financial market in Britain right now. There’s uncertainty because of Brexit and then a date was set and panic set in, the pound crashed and  that market nervousness filters down and we all feel it.

Then last week, out of the blue, I had a call from an old friend and colleague who works in a school up the road. She asked me if I’d be interested in doing some intervention tutoring for groups of four children and they were willing to fit around me.  It was a relief, I must admit, even though I don’t especially want to go back into school. I have a dozen reasons for coming out of the system. Some personal, some professional. So to go back in, albeit it for an hour and a half a day with small groups to target specific aspects of learning, just feels like a step back for where I’m trying to take myself.  I have mixed emotions about this latest turn of work related events. I came out of teaching. Out of the system and yet here I am, just a month later, back in. I’ll be back trying to fit the square pegs into the round holes and I will undoubtedly find this frustrating and stressful. Yes…even for just an hour and a half a day!  But needs must. I have to think of my nephew and keeping him well; keeping the roof over our heads. I have to also remember I am not contracted in the same way. It will be on a supply basis, a pay as you earn basis and I still have the flexibility in my hours. I have to remember this is temporary until the venture I’m setting up takes off.

So…I start tomorrow, (thrown in at the deep end!) and already I’m beginning to lament the loss of the luxury of 6 hours of  child free time a day to write, paint, develop the club, walk etc.  The personal reasons I gave up the classroom and system for. Of course, I know I will still have mornings as I don’t start until 1pm, but I know how quickly those few hours will fill up. Mondays with grocery shopping, Thursdays with tutoring planning, every other Friday with cleaning. I know the walking and writing and painting will end up playing second fiddle again and I’m going to have to work extra hard to make sure I fit those things in. I know things may become a rush again. I don’t like rushing through each day. I don’t know why as a society we put that pressure on everyone, day in, day out.

However, this part time job means a stable wage coming in, albeit it much lower than previously as obviously the hours are few. It will keep the mortgage company happy… for now. It means I can focus on promoting Homework Club without worrying I haven’t any money coming in or having to sell a house. Ultimately, once that is earning me money, I can give up the classroom once more.

It’s swings and roundabouts in many ways. The give and take of life. Life is moving and changing. I’m not standing still. And that makes me alive.

*For those of you who may think I’m a lazy bugger, please remember I look after my nephew as his carer full time and on my own. My first and foremost job is single parent and that is where the rest of my time goes!

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Living the Dream?

It’s been two weeks into my new lifestyle. I have broken off the shackles of working under the English education system and have a whole new found freedom and luxury of six hours a day all to myself whilst the 8 year old is at school. I have this time to write my novel and paint pictures, go for long walks, and do all the things I love (and have wanted to focus more on) before I skip down to school and collect him, work for an hour at my newly set up Homework Club and then it’s home for a relaxed evening with the boy, dinner, games and reading. Right?

Wrong.

So far I have written once in two weeks (not counting the last blog post and the co-written article which came from that published in the TES about leaving teaching). So my novel hasn’t progressed anywhere near to where it should have. I haven’t painted a single picture or sketched a single sketch. (Though I have painted two and a half walls of my lounge – the other one and a half is still waiting to be done.) I have had five small walks and one bigger one (though that knackered my bad knee out a bit too much so still not ready for that).

So what have I done in two weeks? Sat around watching daytime TV? Become a lady that lunches?  Well not quite. The work for Homework Club hasn’t been the avalanche, or even waterfall, of clambering kids (parents) I hoped for once the flyers finally went out at the start of this week. More of a dripping tap effect thus far. So at the moment I’m not actually working and real panic has started to set in about the financial viability of my future work plans. Paying for room hire means I’m in deficit finance wise right now, but I guess this is how all businesses start. Trouble is, I didn’t have the luxury of a start up loan and the mortgage is due in 14 days. Okay…so I’m not panicking, thing’s will pick up, right? Once word spreads. I’ll keep telling myself that. Meanwhile, tomorrow I start private tuition for two children (yes – Saturday mornings are now working mornings) and I have another two for a Thursday evening (sacrificing any chance of my free evening a week for socialising in favour of paying the bills). But that’s okay, because I wanted a change. I needed a change. I had to get out of the system because it was slowly eroding my soul and goodness knows I’d already been to the dark side in terms of my mental health and another scare due to work stress earlier this year only confirmed to me I needed to get out. This is all change I wanted. So why this week, (after a euphoric first week) do I feel so… low?

Well I guess it comes back to this idyllic stress-free lifestyle I envisaged for myself. So far it’s involved, as I say, not much of the things I gave up work to do! Instead it’s been: Lots of admin, housework, gardening, grocery shopping, painting and decorating, running an 8 year old round to various clubs, (which all started up again this week), and to THREE dental appointments  and to the hairdressers, (school photo alert!), my physio for my dodgy knee, meeting prospective children for tuition, emailing, constant checking of finances (and fretting about it), and finally cramming in a flying visit to a couple of friends today (agreeing to make 3 loaves of ham sandwiches for one who’s having her children christened this weekend) who of course all think I’m now a lady of leisure and have time to meet up more. I don’t. It was lovely to see them, of course, but the thought of another morning out of doing anything for me (ie creative stuff) just has left me feeling as though those extra six hours I thought I’d have for me isn’t a reality which will happen. In fact I’m already beginning to wonder how I actually managed to fit work in at all before!

I think I’m also feeling a little low, simply because I am adjusting to a new lifestyle. Periods of change and adjustment inevitably come with the lows as well as the highs unfortunately. And I’m adjusting to a lifestyle whereby I’m not in quite such a rigid routine and although I deplore too much routine, I think I’m someone who actually needs it, because I’m not terribly self disciplined! I am also still  finding it a bit weird not being part of something; the staff room banter, the chat and laughs and unpredictability of the kids. Hopefully once I start tutoring tomorrow and get to the Homework Club (even if only with a handful of children) I’ll start to feel more like myself again.

Living the dream? Well it doesn’t happen overnight.  And I have to keep reminding myself that five years ago I went through a much bigger lifestyle change than this… and survived!

How about you? Have you had a big lifestyle change and how did you cope with the inevitable lows after the highs?

 

 

 

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New Beginnings

Wow… Hi! It’s been a while hasn’t it?!

It’s September 6th. Usually I’d be now in school teaching. I’d have had an INSET day yesterday to ease me back in to the school year, catching up with colleagues, politely swapping stories of holidays (theirs abroad in exotic locations, mine the usual short trips to Devon and Edinburgh) and discussing how quickly six weeks has gone by, as it invariably always does and how good/bad the weather has been.  I’d have had a restless night’s sleep last night with the annual ‘I can’t control these kids’ dream/nightmare as the subconscious anxiety of each new class/classes hasn’t diminished in eighteen years in the profession.

However, none of that has happened this year, because on July 20th I hung up my teaching cape and mortar board (okay we don’t actually wear those, though I did start teaching at a time when chalk boards were still a thing) for what I think/hope will be forever.

So it’s a Tuesday morning and my 8 year old has gone off to school for his first day in a new class – something he will repeat for the next seven years (and I’m already wondering where the time has gone)! And here I am – officially unemployed. Sort of. It feels really weird to be not driving off to work. Weird not to be immersed in everything new that September usually brings as it’s what I’ve done for all of my adult life.  Weird, yet at the same time good and right. I thought I’d miss it more than I do, but I actually don’t. I guess I’ve been gearing up to this day for the last six years or so really. Since my breakdown in 2009 – things in my professional world just haven’t been the same. And my personal circumstances changed immeasurably and in ways back then I could not have envisaged.

So what will I do for a wage, you may well ask? I’ve no spouse bringing in the dosh so I can sit around living the dream! There’s just me and a fostering allowance paid for looking after my nephew. BIG responsibility! Gulp. Well, from next week, the plan is I have a homework club to run for an hour after school four nights a week, when I get some customers that is. I’ve spent the summer setting up the business (though ‘business’ sounds the wrong word to be using when working in education in whatever capacity it may be). However, that is what it is, I guess.  Next I have to market it (see,  business words already in use) now that there is a website up and running (thanks to an amazing friend of mine).  In the meantime,  I have a couple of children whom I will be privately tutoring, and I have been lucky enough over the summer to have sold a painting and given my services over to ironing for friends to earn an extra bob or two whilst things may be slow to start up. None of this, nor my fostering allowance, will pay the whole mortgage at the end of the month though, and so I really need my business idea to work.

When my final wage was paid in to my account on August 31st – there was a ‘gulp’ moment. There still are ‘gulp’ moments. There’s no wage at the end of September until I secure children to come to my homework club… eeek!

BUT…

I had to take a leap into the unknown. I had to whip away the safety net. I have to remember my long term goals. Or even the short term ones. I want to finish my book. I want to paint more. I have a little boy to raise and look after and those who think they don’t need so much as they get older couldn’t be more wrong. They need less of certain things, but more of others. Teaching is, even in a part time capacity as I’ve been doing for the past five years, a time consuming, mentally draining distraction I don’t need or want anymore. I have a goal of enjoying life and to do this I need it to be multi-faceted.  Working yourself into the ground in a stressful occupation, even if it is well paid and has a secure pension arrangement, doesn’t equate, for me at least, to a happy and fulfilling life. I don’t hate teaching though. It’s what I’m good at and enjoy the basics of what teaching is all about.  I’d miss working with kids if I don’t do anything in the line of work I’ve done all my adult life.  But there is more out there I want to do in addition which when working in school, I have little time or energy left for.

And so…my plan is… (has been since April time when seeds first started to form, only now it all feels a bit more real!)  to earn an adequate amount through tutoring and running the homework help club under my own terms. Working for myself, working for children and parents, rather than a misguided government I don’t agree with.  This will be done in evenings after school or on Saturday mornings. Meanwhile, during term time I can use the mornings to write and hopefully finish this novel. I often think it’s been taking too long, but I only started the new total re-write last November. I’d had a target of finishing first draft by June, but this didn’t happen. Now I have more time, I’m hoping by October half term I’ll have reached the end. Over the summer I had a breakthrough in a part towards the end where I was struggling to see where to go with it next – or at least how to get to the next part to bring the story to its planned climax, and now I’ve had that I can crack on. It’s been a while, so my writing fingers may be a bit rusty, but I’ll soon get into it I’m sure.

But it’s weird…this been at home (alone) in the daytime thing – though like anything I’m sure I’ll get used to it. My only fear is…there still won’t be enough hours in the day!

How about you? Have you changed your work life in a big way? How did it pan out for you? Are you a teacher who gave the profession up for something else?  (I often read of folk who go into teaching after something else, but rarely of those who escape it permanently – unless at retirement) Will I be back in the classroom before the year is out?!

I’d love to hear of your experiences.

Thanks, as ever,  for reading.

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30 Days of Summer

(Adapted from an original post from 2014, re-posted in 2015.)

Allow me to present…in no particular order (though think Channel 4/5 countdown programmes, but without Stuart Marconi)...My Top 30 ‘Reasons Why I Don’t Like Summer.’ (In the city. In Britain. On a normal, average working day, bearing in mind that weekends are often worse and bank holidays even more so.)

The emphasis being on MY reasons. As I say completely biased, personal experience led reasons.

1) June, the start of summer, (as well as May) is the month when exams and tests take place in educational establishments across the land. Now this, in my humble opinion, is just the most stupidly bonkers thing our education system has ever thought up. Hmmmm. Hot, sticky, greenhouses for classrooms? I know! (thought some bright spark once upon an ice age)..Let’s get the kids, who resemble lethargic wasps by this time in the term, to sit in these hothouses and sweat it out over exams and tests. It really is the best thing to be doing when the sun is shining and one in four of them are suffering from hay fever. Not only that, let’s ensure they don’t get to enjoy any of the rare sunny, dry weather (if they are that way inclined) whilst they cram their revision in. Ah ha! You may argue. But there’s still July and August to enjoy. Oh Really? Nine years out of ten, as soon as the academic year ends, so does any sign of the sun. Until September 2nd. When it returns with a vengeance, ready to bake the children at gas mark 6 for six hours a day until at least September 29th.  This is *fact. I bet there are statistics on Wikipedia about it and stuff.

*According to me.

2) The stupidly light, humid nights of June especially mean kids don’t go to sleep until it’s time for us adults to hit the hay, which is earlier these days since we got old, tired and grumpy from having kids.

3) Apparently unconcerned that they have school the following day, and more than likely some important test or exam revision to do, older kids roam the streets until at least 9:30pm, making noise and keeping said younger children from their sleeping (refer back to point #2.)

4) Apparently unconcerned that, despite the hot weather, they have work the following day, neighbours, (who have no kids) lounge around in their gardens supping beer and laughing raucously with their mates until some ungodly hour. Thus keeping your child, whose bedroom window happens to overlook their garden, awake. (refer to point #2 again.)

5) It’s too damn hot to do anything. Anything. Other than sit writing blog posts about how too damn hot it is.

6) End of year school reports have to be written. (Refer also to point #1 about how stupid and illogical the organisation of the school year is.)

7) The lawn and garden requires care and attention at least once a week, whereas in winter this is one less job to do, thus providing one with more time to do things such as, oh I don’t know, write school reports.  Oh wait, no that’s in the…(see point #5)

8) Feet are on show. Feet are not pretty things. Not even the pretty ones, so stop kidding yourselves. A necessary evil because of aforementioned ‘it’s too damn hot’ point.

9) The acrid stench of stale body odour, sweaty feet mixed with barbecues fill the air.

10) After months of it clogging up the house, there is a false sense of security that once more the wet washing can be hung outside to dry. But wait! Just hold on there. The neighbours have oh so considerately got the barbecue going and have soiled the fresh, meadow-grass scented clothes with the oily, greasy stench of cheap burgers and pork products.

11) The light nights bring about a false sense of having more time. It appears to be 6pm, but upon inspecting the clock it is apparently actually 9pm. It’s bed time soon, but the kids are still awake (see point #2). Staying up later is the only option in order to make it feel as though you’re going to bed at a grown up time. This means a reduced amount of  sleep and waking the next morning, grumpy and irritable. The hot, humid heat wave continues and the grumpiness intensifies due to lack of said sleep.

12) Shaving becomes imperative. Daily. The need to apply products like tanning moisturiser seems necessary just so no one is mistaken for a slightly off colour snowman. Or a bad case of blue cheese. All of this takes up more time. Stuff one just doesn’t have to worry about so much in the winter.

13) Summer brings with it the ‘what to wear’ debate. Is a waterproof needed? (Yes, just in case.) Is a cardi or pullover necessary? Probably, but maybe not. It’s difficult to tell. One might be required once evening sets in, but then again does one wish to carry it around all day in the heat? Hmmmm. Skirt or dress or trousers? Oh, a pretty floral summer dress! Yes! No, wait: you have big thighs. Big thighs don’t like heat. They have a habit of sticking together. Better put some cropped leggings on underneath. Oh but now it’s too hot. Hummpf. Okay, now, which shoes? Sandals?  Oh bugger, nails aren’t painted. Canvas pumps? Yuk; sweaty feet. Flip flops? How much walking is planned today? Not much, but does one really want to look as though one is on the beach in St Tropez on a Monday afternoon whilst trying to give an air of at least possessing an ounce of professionalism? Not really.  Massive dilemma after massive dilemma. Every day of every summer. Never exactly sure how the temperature’s going to pan out.  In winter it’s just cold. Everyone knows where they stand. Everyone knows they’ll be dressed up in layer upon layer with no need to shed. Everyone knows tights won’t become uncomfortable. Everyone knows feet won’t drip with sweat. In Winter, all is simple. But British Summer is tricksie.

14) Leaving  the car for two minutes, only to return and find it’s actually an oven in disguise and everything you left in it resembles something from a Salvador Dali.

15) Sport suddenly becomes important. To everyone. The Football World Cup, or European Championships, or the Olympics rear their heads, meaning a deluge of St George’s crosses and Union Jacks suddenly appear overnight flapping wildly from car windows and council estate bedroom windows across the land. It means the pubs become full of loud, obnoxious types who think they know everything about every sport ever invented. “Oh yes, the optimum angle a javelin should be thrown is 45 degrees, and he got it all wrong. All wrong mate.”  Then there’s the women who pretend to be interested in football for the month, just because “Well, you know England are playing.” (Ironically these are the same women usually cursing the networks for interrupting coverage of Coronation Street as Manchester United trounce Liverpool. Or vice versa, let’s not be biased.) And of course, each June, Wimbledon dominates the BBC for a whole fortnight. How the schedulers get round this must be a logistical nightmare when there are Olympics or World Cups to consider too. They must love the one year in four when there isn’t anything else to compete with. I know I do. It’s not sports themselves which are the problem. It’s the assumption of the media, and the majority of the populace, that everyone should be interested in it or care about it. NOT EVERYONE DOES. PLEASE STOP RAMMING IT DOWN OUR THROATS.

16) Skinny, pale chested men, take their tops off in public. (More so when there is a football tournament on, refer to point #15)

17) Overweight and obese people show too much flesh for it to be comfortable for onlookers to observe. See point #16 so I am not accused of fatism.

18) There is NO happy medium on points #16&17 without giving you a complex your bod is not ‘beach ready’.

19) Everyone. EVERYONE gets grumpy, especially once England get knocked out of said football tournaments. (For other, better, more sensible reasons for summer grumpiness, see points #1-14 and #20-30)

20) Some inconsiderate neighbours (there’s always at least one) open all their windows and play their music at top volume because, well why wouldn’t everyone else want to listen to The Greatest Hits of Crap on a loop?

21) Once the neighbours have turned off their (inevitably crap) music, finished their barbecue and put their offspring to bed, and it’s time to turn in for the night, it’s too damn hot to sleep anyway.

22) Chocolate melts merely from glancing in its direction.

23) Wasps and flies. But mainly wasps. Oh and flying ants.

24) By the time schools break up for summer holidays they and teachers have already sweated their way in work through the ‘best’ of the what the British climate has to offer and so spend most of August dodging rain showers, watching the nights slowly draw in and feeling depressed about the fact September is looming.

25) It’s too damn hot to actually sit out and enjoy the garden (after spending the time tending to it whenever there’s been a break in the rain) for any prolonged period of time. This is because pale, pasty British skin is prone to burning even when slapped in Factor 30. Other than that it’s just too uncomfortable to sit. “It’s the wrong kind of heat.” Apparently. Which brings me neatly to…

26) Pale, sensitive skin burns from a mere 20 minute stint in the sun.  It doesn’t do this evenly of course. A little skin, mainly of the ‘driving arm’, actually tans; some turns pink; but most, in the main legs, seems impervious to the sun no matter how much exposure to the harmful ultraviolet rays it’s put through. As a result, the next three weeks are spent looking like an oversized, inedible portion of Neapolitan ice cream. The days following this brief vitamin D collecting exercise necessitates wearing none- summer clothes in order to hide the embarrassing bright red patches. Those lucky enough to burn all over, can enjoy the pain and itching for at least a week to come as well as the stares and pointing fingers at the cooked lobster look.

27) Humidity does no favours to those of us in possession of thick hair. Think Monica Geller in Friends when she visits Barbados. Yep. That. Humidity and rain? Double the pain.

28) Headaches. Summer brings more headaches and the heat only intensifies them. Once a summer heat headache kicks in the only thing which will shift it, is sleep. But then it’s too hot to sleep….vicious cycle! (See points 11 and 21).

29) Finally, the pressure and compulsion to be outside just because it’s nice is like some sort of social expectation which, if not met, results in a guilt complex bigger than any Roman Catholic could declare. Work still needs to be done. It doesn’t just go away because the thermometer has realised there is a 30 on its scale.  “Oh, why don’t you sit out and write your book/ reports/do your lesson planning?” some helpful person may suggest  “Oh I don’t know: where would you like me to start?” Other than the fact it’s too bright to see the screen, sitting out in the sweltering sun for prolonged periods means having to: listen to the neighbour’s stream of chronically bad music; get sunburned despite stopping work every five minutes to slip, slap, slop; develop a headache; grow uncomfortably hot and sweaty and stick to the garden furniture; develop squint eye and frizzy hair; fight off swarms of wasps, flies and any other insects who take a fancy to buzzing around; have to listen to other people’s kids screaming  and yelling whilst trying to concentrate;  drink warm lemonade as it heats up in nanoseconds. In other words see points 1-28!

And finally new for 2015…

30) Hayfever. I don’t suffer myself (thankfully), however just after I published this post last year, my 6 year old developed an allergy to grass pollen for the first time. This year it has returned and with it itchy, watery, red eyes which also swell to the point they look bruised and it looks as though he’s been punched. So now June is also a month whereby I feel the need to start every conversation with “I haven’t punched him, he has really bad hay fever.”  Hayfever is rotten for him. It makes him lethargic and his nose runs and then is blocked, his eyes are sore and he can’t sleep very well for it. From my whining point of view, this part of summer now means as well as preparing his birthday celebrations (which of course fall slap bang in the middle of the grass pollen season) and me writing school reports, I have to play nurse and be extra vigilant in easing his suffering. This means constant checking of the wearing of eye shields. It means not being able to go outside after school with him as he is a) too tired and b) at his weakest point by 4-5 o’clock. It means fighting to put eye-drops in (try it whilst they have their hands covering their eyes…yeah….not happening), and administer regular doses of medicine. It means washing his arms and face and eyes down with a damp flannel and changing his clothes when he’s been outside. It means closing windows and staying in at weekends to give him some respite from the worst of the symptoms. Basically it means more hard work in a month I already don’t especially like for the other 29 reasons!

What about you? Do you loathe or love the hot weather and all that summer brings? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks as ever for reading. 🙂

Addendum: It’s mid July, 2016 mid heat wave. It’s 34 degrees celcius outside, (after a month of seriously unpredictable yet much lovely cooler weather which I have not moaned about once!) This year I have learned from previous summers. I have given up teaching and simply spend my evenings eating salad and drinking cider in the garden. The neighbours are still playing chronically rubbish music though!

 

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