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Friday, 16 September 2016

Reasons why Fran now checks her watch every two minutes in the mornings

Last year, my teaching timetable went like this: in school every day by 8.20 except for Wednesday, my day off.

This year, it's:

Monday: start at 9.55
Tuesday: start at 10.55
Wednesday: start at 10.55
Thursday: start at 8.45
Friday: start at 9.55

Those times indicate 'start teaching' so usually I'm there at least half an hour before lessons to give the photocopier chance to run out of paper, the coffee machine chance to give me hot water with milk in it, and the computer a chance to give me nothing at all except error messages and the urge to whup its screen with a HAMMER.

*calms down*

Anyway, as you can imagine, with all those erratic start times, there's room for confusion.

And that's why I was sitting on my sofa, in pyjamas, one day last week, slurping a second cup of tea and wiping toast crumbs from my lips, convinced I had acres of time before I needed to be in school.  I'd even filled in a couple of crossword clues.  

'I'll check my timetable once more, though,' I thought, 'just in case.'

I think that was the prodding of the Timetable Angel.

My stomach went 'flip-flup-flip'. 9.55. Not 10.55. 

I don't often regret giving up driving. I did then.

I had fifty minutes to transform from 'pyjama-clad crumby-lipped woman in house' to 'formally-clad fully-prepared teacher of brand new class at front of classroom two miles away'.  My husband said to me that evening: 'I knew something had gone amiss. You don't normally strew your pyjamas on the floor of the bedroom and leave half a mug of tea in the hall.'

My choices, once dressed? Power-walk for 35 minutes with a rucksack full of books and a September sun sizzling my forehead, or catch a bus. 

Because I knew it would help me get fitter, I power-walked.

I caught the bus.

I'm a big fan of buses. I deliberately ride to work on the one that goes the circuitous route so I can be on it for longer, reading my current book (I love you, Simon Armitage, writer of 'Walking Away'), looking out of the windows at angry people in cars, or furtively adding snippets of people's private conversations in a notebook. 

My passion for the lazy bus ride is because I believe rushing is of the devil and am never, if I can help it, in a hurry. As a result, neither am I ever in a little black dress. You pays your money. You takes your choice.

That day was different. I had to rush.

But.

The bus stopped at every. single. stop. Everyone in the West Midlands had their cars at the garage for an MOT, a sudden onset of arthritis in the knees, and no money for taxis, but still wanted to get to Warwick town centre.  

The driver knew several alighting passengers personally and they exchanged extended autobiographical life experiences with him before they sat down. 

He stopped for an elderly lady called Maisie who'd not yet reached the bus stop but who waved him down.  They were great friends too. I suspect she delivered him from his mother's womb in 1952 and had been round for tea every Sunday since then. 

He stopped at three junctions to wave other vehicles through first, in front of him, including two trucks each the length of the M6 motorway. 

Every traffic light, spotting my bus as it approached, turned against me with a personal, deep spite, and went red with joy as our driver braked. 


By the time we came near the final stop, all seats were taken, many by octogenarians and mothers with fourteen children. I knew if I waited for the rest of the passengers to disembark, I'd arrive at my lesson in time to say, 'Okay, pack up your books now,' So I edged my way to the front of the bus to be first in line. As it was, there was another traffic light delay before the bus juddered to a halt, so I stood there for at least two minutes, awkwardly near the driver as though trying to start a long-term relationship, and with everyone behind me thinking, 'She looks desperate to get off. Probably didn't do her pelvic floor exercises after the births of her children.'

I ran, my rucksack banging against my back like a rock, and my body heating up to Gas Mark 8. I had five minutes to do the ten minutes needed to get into school, sign in, grab my teaching materials, and dash across a road, into a separate building, and up two flights of stairs.

But on the way I careered round a corner and had to brake suddenly for a bent old lady of about ninety with a walking frame and legs as thin as sticks. 'Excuse me, dear,' she said, only she said it like this: 'Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee deeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaar.' I waited, my heart going BOOM, BOOM against my chest wall like a hammer drill.  'Cooooooould youuuuuuuuuuuu telllllllllll meeeeeeee wheeeeere theeeeeeeeeeeeeere's a haaaaaardwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaare stooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrre.'  

Perhaps it was a good thing someone had stopped me. I was five seconds away from a stroke. She probably saved my life.  

I didn't know where there was a hardware store so apologised and moved on, trying not to rush past her in case the sudden breeze blew her down. 

It was just as well I couldn't help. When I give directions to people, I spend much of the time saying 'No, I mean left. No, I mean right. No, I mean straight on,' while they listen politely having a we-have-asked-an-idiot epiphany.

How did this all end?

I arrived thirty seconds after the pupils did. They had lined themselves up neatly,on the staircase like the welcoming staff in Downton Abbey. So I had to pass all twenty-five in order to open the classroom door, my hair stuck to my forehead and the back of my neck, sweat dripping from me as though I'd trekked the Andes, and my lungs screaming 'Stop while we regroup, for heaven's sake!' 

Meanwhile the pupil's innocent faces gazed at this vision of Exhausted, Puffing Woman who was to be their English teacher for the year. 

'I'm sorry I'm late,' I said. 'Bus trouble.'

They looked puzzled. I think some thought I'd said 'bust trouble' but I didn't have breath to explain. 

Please make sure you write the date, underline the title and write neatly. I have very high standards.


You probably won't believe me if I tell you that, on the bus home that evening, the driver was a Jenson Button wannabe who hurtled us from Warwick to Leamington like a maniac at the wheel. But it's true. 





27 comments:

  1. When our boys were young, they were in the Scouts. Bud was the Pack Leader & I was the head Den Mother. I was constantly going to scout headquarters to pick up badges & other supplies. Headquarters was staffed by volunteers, one of whom was a very sweet older lady named Shirley. You know how fast Speedy Gonzales moves? Shirley didn’t! I tried never to go there when I was in a hurry, but one day I couldn’t help it. I was pleased to see both Irv (our friend) & Shirley seated behind the counter. Irv greeted me & was about to ask what I wanted when Shirley smiled, got up & started walking towards me saying, “II’lllll heellllp youuuuu, Mrrrrs. Fiissscheeer!” (She talked as quickly as she moved!) I didn’t want to insult her so there was nothing I could do. This has since become a saying in my family. I’m sure you must have met some of her relatives--they seem to be everywhere!

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    1. Ha ha - and it's so hard to keep a patient look on one's face. I did, though, for the old lady with the frame. I'll be like that one day, I know, especially with my sense of direction ... wandering around Warwickshire asking people to tell me where I am.

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  2. Hello Fran.... how stressful for you... rushing like that is so exhausting... every second seems like a minute... I was holding my breath as I read about your bus ride.. hoping there would be no more red lights... so glad you made it only seconds late.. well done.. xxx
    I look forward to your Posts..
    Have a lovely relaxing week end... .. Barb xxxx

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    1. Thanks, Barb. Your comments are always so encouraging. I'm glad I managed to drag you into my tension!

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  3. I laughed all the way through this! Laughed WITH you, of course, not AT you. You so brilliantly captured the excruciating slowness of everyone and everything around you when you're in a hurry, dammit!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Debra! Feel free to laugh at me as well as with me. I think that's totally justified in this case :)

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    2. I laughed at you, Fran, I freely admit. Partly because I didn't spot the phrase that indicated you were finding it funny. For us readers, though.....

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    3. Ha ha - yes, you're right. At the time it was the least unfunny thing to have ever happened to me in my whole life. Now, though .... now, though .... nope, still need more time.

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  4. I bet you felt like kicking the bus ( images of John Cleese whacking his car with a stick come to mind )
    Nice though to have a friendly bus driver though. As a non driver who has travelled by bus rather too much, I find the drivers are often grumpy.
    One of the drivers who drove the bus we caught to school was a miserable piece of work. When my friend's mum swerved round the corner late with her brood in the Land Rover the horrid man took off like he'd just come out of a pit stop. My friend's frustrated mum followed the bus to every stop & dashed out but he managed to close the doors & set off before they caught up. I suppose it would have been funny to watch if my friend hadn't been sitting scowling while her mum played catch the bus.

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    1. The different personalities of the bus drivers are part of the entertainment for me. You can get a cheery, jovial one, then on the next bus, when you say 'hi!' to the driver, he'll glare at you as though you're the scum of the earth.

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  5. Yet another brilliant post, Fran. I was thinking as I began reading it,now here is another example of a wonderful piece of writing she would never have had the chance to write, if she drove a car. You perfectly captured why public transport is almost bound to fail you if you have a deadline.

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    1. Ooh, I don't know. I have a feeling I might have just as many adventures and disasters as a driver ... Thanks for your lovely comment :)

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  6. Yes , it's when the bus stops for a mum , three small children and a widdly puppy at a pedestrian crossing that you know just how much of a hurry you're in .

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    1. Yes! Yes! The widdly puppy! There is ALWAYS a widdly puppy.

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  7. Mums with fourteen children? Why aren't those children in school?
    I'm glad I'm retired, I don't care how long the bus takes now.

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    1. I am looking forward to that aspect of retirement more than I can possibly express.

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    2. Perhaps all 14 children were under five. I believe that may be scientifically possible.

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  8. Hahaha! What a great dinner party story (or blog post). This made me laugh all the way through and reminded me, that although I curse myself for checking watch/timetable/location of keys/purse every two minutes, this is why I do it! But sooner or later this will be me. Thanks for the giggles (I laughed at you 😉)

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    1. I felt as though I were in one of my own anxiety dreams. Probably because I was!

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  9. From the safety and security of retirement I laughed all the way through this.Even after more than a decade of 'not working', that is,not being paid for the work I do (household chores, child-minding, servicing the afflicted) I still have heart-stopping nightmares about being late for school, sometimes arriving in them at 'home time'.

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    1. No, don't tell me the dreams never stop! Arrgghh!

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  10. Ha! Classic Fran. Thanks for helping me to exercise my chuckle muscles.

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    1. Always glad to be of service!

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  11. And you will indeed be having dreams about this very sort of thing for years after you retire. Mind you, what sort of school allows you to laze about at home till it's time to go in for your first class??? We always had to be in all the time, teaching or not.

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    1. I'm only part-time :) Otherwise I wouldn't be writing any blog posts at all!

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  12. No more rushing for me, no more timetables...not that I'm rubbing it in you understand.

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    1. I'm not jealous I'm not jealous I'm not jealous I'm not jealous I'm not jealous I'm not jealous .....

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