On mornings when Shirley is on earlies at work, my slumbering is disturbed. I reach out to press the "on" button of our ancient radio alarm clock to listen to "Today" on Radio 4. A few minutes later, she comes back upstairs to kiss me goodbye.
Even with the radio on, I soon drift back to sleep and that's when the dreaming starts. Usually these dreams evaporate before I can catch them but this morning I was in panic mode.
My Year Ten class had completed rough drafts of long written assignments. It had been a struggle to get all the work in but finally I had managed it. They were all in my school bag. Christ! It was now Monday morning. I was supposed to have read and marked them all over the weekend. About five hours work. How come I have forgotten to do it? Perhaps I'm losing it. Panic! Very soon I'll be jumping in the car. What will I say to them? Oh dear.
And then as I emerge from the hollow of sleep, panic is replaced by relief. I am not an English teacher any more. I have been free of that kind of stuff for years now. Free.
But it was an unpleasant reminder of how things used to be. After exhausting fifty hour weeks, you got to the weekend needing rest and relaxation, time with family and friends but there was always that black bag sitting near the front door, filled with yet more things to do. You knew you had to dive into it before Monday morning came round again.
Many's the time I tackled school work in the early hours of a Sunday morning or after Sunday dinner and the Monday morning drive to work was frequently coloured with thoughts about things not yet done. It was like being a hamster on a treadmill. You never got to the end.
Teaching English generates a lot of pupil writing and every piece of writing has its own unique strengths and flaws. It is your job to help each pupil to advance his or her writing skills and red ticks in the margin simply will not cut it. But there's no time built in to the school day to get those piles of marking done. It has to be done after school, in holiday-time or at the weekends, unseen by pupils, parents, inspectors or teachers of other subjects whose marking tended to breeze over the intricacies of written expression.
Not so much a dream, more of a nightmare. That's what I woke to this morning. Yes - panic over or almost over but thankfully I can forget about it over the next hour as I rake up autumn leaves. Surely more real and spiritually satisfying than wading through reams of careless adolescent writing. The leaves will go into a big orange jumbo bag that I bought from "Pagets" builder's yard yesterday. There they will rot down over the next year. If only I could have done that with the mountains of writing.