“Wintertown is Coming!”
There was a very definite chill in the air when I eventually swung my legs out of bed this morning. We have a bedroom with an immense bow window. It’s very ornate, chosen by my wife when she upgraded the entire front of the house, but it is not all that economical; it leaks heat and admits cold.
We were waking on one of those midweek days, still cold from the previous night’s drop in temperature. The cat had taken to sleeping on the bottom of the bed since the weekend of fireworks that celebrated the torture and ritualised savagery that the Jacobeans called God’s justice; many Brits know it as Bonfire night.
I personally do not like a firework. They are expensive and annoying. They bring the nerves of the old and infirmed, along with the pet-population, to a breaking point for the several days that the good citizens of the UK choose to remember the Gunpowder Plot.
Essentially, it is a family night out in which no talk of being hung by the neck until one is almost dead, being taken down and having one’s entrails removed (or genitals cut off and burnt) before having the final coup de grace of having each of one’s limbs hacked off along with the head. No this is a family occasion and people meet to celebrate the darkness of the night, the burning of a heretic, watch fireworks explode into God’s sky and then eat whatever hot food is available from the vendors who wish to make a killing on such a night. It’s what the English are good at. We normalise the abnormal and take our kids along to learn from it.
That was bonfire night done with. There was still smoke in the air, but not enough for Lucy, our moggy, to not want to take an early morning stroll. She usually wakes about three in the morning, pads around the bedroom until one of us is awake, then ushers that ‘chosen one downstairs’ and to the freedom of the outside world. At such a time in the morning, the ability to feign sleep, deep sleep, is particularly useful.
Last night, it was Sophie who lost the ‘pretending to be lost to slumber’ competition.
I had already taken two trips to the loo as part of my little mid-fifties number (getting old and having a full bladder), but I must have done it quietly because I didn’t wake her. At 5.37, I did wake, looked at my phone, did not give thanks to the gods, attempted to sit upright, announced that it was almost time to get up and then offered to make tea.
“How did you sleep?”
“After Lucy woke me up, I thought I was going to be awake for the next three hours,” she said. “I was only awake for an hour.”
This was a minor triumph, but one that I did not wish to celebrate in case it turned to ashes before my eyes.
“I have a terrible headache,” my wife continued. “Stress,” she self-diagnosed and I agreed with her.
For the last decade and a half, they have been ramping up the pressure on teachers. They are monitored, evaluated and suspected and then ejected. It is the life-cycle of a particularly unfortunate mayfly.
“Do you want me to get you a tablet?”
“One of your looney tablets? Yes. Bring me the box.”
I had actually meant the painkillers.
I feel sorry for my wife, she works hard, is a good teacher, an excellent mother and a wonderful wife. For many years she has taught in sixth-form, a sector of the great educational pantheon that was saved from the radical changes that have been thrust on the rest of us.
But the eye of Mordor does not sleep. It continues to scan the horizon for enclaves of happiness and contentment.
Nobody is safe.