Survival: Work Death Balance

Lunchtime of a Friday and I am half way through the day. I have managed the possible hurdles of the first two sessions with some professional aplomb; hurrah for me the King of the Swing.

In truth, it ought not to be Friday as last night I allowed the sensible me to be swallowed up by the  one who had just remembered that Monday is a Bank Holiday, International Workers’ Day. So my mind must have shifted into underdrive throughout the dark hours and I found myself waking to the damp realisation that today was a work day. The weekend was to be a long weekend, but I was unfortunately on the weak end of the bonus weekend.

I had to come to work. I was being picked up by my lift sharer and he was prepared to talk at me for a full twenty-five minutes, about marking, without me being expected to contribute anything. Indeed my one concluding remark was that I hated marking and that I hoped it would suffer the same fate as a black star. 

And then it was into work with me being as friendly false as I could get, ‘morning comrades’ was met by mumbled replies that may have been greetings or just acknowledgement that the department outcast had arrived.

There is a selection of comedy characters in the office with people vying for top spot.

There is a bloke in his early sixties, 1760s. He reminds me of a character from The Archers. He would be the village doom-monger. He tells a joke; a wry curling at the edges joke that he has been telling for the last half-century. We know when it has been delivered as he throttles out a low groan so that everybody can join him in the moment.

There is another who is sharply funny, and she knows it. She delivers lines like a sniper. I spend much of my time outside of the office as my tolerance for such tedium is now non-existent. Both my ears burn when I occasionally return. I have a target on my back.     

I have sent my potentially funny group away to work on Shakespeare. Stalin missed a trick there, he could have saved an absolute fortune in rail fares to Siberia if he had only had a grounding in the great bard.

This is the time when I love Shakespeare. More precisely this is the time when I love Othello. His wife may have been a moaner but he has managed to keep generations of students quiet through liberal applications of close-analysis. And so be it.

Now I am sitting in an empty classroom. There is a slide depicting Freytag’s narrative pyramid on the Smartboard. For a while back there I was engaged in lively explanations concerning how to approach a Shakespearean extract question; I quite enjoyed it before getting bored.

It was an act. Acting can sometimes replace believing and I think that I have been acting for a number of years now, my shows are usually well-attended but nobody claps unless it is a slow hand clap counting down to the end of the lesson.  

On the walls around me are the greats of literature. It makes me go all thespian to think of them. Hemingway is there, Dickens, Vonnegut, Bronte (all three), Atwood and Austin, not forgetting Orwell. I have forgotten others.

Perhaps that is what will happen in the future, perhaps all will be forgotten, all this literature, all this thinking, all this learning.

The first book that I ever wrote was what I wanted to place on my father’s grave. Mum puts fresh flowers there with little notes. I have a couple of sisters who worshipped the old man and they leave their sentimental offerings. My book was some way between mindless sentiment and thoughtful irony. I wanted him to see that I had done the thing  that he always believed to be my pipedream and beyond me. He never thought that I would amount to much and he was probably right.

I work in an FE college, earn poor wages, am regarded as an eccentric figure, and struggle with my perceived loss of status. Purposely, I sat on the wheel of fortune and allowed its cycle to unfold. I thought that I had got through the hard part but they just keep on coming. Now, however, I am stronger and can stand the gusts of outrageous fortune.

I have set my own course, unfurled my sail, and will be somewhere else come September.

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