Are minor irritations the worst kind? I was in the hospital again, on Friday. The people I meet are going through pain, indignity, worry, fear – and they are all positive. The most common comment expressing any annoyance is “It’s such a bloody nuisance, when I’ve got so much to do!” I must have worked with nearly 100 people now, and only one of them expressed any bitterness.
So my minor irritations really are trivial. I’ll start with the school. Readers of the blog will know that this hasn’t been my happiest project, and last week was not good. It wasn’t the kids – they come up with wonderful phrases, and try their hardest. They are noisy, but I don’t mind that at all – much better than classes who don’t dare say a word. But the deputy head came in while I was with one group, and made a comment about how I’d done one part of the session. He said it had involved too much one-to-one questioning, and they have found when they do this that other pupils become disengaged. But if he had been there while I was doing it, he would have seen that although the brighter ones respond first, the others got the idea, and as we continued more and more of them were contributing; they woudn’t have had that chance if we’d done it his way; we wouldn’t have got the phrase untidy as morning hair to describe the teacher’s desk. “We’re in a deprived area,” he said, “and they have very short attention spans. We like to focus on collaborative and group work.” I have worked in other schools in worse areas, where the focus has been on lengthening the attention spans, and where high expectations deliver high levels of performance. I’m sure he is an excellent teacher, but he seems to have missed the point that I am not a teacher, and my job there is to do something different from what they usually do. Ah well; it’s nothing really, for me, but it’s the kids I worry about.
Two days at the prison went very well. The guys in one group were cross that, having reached the end of one course, they will have to miss a week before the next one starts. I need time to prepare! I have to get your book together! What would make it better would be to have two sessions a week, they said.
Meanwhile, the irritation of my holiday booking arose. I booked my holiday on January 8th, but did not receive the promised email confirmation. I phoned again; they had got the email address wrong. The confirmation arrived – and I noticed that my postal address was wrong. I phoned again, and the woman promised to get it changed. Nothing happened. I phoned again, and a young man said that the address hadn’t been changed and he would get it done. The written confirmation arrived, showing my holiday, leaving from the wrong airport. I phoned again, and had trouble convincing the person I spoke to that I had actually booked from Manchester. Fortunately there were still places on the flight – but it will cost a bit more, she said. Now, I used to run assertiveness training courses, so I wasn’t having that, because I had been given a price for a holiday from Manchester and I saw no reason why I should pay for their mistakes. And eventually it was all sorted out; they listened to their recording of my original phone call and, the woman said, For your own peace of mind we can confirm that you did ask for Manchester. For my peace of mind? I know I did!
And then I thought of the guys in the prison for whom a holiday is a dream; and their victims; and the people in the hospital; and I felt ashamed of my pride in this petty triumph.
Meanwhile I’ve caught up on lots of outstanding pieces of work, and had a happy little outing to buy stationery. I’m a secret stationery addict. And I’ve started practising for the slam I’m in next Saturday. I get so nervous just at the thought of it, still, after all this time. Perhaps it’s time for me to stop slamming. I love doing it, I love performing and making an audience laugh and think, but the anxiety I go through is, possibly, an irritation I can do without. Or perhaps it’s the sort of stress that I thrive on.