Home straight

Phew! Now, where was I? Oh, yes. On Tuesday I went to my school in Birmingham for the last time. They were amazing – overflowing with ideas and great fun to work with – good teachers, too, which always makes such a difference. However, one thing did annoy me. On the wall in the staff room was a notice from one of the teachers’ unions about the changes to teachers’ conditions. It included a phrase to the effect: “Of course, we all know that teachers can’t be expected to work until they are 68…” I’ve had discussions with teachers about this. None of them has been able to explain to me why teachers can’t be expected to work until they are 68, when everyone else will be expected to do so. I’ve worked in the private sector, the Civil Service, for a local authority and for charities, and done a lot as a freelancer in schools, hospitals, and so on. The fact is that, whatever teachers might think, teaching is no more stressful than many other jobs. We are all living longer, and somehow pensions have to be paid for, and I can think of no good reason why people who work very hard indeed in the private sector should subsidise the pensions of teachers. What’s more, we are all staying younger. My grandmother was an old woman when she was my age, and would probably not have been able to work at any job when she was 68 – but I’m not old, and neither are most teachers when they reach 60 or 65, and they are quite capable of continuing to work for much longer than people could 50 or 60 years ago. I feel strongly that teachers’ protests, at least concerning their retirement age, are not justified. I don’t often put strong opinions in my blog, and if any teacher can give me a good reason why their conditions should be different from anyone else’s, I’ll gladly retract this; I’m just looking at things from the point of view of someone who has experienced many different workplaces, jobs and conditions of work.

Ok, rant over. I wrote poems for each of the people I worked with at the Oxford school, including the class, to say goodbye, and sent them off. The people who have replied are delighted with them. Others haven’t replied yet, but I think – and this is a really serious concern – that I have a problem with my emails. I know that quite a few I have sent over the last few weeks have not arrived; I suspect they have been  considered spam. I’m going to have to spend some time trying to sort this out.

In the evening I managed an event in the Ledbury Poetry Festival – Adam Horovitz and Allison McVety. This was proper page poetry, and full of good stuff. They both read several poems about the time when they were children and young people, and this inspired me to write one about one of my summer jobs. I’d put it in the blog but I’ve been so busy I haven’t typed it up yet.

On Wednesday I ran a workshop in Solihull library. Not many people came, but those who did really enjoyed it, and left feeling better and wanting more. I managed to avoid the temptations of the shops in Solihull, and came home to do some prep, write the TADS minutes, and clear a path to the spare bed so that the lovely Jonny Fluffypunk could stay the night. And answered some emails.

Jonny came with me to the prison on Thursday and ran a workshop with my group; it was good for them to have a change of voice, and I wrote a poem I was quite pleased with. We left early, because in the evening I was running the Lydney slam, and Jonny was in the Lydney team, because he won the Lydney slam a few years ago when it was an individual slam. The Lydney team did really well, but were narrowly beaten by a team from Cheltenham. More importantly, we had a good audience who all had a great time – the poets were excellent! Afterwards, the Lydney festival organiser invited us back to his fantastic house (it has its own lake) for supper. Now, I had been asked to do some of my poems this year, and did a couple while the retired bank manager who was my scorer added up the final marks. During the supper, an older lady came up to me and said how much she had enjoyed the evening, and added, “The poets were all excellent, and your efforts were quite good too.” How rude! I thought. The other people around me were killing themselves laughing. Ah well. We do our best.

First thing on Friday morning was a Poetry Festival meeting, and in the afternoon I was with my GP surgery groups in Tewkesbury; all good. I wrote up the prison stuff, and then went off to manage another Festival event. This was completely different from the previous one – The Antipoet and Matt Harvey. I’ve known Matt for years, and have always loved his dry, gently humour, but I’ve never heard The Antipoet before, and they were great too. It was a fantastic event; sold out, and rightly so. The Bloke came with me, and even he enjoyed it. I went back to his place and just slept…

…and left early on Saturday to go back to Ledbury. I was managing Michael Rosen’s events there. They both went well; he is a great entertainer, although not quite so good at time-keeping… but anyway, all was well.

As far as I recall, I did little on Saturday evening but sleep. On Sunday, I had my own gig at the Festival – part of the Poetry Breakfast, with Alison Brumfitt and Sally Crabtree. It was sold out, and the audience seemed to enjoy it a lot, although that might just have been because of the quality of the coffee, croissants and cakes that came in the ticket price.

And so I left the Festival, and went to the Tewkesbury Medieval Fair. I haven’t been to this before, although I’ve lived here since 1978. I’ve always sneered at people dressed up in silly costumes. But in fact it was fun (good weather helped), with loads of interesting stalls. I’m afraid the battle re-enactment wasn’t anything like as good as battles we see in films, though, except for a rather moving fight between the king and his son, the young prince. This morning I’ve been to an important Festival meeting and bought some food; the fridge was looking a bit empty.

And that was it – the end, theoretically, of this really busy period. However, now of course I have to catch up with all the leftover things that I didn’t do because I was concentrating on what was absolutely essential. I must answer emails and mail, sort out my email problem, do some hospital work, type up pieces of writing, get the prison newsletter together, and the book from last term’s GP group work, attack the jungle, do some house maintenance work, clear up the mess left in my living room by the young jackdaws…

I still like to think of it as the home straight, just to encourage myself, but of course it’s not really – just another corner turned.

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