New threats approach. My contract will come to an end. Again.
“September is coming”, I hear whispered in a faintly familiar northern lilt. I’ve agreed to work here till the summer. One term after another my time living in the tin whale on wheels has extended. Necessity and Circumstance are casting the dice in looming clouds above. Their fingers outstretched pitting us against the wolves, the harpies, the emails, the parents; they point to this path or the next and we follow.
Nothing is coming up. No Elsewhere appeals. Each job that does is either in a less than prestigious school environment, or as far away from home as I work now. But my time in this battlefield, where I know the trenches, the sniper points and the enemy has to end. We’re not moving. It’s vanlife or nought.
September without an income does not delight. My wife teaches. A SENDCo (Special Education Needs an Disability Coordinator) no less. Part-time. She can walk to school. I say this not from jealously, but from a point of detail. This is the perfect balance in such a role for the upkeep of sanity, love and endurance. She excels in her role and plaudits land like roses at her feet. She deserves it. She works in a sector that sails a leaky boat, her chosen bark barraged by increasing numbers of children swarming up the sides from the deep dark, to her freshly swabbed timber. Under her watchful eye she observes a national explosion of need assaulting all captains in the SENDCo fleet, but she is a good captain and has the legs for it. HMS Sallyforth keeps on sallying-forth.
One of my year 10s asks if I will be teaching him next year. The next period a girl in my year 8 class asks the same. I let them know I signed on till the summer. They both sigh, the loss of consistency on their collective minds. I sigh too.
The same day The Guardian get in touch. A recent pitch has been successful. A, not-so broad, broadsheet is interested in my questionable life choices. It starts with a request for an interview then the invitation to write the piece myself. There’s soon talk of a photoshoot and my fists pump the air; I’m reading emails during a silent writing activity with year 7; the stillness is shattered and the inquisition begins.
After school I drop in on the Head and a deputy who are chewing over the day’s antics. Their disposition shifts when I tell them about The Guardian offer and their frowns turn upside down. They drop not so subtle hints about extending the contract into September and beyond, but how can I continue in the van? We can’t move. Can’t afford it. Love our hometown too much, now it really is home, can’t move away from family again not if we want free and friendly babysitters when we finally get round to children.
“So, you’re happy for me to write a piece? It’ll be anonymous and the school too.”
“Absolutely.” My fists pump the air. I didn’t need the permission. It wasn’t about permission. Writing about this time was never my idea. The school has never needed to watch its back.
That night I write it, email the Head. She loves it.
It’s important to honour those standing in the dugouts.
In the morning it’s off and the next few days are spent tweaking and editing, qualifying points of understanding and readability. The essence of why I am doing what I do is there, but much is not. A thousand words cannot explain it and I know much relies on inference.
Finally finished the lines go dead. It’s in the lap of Guardian journos now. Thoughts of September return.
The weather has turned and the worst is behind. I’ve made it this far. Can I keep going?
Many put up with worse and I know this. A long commute is not uncommon for the majority. It’s not insurmountable. Many sit in traffic daily, sit in trains, on buses, but time is an asset and this is the only way I see of doing it, so why not make the most, accept the inconvenience and soldier on.
They want me to stay. That is certain.
The advert goes out.
My wife and I talk,
I apply. Again.
Last time we had one other applicant. This time we have a field. The competition looks good. Too good. None of them will live in a van. They’ll move. Settle down. Bed in. Sink roots.
How can I compete with that?
September becomes another wolf at the door. The growls growing deeper.
At the beginning of term a deputy looked at the situation and offered to reduce my timetable.
“Less time in the van. Surely that’s a good thing?”
Less time in work is not though. Less time spent in purposeful fulfilment is not. The labour isn’t laborious, but languor would be a patient killer.
I’m shortlisted. Time to scare the wolf away.