The season speeds on and at the start of the week I race on over to school. The alarm goes at 5.30 am.
It’s my warning alarm.
It buzzes and I silence it. Squash.
At 5.45 the next one goes and I begin to roll towards the edge and, by 6, I’m out.
Showered and changed by 6.15, kissed and blessed by my wife.
At 6.20 the toast pops, Sky News whirrs in the background and at 6.30 a.m. I’m driving.
At the beginning of this it was much darker in the mornings and the darkness seemed to punctuate the day; dark at my day’s opening and dark at its end. This endless light is unnatural now and the lack of demarcation by orbit and axis only confuses.
Thirty minutes into the journey I encounter difficulty: road rage.
I cross a roundabout and a dark shadow tries to creep in alongside my passenger side forcing me into oncoming traffic. I trust to the 2 tons of tin, sound the horn and continue onwards. He flashes and beeps furiously. Between this point and the next road I have another 30 minutes to contemplate my manoeuvre, but find no complaint. For 30 minutes he follows, sometimes at a distance, at others he laps at my exhaust. Finally I find an opportunity to pass the lorry in front and put some serious tonnage between us. My paranoia eases and I plough on until there he is again.
I eventually come to the dual carriageway and put pedal to metal and race to my next turn off, fighting off the paranoia. I turn. All is safe. He is nowhere to be seen.
Ten minutes in, he’s back.
The route I take to school isn’t one many others would follow and the fact he’s been with me now for the last 50 miles is perturbing.
I know the road and plan. Various tv theme tunes intrude and I pull off. He passes.
Ah blessed paranoia.
I rejoin the road and there he is. In the lay-by. Waiting.
I mentally note his registration and Mad Max-like, sans bondage apparel, throom on by heading to the next rise and the farm entrance that I know is there, but, hopefully, he doesn’t. It works. I pull in but he doesn’t see. I watch him pass and rejoin the road. He gradually disappears into the horizon and I cruise into work.
I still park out of view of the road though, just in case.
The entire night I imagine a banged up Vauxhall rolling into my nightly hidey-hole, engine roaring monstrously, lights on beam.
It reminds me of how vulnerable I know I am, know that I feel, but dismiss for the sake of a restful night’s sleep. Four walls, in my dreams, are castle-like with sentries at every corner.
The next day the routine pulls me back in and the kids delight at every turn. My GCSE group seem to be getting it. Up till now thorns of terror seemed to envelop us, but we’re there and it’s time. A perfect storm. My midweek point ends with glueing and sticking and one boy telling me he can fit his ears into the glue lids. My eyebrows raise:
“I can. I can get my ears inside the glue lids.” He assures and proceeds to interpret my raised eyebrow as the starter’s pistol of challenge.
Both of them.
These last months all we’ve been interested in is testing children to our prescribed diet of achievement, but today there’s room for recognising and acknowledging the bizarre too. Our measures are those of the adult world, theirs’ are their own and they are unique for it.
The next day begins with a lovely email from the PE department. I haven’t seen the missing high jump pole they are missing, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled.
My last night, before heading home the following day, I disturb hidden lovers in the night’s choice of park up. A Mini, not a Vauxhall.
I roll by and park up as far away as I can, but that’s it for them. They head off sheepishly. There’s a lay-by up the road. I’m sure they’ll be fine.
In the night I hear strange sounds and imagine tapping. The Vauxhall driver. Thankfully, it turns out to be the blackouts on the window and the suckers detaching. I spit and reapply.
I’ll be home tomorrow.
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Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to get in touch and share your responses to the adventure my wife and I are on. Mental health is a rising issue for many and this blog has been, in many ways, a life saver, as has the feedback.
If you missed the article inThe Guardian you can find it here: