Posts by tincanteacher

Shakespeare lover living in a van half of the week away from home just to teach at a fabulous school.

1.1 A Knight in Moonlit Armour

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Sometimes your chips go cold when you’re in the damsel in distress business.

The end of the week. I’ve had a month of it, but I’ve only been blogging since the start of the week. What to tell you, what to delight and enthral. The moonlit knight perhaps.

I fear moonlit nights. They are cold, and the mornings colder. I have one side of the van insulated now, but I seem to remember heat rises up and not to the left side of my van. But where does cold come from, the left? The top? The bottom? Thankfully the moonlit nights, while rather stunning, have taken a break, the moon sits above a thick pall and I sleep, cosily: deeply. Until the next day.

Someone took my pink marking pen this week. It is gone. My happy marking colour, now sadly lost. It is a sign of the times. Hard times. Govian times. He wanted a legacy and this is it. Poorly funded schools, overworked teachers and academy reputations in tatters. Not that you should know. Not that our trusty media outlets have any interest in the bowels of the education sector.

I remember the days when I strode through the class with two different colours in my pockets (sometimes three). Black, blue and green. My learning objective boldly displayed at the start of the lesson because that’s the way Ofsted like(ed) it, not 27 minutes into an outstanding organic furore of learning. No, the beginning. Leave no surprises. No revelation. Discovery. Development.

Now I must hide my board pens, all one colour of them. I put them in Gollum’s hidey-hole (I have nick-named it so). We don’t have the good black, only the black that dries up in an instant like a vampire in the dawn light.

But now I must also hide my pink pens. The early onset of cannibalism. Teachers in a Odyssean drama, gnawing at the bones of the fallen.

I must also stream-line my streamlined copying. Monday morning’s friendly plea:

“Our budget is being bled dry by over copying!”

As an English teacher I appreciated the emotive and visceral use of “bled” and this is where we are. Bleeding. You may infer ‘dying’. Teaching is the haemophiliac in a room of sharpened knives held by teenagers, jumping maniacally to the fartlings of Simon Cowell’s familiars.

But tonight I think not of this for I am a Moonlit Knight. I have completed the day’s battles and return to my tin beast, driving into the darkening night towards my shadowed space of rest. I pull up and the routine begins:

  1. Lower driver’s windows.
  2. Wedge blackouts in place, but before I do, this night, I must reach for the bottle of Tizer-coloured liquid that must be poured from my driver’s window. An offering to this green glade. (It is not Tizer).

Out of the darkness a voice:

“Excuse me!”

“Shit.” Think I. But thankfully it’s Tizer. “It’s only Tizer mate.”

He steps into the light and onto the fresh pool at the ground below my driver’s door. This is the morning’s brew so there is no steamy mist to give it away.

I’m going to be asked to leave. I’ll have to go to pitch number two. The chips from the shop are going cold. Who is this man in the dark?

“Hi. Yes. You alright mate?” I venture.

Thankfully he is in a dilemma. I can stay. His camper-van has broken down and he can’t get it going. He asks after the particulars of my charger’s pedigree. It is just what he needs. I drive round. Align our beast’s hearts and jump.

Nothing. Jump. Nothing. Jump…

Twenty minutes later, my chips soggy and cold, but a sense of purpose sustaining me; a Divinity in the fall of a sparrow as much as my choice of hideaway, Ezra shakes my hand and Angel leans out of the window to tell me there are good things in my future over the sound of our engines in the dark.

He disappears into the night on his way back to Glastonbury and I settle in, happily, to cold chips and my most recent Netflix download.

Items may convey a sense of the beatific in contrast with the reality

1.0 An Errant Knight

Four months of teaching and living in a van.

And here I am.   Teaching again.  Four weeks in to living in a van away from home, a county’s distance, now north instead of south, jammed before creamed rather than creamed before jammed – though I’ve never swayed from the true and proper method – I am a wandering foreigner “Doomed for a certain time to” park up at night in secret and precious locations held as borrowed treasures and known only to those hardy residents with nowhere to shelter but their very own trusty, often rusty, van.

Mine’s a T4.  The last of the line of T4s before T5 swept the floor with them.  It is white.  A good service record.  A good runner.  Diesel.  Turbo.  2.5, and home for three nights a week.

I am a 40-year-old homeowner, married, childless (currently), dogless (currently); aspirations (many), geek (certified), four-eyed and fore-armed – yes I have two sleeping bags and two duvets fellow travellers.

The van is currently devoid of insulation.  Cloudy nights are my friends.

The back story:  The school was desperate.  On their knees, they begged me to return (this is how I tell it and may only reflect truth).  I mulled, sighed, considered and agreed.

“I’ll do a term”, quoth I.  “That’ll be ample time to find the one of whom the prophecies speak.”

And here I am. Chronicling the experience of living in a small van for three nights a week, parking up here, there and everywhere, travelling for work, negotiating showers, devouring sandwiches for tea and with time on my hand.

“How has it been?” say you.  “What have you learnt; what insights do you have for us?”

“Well,” I return.  “September has been a month of:

  • Establishing routines.
  • Finding safe harbours, preferably darkened.
  • Hiding from nosy dog-walkers and halogen torches brighter than the sun.
  • Cold sandwiches for tea time.  I’ve said this twice now.
  • Identifying the need to insulate the van.  Soon.
  • Foiling possible attempted robberies of garden sheds.
  • Scrolling through the efforts of Pinterest aficionados.
  • Disturbing a chap mid wild-poo on church grounds.
  • Catching up on my sunsets.
  • Jealously eyeing other van-dwellers with hot dinners.
  • Downloading items from Netflix on Sunday night in preparation for a dull evening.
  • Planning bed modifications, scrapping, re-planning and returning to ogling Pinterest.
  • Talking with a man on a faith walk along the coast with his unfriendly dog and nothing more than a tent, a Bible and the dog’s lead.  I’m sceptical of his credentials.

“And,” you ask, “do you long for four walls and a 16th century roof over your head?”

(We have a 16th century cottage, available for rent on Airbnb don’t you know)

“Well.  I’m coping.  Even though it gets cold.  Even though unseen footsteps draw me to twitch at the curtains.  It’s the 1st of October.  We’ll see.  December is only a sharp wind away.”

Items may convey a sense of the beatific in contrast with the reality

Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on Pexels.com