Today saw me going back to School X to continue my career as a part-time supply teacher. Despite my cynicism, I have found myself nearly enjoying working at School X. The other PE staff are people that I knew in my previous incarnation as a rugby player, three or four stones ago. As such there is a rapport that was somewhat lacking in my previous school, School W. The lack of chemistry with my head of department in School W was, in my opinion, largely due to one of us (I am au fait with the libel laws) having a level of communication skill that would embarrass an autistic child. (Were it possible for an autistic child to be embarrassed.) This was made worse, by the same one of us having a complete lack of a grasp of irony, or sarcasm. A typical dialogue between us, in the days before one of us gave up even trying:
One Of Us #1: You haven't seen a big box of badminton rackets anywhere, have you?
One Of Us #2: (Nodding at the big box of badminton rackets which they are carrying) What do you think this is?
You can, I am sure, imagine several like-scenarios that would present themselves in the course of a typical working day. As such, similar conversations regularly took place, as one of us became highly amused by them. Conversely, the other one of us thought that one of us was partially sighted, or unintelligent. This only heightened the enjoyment for one of us, whilst, at the same time, hindering that one's professional development.
But as I say, things are a lot better in School X. Although, if I hadn't become frustrated by certain people in School W, I would not be where I am today. Specifically, overdrawn, and driving my wife's Micra.
After finishing my days work in School X, I gave my time sheet to the jolly secretary to fax to the agency, and then set off to walk home. I had decided that I would rather spend money on a taxi to work and then walk home, than be seen driving the Micra to and from the school. I realise that this is ridiculous, and I am not proud of my lack of moral fibre, but every man has his limits. When my car was written off by a kindly skip-lorry driver, earlier in the year, we decided that, due to my painfully slow rise to the top, we only needed the one car. My wife offered to remove the Micra's 'Little Miss Naughty' pink steering wheel cover and dashboard-mounted 'Bagpuss', but I told her that that would not be necessary. She assumed that this was a magnanimous act on the part of a loving husband. The real motive was that, if they remained, I could get away with others thinking that I was driving my wife's/partner's car because my car was off the road for some reason. Remove them, and everyone would know that I, at 36 years of age, with a University education, drive a high-mileage, T-Reg Micra, which I am not even the registered keeper of.
The walk home took longer than I anticipated, and after forty five minutes I decided that I would never do it again. This meant that I could add walking to my list of unacceptable methods of transport. (I had written off taking a bus in the early nineties, as I had no desire to share an enclosed space with the long-term unemployed.) Consequently, from now on my options would be:
1. Get dropped off by my wife near the school entrance
2. Get a taxi to and from the school, being sure to point out to the jolly secretary that I was not banned for drink driving
3. Ride my mountain bike, but resolve NEVER to wear a cycling helmet
4. Ride my motorcycle
To clarify Point 3, I think that cycle helmets sum up everything that is wrong with the fear-obsessed, safety-conscious, nanny-state world that we inhabit today. I grew up in the 1970's and 1980's, and regularly rode bikes that didn't have lights, bells' shock-absorbers, or disc brakes. So did all my friends, including the ones I didn't like. None of us ever got badly injured, and none of us ever wore a cycle helmet, or knew anyone else who did. To see a grown man wearing one, makes me weep. If he is doing so riding across a park, with wife and kids in tow, all wearing matching head wear, I have to suppress the urge to kick him off and ask him what on earth does he think he is doing? An anonymous friend once took offence with this point of view and asked me what I would think if he took my advice and then got hit by a bus, whilst not wearing a cycling helmet. I pointed out that if he got hit by a bus and was wearing a cycling helmet, which is, let us not forget, essentially a polystyrene hat, the only diffrence would be that his corpse would look slightly more ridiculous. Still, it's a free country. Pity.
When my wife arrived home I put my (freshly-laundered) jacket in the back seat of the Micra, and headed off to pick up Elis James, as we were playing at the same comedy club in Exeter. I never feel embarrassed about the Micra in comedy circles as none of the other comedians in Wales appear to own a car. In the land of the blind, non-car owning comedian, the one-eyed, Micra owning comedian is King.
Although the journey to Exeter took us about two and a half hours, time passed quickly as Elis and I tried to out-anecdote each other all the way down. As we got to Exeter I switched my phones SatNav on. A deciding factor in purchasing the Nokia N95 was the SatNav capability, as I thought it would be useful for gigs in unfamiliar towns and cities. However, the last three times I have used it, including today, it has informed me:
1. To do an immediate U-Turn on the M5 as I was driving to a gig in St.Ives (the N95disappointingly made no mention of polygamous men, or sacks full of cats).
2. That the M4 on which I was driving en route to a gig in Minehead was not, as I had mistaklenly believed, a road.
3. That Tiggas Bar in Exeter is located in a quiet residential cul-de-sac, and bears a striking resemblance to a newly built detached home.
If Mr Nokia should ever read this, then please know that I think you are a charlatan sir, and I wish you would get lost. You may borrow my phone if you are unsure how to do so.
Eventually, using the traditional method of asking a local, we happened upon the venue. The manager of Tiggas has transformed the venue, from the place I vaguely remembered from my university days, into a very stylish bar with a nice stage, good lights and a very receptive clientele. I thoroughly enjoyed the gig, Elis compered superbly, I did my thing pretty well, and the headline act, Craig Campbell made me laugh out loud. Sometimes comedy nights can make me question my sanity at leaving a proper job. Other nights really make me think that there aren't many better ways to spend your life than making people laugh, then sitting down with a beer and letting people make you laugh. I dread these enjoyable evenings, because I know that at some later point, invariably when I am sat on the left side of the big sofa, the memory of the enjoyment will only serve to make me even more depressed that this will all end one day. Undaunted, I talked to Craig for a while after the gig and he was a thoroughly decent chap, as well as being a very funny comedian. If you get a chance to see him, or Elis, you should. Similarly, in my experience, the South West is a very nice part of the world, especially considering that it is in England. One for the xenaphobes there.
The way home passed pretty quickly again, but nonetheless, my emergency supply of caffeine tablets definately helped me to avoid having a quick, but deadly, nap whilst driving. In my daily thoughts about death, on the big sofa, a recurring theme is to die in an embarrassing fashion. As we neared the Severn Bridge at two thirty in the morning, with heavy eyes, it struck me that if I nodded off and we did go into the water, the emergency services would eventually recover a red Micra with pink accessories. In that car would be an eighteen stone, burly, thirty-six year old man, wearing a floral shirt and cowboy boots. Sat next to him would be a diminutive, fresh faced, long-haired, younger man. A South Wales Echo story about the mysterious couple, referencing Thelma and Louise, could not be ruled out. Fortunately that didn't happen and by three in the morning I was asleep in my underpants, having my usual nightmare in which all my teeth fall out, with the Micra safely unlocked outside.