Day TWO has a similar start. Bleary eyes, confusion. Wind passing. Josie’s appearance however now comes without the assurance that I am the best teacher ever, she has already moved on to a more let’s just get through this type attitude. If day ONE achieved nothing else it was effective in setting expectations.
My Amazon panic buy from the previous day arrives early. I find it dropped on my doorstep with the delivery driver pointing at it from the safety of Dover. I live in Folkestone. He also looks terrified, like I have arrived at the door holding an axe.
I realise then that I have arrived at the door holding an axe. Day ONE has me heading into a new school day feeling defensive.
The delivery is a t-shirt printed with the slogan ‘I JUST DON’T KNOW OKAY!’ so now I have something to point at when my voice is nothing but a dried rasp from repeating this sentence a million times before 10am.
‘DADDY!’ I hear from behind me. I turn to my two girls, their hair falling over their nightwear like something from Village of the Damned. ‘What are we doing today that’s fun!?’ they say in perfect unison.
I point at the t-shirt.
The eight year old rolls her eyes. ‘Let’s put the kettle on for you shall we?’ She then gently leads me through to the kitchen like she’s found me outside at 4am, confused, in slippers and having forgotten how to get home.
I sit down at the table. The workbooks and exercises for today are laid out. The first question mentions Dienes. Suddenly I am confused, in slippers and I have forgotten how to get home.
We all get dressed and ready for school then wave the wife off to work. I also mouth HELP but she still leaves. She’s even smiling. The bitch.
Maths is my first lesson and is a heady mix of long division. I used to be able to do long division. The spike in my confidence lasts moments. Some utter b@stard has changed all the rules. The instructions tell me that division is now done in a bus stop. I google bus stop method, then watch a four minute Youtube video hosted by an American woman who’s glee at teaching children and general cheerfulness makes me want to include her in my next novel - and no one ever finds the body. She performs her long division bus stop method to an audience of three primary school children. They are also ridiculously happy and attentive and in a future novel their bodies will not be found either. The tutor uses an example of fluffy little sheep in a pen to work out a problem. Not once does she refer to them as just ‘sheep,’ they need to be ‘fluffy little sheep’ every bastard time. This makes me angrier than it should. Come the end of the tutorial the three five year olds are fluent in division using the bus stop method and they all cheer and announce that they are off to bake cookies. The video ends. I am still far from fluent. I do not cheer and now the Village of the Damned want to bake f@cking cookies.
The afternoon is ‘free-play’ so we head out into the garden. Isobel plays a game where I am told to be a winged horse. She becomes visibly and instantly upset when I say ‘so a Pegasus, yeah?’
‘NO! They don’t have a HORN!’ then she screams in the horror I would only expect if she had found her Christmas presents on fire. So now I have to make it up to her. I do this by really throwing myself into the role and soon I am circling her at full gallop, my main catching in the breeze, even chucking in a little whinny. She is not impressed. I ask why. She says ‘you’re not flying like you have hooves! You’re supposed to be a horse!’
I don’t know how to fly like I have hooves.
I now have to consider a mime that incorporates the hooves specifically. The result is a jerky movement similar to when I spilt a fizzy drink on my bare foot and it attracted three wasps at the same time.
This is the moment my spaniel chooses to arch his back in the middle of the garden and defecate onto what was apparently the ‘base.’ I did not know it was the base. Nor do I know what the base is for. Now she announces that the ground is lava and I am burnt and out of the game. I am still not sure what game we are playing. I say this and Isobel is now so upset that she runs to her bedroom.
I pick up the poop (in a bag). It is far warmer than I anticipated and I consider that must be because the ground is lava. I look around for someone to share this observation with but it’s just me, my feet still scrunched up like hooves in backless slippers, stood in the middle of my empty garden, the day’s “artwork” stretching out in the breeze and I have suddenly never felt more locked in, maybe forever... and holding hot poop.
In the distance I can see a bus stop. I swear at it.