There are some days that you look back on, when they are over, and you honestly think to yourself - what the hell did I get out of bed for in the first place this morning? Now I didn't entirely think that last night before I slumped into the land of nod, but I was close. It all began with getting up early in the morning.
Now according to my work calendar, Monday 7th March I was due at The Hills Lower School in Bedford. This entailed setting the alarm for the morning at 4am, for a 4.30am departure for the three and a little bit hours drive to Bedford from South Somerset. I deliberately put my alarm clock the other side of the room when I have to get up that early - it entails me actually having to get out of bed to turn it off, not just throw an arm at it and potentially fall asleep again. However I am always very aware of having to get up early, and frequently on nights like this my brain keeps whirring away while I try and get to sleep. It says "You might oversleep! What will you do then?" or "You're still not asleep and it must be nearly 4am by now! You'll fall asleep at the wheel and kill yourself!" However, with clever use of a Charlie Brooker book and some "Night Nurse" for my still gently burbling chest, I did eventually fall asleep. And I got up in time as well! I was very proud of my morning ablutions and was up and out of the flat by 4.30am. The roads at that time of day are an absolute delight of course, no one around at all, and I sailed serenely up the A303 towards the A34. (Well, as serenely as you can in a Mazda 323F).
The last couple of times I have visited Bedford it has been a nightmare to get into. Roadworks upon roadworks, tons of non-moving traffic and a rapidly ticking clock. But this time, it was a doddle - and I soon found myself past Milton Keynes and Buckingham, and virtually on the door step of the school. Apart from some poor sap in a Vauxhall Astra having his engine blow up as I drove behind him, it was a pretty much hassle free arrival at the school. The surroundings looked remarkably familiar. As I turned into the gate of the school it said "Welcome to Hazeldene Lower School". Huh? Hazeldene was a school I used to visit as Henry, but I hadn't been here since 2007 - why had my sat nav brought me here? Because, believe it or not, The Hills Lower School is on the same site. They use the same gate! Two completely separate Lower Schools with their front doors approximately 10 yards apart. Madness. I sat in the car having a quick swig of my drink before I went in, and watched with interest as another car parked over by the Hazeldene entrance. A young female teacher got out, and unaware she was being eyed by a dirty old Tudor monarch, paused to adjust her stocking tops. Well, that made my morning, I can tell you! I don't know who you are madam, but you did me the power of good.
As I got into the school I met the teacher I was dealing with - a very nice lady who had bombarded me with emails and questions over the previous couple of weeks. Still, it was nice to be here. I was warned by several members of staff that the group I would be with today, a year three group of two classes, were challenging and excitable to say the least. Who was I to argue with them? So I got all my stuff in the hall, got changed, and then ended up sitting on my "April" in the staff room for an hour as the kids had a singing lesson. Finally I got in the hall with the kids. They were very excitable and at times, quite a handful. One lad with some obvious learning difficulties was like a Jack in the Box of energy, with almost Tourette's Syndrome scatter gun approach to shouting out at me whenever he felt like it. It was only a brief morning, but it seemed quite long.
During lunch I chatted to a very nice lady who looks after all the gardens where the kids grow their own fruit and veg. I suddenly noticed I had a whole ream of missed calls on my mobile phone. It was messages from a school in Hertfordshire wondering where I was as I was supposed to be with them on the 7th March. Huh?? One of the teachers allowed me to sign onto a PC to check my emails to see what was going on and, uh-oh, they were right. I had well and truly double-booked myself. I had told both The Hills and this other school that I would be with them on the 7th March. The only thing I think that could have happened was that both schools had hassled me for information on dates a lot and all the time I was at Leeds Castle away from my office. As excuses go it is pretty lame, but it was the best I could do. I mailed the teacher in Hertfordshire with abject apologies filled with sackcloth and ashes, and promised to sort something out for them.
The afternoon was equally loud and hard work. Not sure I have shouted quite so much to such a small group for a long time. But they seemed to enjoy most of it and the jousting was very loud and raucous, and ended with another win for the gents! This brings our score up to:
GENTLEMEN 17 - 19 LADIES
Much more interesting. I unloaded all my gear back to the car, and then found the gates were locked. I went back into the school and found the caretaker. He assured me they weren't locked it was just made to look that way. I walked back to the car. The gates WERE locked. I walked back and got the caretaker who trudged out to unlock them with all the enthusiasm and gusto of a sloth on mogadons. I went through the gates only to find that there was now also an OUTER set of gates. This was purgatory! Luckily they weren't properly locked so I got out and headed off for a three hour drive.
The drive home was OK, apart from one little snarl up near Stonehenge. I got back, exhausted, finished and very low after such a hard show. I decided to cheer myself up to see if my pay had gone into my bank account. It hadn't. I checked up on why not and found out the standing order for it from my business account had been entered with the wrong month - my rent was due today and I didn't have enough in my account to cover it. ARGH! I phoned the bank and got onto their automated system. First they wanted my account number keyed in - done. Now the sort code keyed in - done. Now the second numeral from my personal security number. My what? What personal security number? The condescending electric voice just kept repeating it, like the boring teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." I thought, I know I shall go in on another number and talk to a real person. I tried to but ended up at the same information superhighway cul de sac. In the end, very frustrated and eager to sort this out I tried to postpone my rent payment on line by one day - I was told I was too late in the day. ARGH!!! I know, inventive GKH thought, I shall phone the bank's new customer line, that way I am guaranteed to talk to a real person and they won't need this mysterious Personal Security Number crap. I keyed in the number - only to be told that the line was only open between 8am and 8pm. And the time at that very instant??? 8.01pm. AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHH! Cue complete "mental mental chicken oriental" moment with the King. The phone gets ripped from the wall and is thrown on the floor and bludgeoned to death with it's own hand piece. Not a pretty site.
Today I went out and bought a new phone and discovered that my pay had gone through as an emergency payment thanks to my lovely company "Past Presence Ltd". The school in Hertfordshire now think I am the dot over the letter I in the word SH*T and I am currently watching Barcelona players doing passable impressions of dying swans every time an Arsenal player breathes next to them. If anyone ever builds a time machine I shall borrow it for one journey only. I shall go back to the evening of the 6th March 2011, and I will turn off my alarm clock.
Tomorrow, the 9th, I am back at one of my all time favourite schools, the very wonderful St Michael's School near Wimborne in Dorset. Should be fun.