It was hard to get Eleanor into the car and off to creche this morning. At one point, somewhere between trying to get her into her shoes and trying to get her into her jacket, I lost my temper and had to go and stand down in the garden at the back of the house. It was quite gusty this morning, the trees were tossing back and forth, and large cloud heads were lumbering across the sky. There is something about that kind of weather that seems particularly indifferent, that always makes me feel very small. While I stood in the back garden watching the clouds steadily push past the Brookyln Hill all the heat of my anger and frustration dissipated and left me feeling empty.
On the way to work I listened to my new present to myself from Amazon: the first Black Sabbath album. I listened to it very loud because within about one minute it was clear this was a great album. Released in 1970, it was the debut of the band that made Ozzy Osbourne famous. If you look at the photos of the band on this album Ozzy is unrecognisable. Honestly. I had to look hard and for a long time to decide it really was the same person I knew from the Osbournes. Whatever. The music is f**king cool, and tight and exciting like rock music is supposed to be. The music cheered me up a bit.
At school I was supposed to be taking a form class for a sick teacher but a burst of profanity and smashing sounds from the corridor drew me out of the form class. One of the special needs boys, a rather large boy, was launching himself at the door of a classroom and screaming obscenties. For some reason the teacher on the other side of the door decided it would be a good idea to let this boy into the classroom. Boy proceeded to start throwing chairs and kicking in things whilst screaming abuse at all present. Usually the best thing to do with this guy is talk calmly and just ask him to do stuff as if he were a slightly grumpy elderly passenger on a plane and you were a very experienced air hostess.
“Would you like to put that chair down?”
“I think it would be good if we went outside for a little bit.”
“How about we leave that computer monitor alone?”
This seems to work. It worked today. In the time I have been at the school this boy has gone from the being a fourth former to being a seventh former. He is very large now, and when he has his outbursts they are more intimidating than they used to be. I can’t help but wonder what will happen to this boy next year when he leaves school. It seems incredibly likely to me that he will end up in a ciminal psych ward after doing something horrendous. Worst of all he seems quite a nice fellow, but he is simply all gone in the head.
Later on in the morning I saw him out on the fields running about and talking to himself while the school went about its business. The clouds were still high above our heads, the wind still blowing in off the Rimutakas.
After teaching for a few hours I came across a new Year 9 student sitting by herself on a bench by the canteen. She started at our school this Monday and is from the Ukraine. She speaks Russian. Not a lot of Russian is spoken at our school and she doesn’t speak English. I can’t imagine how incredibly nerve wracking it must be to start in a new school, in a new country, and not speak the language. She was so daunted when we were taking her across to her form class on Monday we thought she was going to throw up.
When I found her on the bench by the canteen I tried to find out what the problem was. It was very hard to find out what the problem was. My Russian is limited to doing a bad accent and saying “comrade” a lot. In the end I spent thirty minutes in my office with her, my computer, and some internet website that claimed to translate Russian to English. From her expression at times I think the online translation service may have been less than idiomatic. Our “conversation” was something like this:
After she left my office at lunch time I saw a bunch of Year 9 girls run up to her and start talking to her. It was rather heartwarming and reassuring. I’m sure the Ukranian couldn’t understand what the girls were saying to her, but she would understand the feeling of warmth and friendship. I was a rather sullen youth at school (actually, I’m a rather sullen adult), and would never have thought to befriend a foreigner and try and make them feel better. I’m so glad there are nice, good hearted people in the world.
And so the time passed. Not for the first time I found myself wondering what on Earth is supposed to prepare you for this job. By this time the clouds had thickened and darkened overhead. In an hour it began to pour with rain, but by then the school day was over, and I suppose the special needs boy, and the Ukranian girl and the other 900 kids had made their way home. After another hour I made my way home. I played Black Sabbath loud and sluiced the car through the sheets of rain on the motorway.
At creche Eleanor was sitting on the floor with a few other little boys and girls and they were all singing a song about hands, and hearts and kisses. I stood and watched, and when they finished Eleanor turned and saw me and smiled and said,