The students sat in a grey classroom. Ignore the fact that it is actually painted light green. It is almost square, filled with utilitarian grey rectangular desks, and the students are doing exam practice. The effect produced is of a grey room. The students have being doing exam practice for the last three months. Solid. Outside the classroom, there is a corridor that surrounds a sunlit quad, and in that quad, a mother duck has nine ducklings. While the class warmed up to a Monday morning’s study, the caretaker came into view through the glazed door and opened another door onto the quad. He had slices of bread in his hands, which he broke into small chunks and threw to the duck and her ducklings. There was a frisson. Somebody pointed out the ducklings were outside. The sweet, trilling whistles of the ducklings seeped into our room, seeming to beckon us to them. It was a natural thing to do, to go and see them. Even the lads, normally so inscrutable and resistant to emotion, were itching to look. I stood up and opened the door. “Come on, let’s have a quick look.” The teenagers did not need the normal cajoling, and hustled out of the room. A light wind frisked through the corridor, the sound of the ducklings was distinct and clear. We clamoured against the windows of the quad and gazed out at the gentle scene. A mother with her young- nine trembling clusters of brown and lemon curd-coloured feathers. A powder blue sky hung with armadas of billowing clouds. Sunlight on every surface. For about ten seconds, we were free. We had been absolved from the monotony of exam prep, our minds tethered to the prescriptive tasks, the cramming before the final judder of the educational conveyor belt. In two weeks, the class will be spat out and left to fend for themselves but, for now, a moment of respite and shared wonder. ”Get back into class, there’s exams to be prepared for!” A voice of authority. The deputy head. It was uncanny that she had managed to glide unnoticed toward us, like a graceless nuclear submarine. Strangely, our moment of wonder had provided the perfect smoke-screen behind which she had got within range, then loosed her salvo.
Every other week, on a Friday after work, I drive to Oxford to collect my son.
This evening, the entire ninety minute journey was accompanied by a rainbow.
This was the first sight of it that I photographed.
Today, it seemed more vivid than those before. The eastward route I took along the M4 followed the edge of a weather front, so that I was plunging always into the edge of a curtain of rain, the glory of a late afternoon sun at my back. Often, from my viewpoint, it seemed as if I was encased in a prismatic sphere. The rainbow met the land, then arched upwards amongst the spray from the road to form a complete circle.
It seemed to laser down onto cars in front at times.
I am about to finish working as a teacher. I have ambitions as a writer, but this is not the only reason I’m leaving the profession. I am no longer able to find sufficient time and energy to meet the demands of the job; in terms of the job specification, I am a failure. Unlike many jobs, there is a long notice period in education. This has meant that despite periods of stress, despondency and ineffectiveness, I have been teaching for almost five months since deciding to leave.
In uncertain financial times, it’s clearly unwise to quit a full time permanent job.
But is it any wiser to continue in the knowledge that your job is making you unhappy?
I wondered what a black and white rainbow would look like.
This road, the A420, is a road I have driven at least 416 times in the last 4 years. I know it intimately.
My children and I know exactly which fields deer graze at twilight, where rabbit kits venture onto verges in summer, which paddock we once saw a black rabbit in. We also know at which roundabout we saw a car on its roof, at what junction I shunted a car, and in which lay-by my son did his first ever standing up roadside piss.
Many separated parents do the Friday/Sunday night commutes and must have their own maps ingrained, their own preferred radio station for company, their own pit-stop of choice. There was a period when the staff in the McDonalds near Watchfield used to greet us with genuine affection. I grew to recognise fellow dads doing the run. I don’t mind the journey so much, it barely even registers. But at this point of change, in this moment of what I hope will be evolution, I am hoping to build a life out of the elements that draw me in different directions.
These ash trees will have flanked the road here for over a century. This part of the 420 is directly opposite White Horse hill.
J and I once stayed up all night constructing a box kite to fly on the hill. We listened to the Four Tet discography, drank wine and learned the constrictor knot, the bowline hitch. We launched our red and blue wonder to the skies, the winds drove it straight back down onto the hill and shattered it. It was a moment of loss and both of us, for just a moment, did not know how to move on.
That same afternoon, my son raided the pile of spare chalk near the back legs of the giant horse, and made his own.
I finished a screenplay before Christmas which I am redrafting for the Slamdance film festival. It’s a modern retelling of the golem myth. Before I leave school, I have been teaching my students about screenwriting, trying to enthuse them with its immediacy and potential as a career. They have downloaded the free version of Celtx, and are already creating some credible scenes.
A few weeks back, I collected a dead hare from the side of this meandering stretch of the 420 and took it home. I wanted to feel the weight of it, the sensation of running a hand across its fur. I wanted just to inhabit the same space as this solitary animal. So I did.
Then I photographed it,
and buried it in the garden.
When I passed the place where I’d found it today, I was gladdened to see two hares grazing the field close by.
Which is to say that I feel hopeful.
Like everyone and everything, I have an unknown future. I am not afraid.