There are those who love travelling as an end in itself. I am not one of those. In much the same way I enjoy things being tidy and, as Toni quaintly puts it, “everything in his place.” What I don’t enjoy is the process whereby things get put in his places. Especially in areas where not only pints but also gallons have to fit in pint pots.
This is where Toni excels. With a fervour, usually only found in the most devoted fox hunting Tory enthusiasts flogging a hunt saboteur, he can play a game of three-dimensional Tetris and put things in an order which, to the untrained eye appear to be almost magical. The order is his order and any attempt to suggest alternative spacial solutions is treated as if you have not only spat on the fragment of the True Cross but you have also previously used it as a toothpick.
Toni is also not averse to the throwing away of Things Which Have No Apparent Immediate Use. I do not understand this approach and have often thanked whatever gods there be for the small container or essential piece of ribbons or length of coloured wire which I have salvaged from the threat of discardation and have then played an active and essential role in the way that I live my life. And if any words used in that last sentence do not exist they should do.
Toni has an approach that puts me in mind of the worst excesses of Savonarola in his cavalier approach to the sacred quality of permanence of Stuff.
To me an uncluttered environment and the one in which I prefer to live is akin to the differences found between a Thurber cartoon and one by Giles; they are both ways of presenting something, but the Giles cartoon always has small details to discover that you missed the first time round. There is always something more to find in the Giles, whereas what you see is what you get in the Thurber. Not of course that I underrate the Thurber, who was obviously a comic genius. But I like the detail in a Giles cartoon for the same reason that I like the paintings of Bosch, Van Eyck and Breughel. Though possibly without their respective visions of Hell and Damnation!
For Toni things out of place is purgatorial if not infernal and, like many naturally and compulsively tidy people he does not understand the inability of mere humans to fail to replace things properly.
The Chaos of the Third Floor was a state of untidiness of Augean proportions that even the question of where to start was something which defeated me. I was satisfied with carving a narrow path through possessions to a chair and a space on the desk; the wider implications of a theoretically tidy room was a concept one intellectual conceit too sophisticated for me.
Toni, however was not only able to contemplate the mass of things actually having a home but also was able to postulate the appearance of a Tea Room in a space which could not possibly possess one. Even without having been brought up on the finer points of Doctor Who he seemed to have grasped the concept of the Tardis and transferred its qualities to the Third Floor.
And behold! These things came to pass. And the only thing lacking was a sufficiently genteel tablecloth for the tea table!
Actually, that is not strictly true and the room is only 75% complete.
If the sloping room of the Third Floor is like a glorified lumber-room then the cupboard under the eves is the oubliette of our preserve.
This low level, double-door space is the place where you put stuff which you cannot possibly throw away, but which also is not going to be used from one year to another and will probably only see the light of day when you move house and you realise that you actually possess it. I hate this space as I invariably, however careful I am, forget my height and smash my head against the slope of the roof which seems specifically sloped to case the maximum damage to a six-foot adult.
Fine linen and embroidered tablecloths together with the china garnered in irresistible sales of Wedgewood Aztec with the Christmas tree and space hungry decorations are all waiting to be assessed, weighed in the balance and found wanting.
And Toni is in sole possession of the space while I languish in school powerlessly watching a group of year 12 students cheat their way through a series of questions that they have to complete during the week when their normal teacher is absent.
The absent teacher has a Year 12 and Y13-heavy timetable so I am reduced to little more than child minding with my intellectual input at less than zero. This is going to be a difficult week as my knowledge of Chemistry ended in the third form with the advent of the mathematical element assuming more and more importance so I will have to find something to do in front of the class which is not as obvious as reading to while the time away.
Another period of child minding has begun I will be perfect happy when this week ends if it is going to be as mindless as this. I would prefer to teach rather than be a mere organic entity with a teaching qualification at the front of the class!
However, whenever I feel that I am not gaining very much from this experience I should consider what the eventual end result of this little foray into supply teaching might gain me in terms of my relationship with the employment office of Catalonia!
I am beginning to thank god for the fact that my visit to the UK is an immutable event which demands my attendance at the festivities of Louise. It means that however attractive the blandishments of the head of secondary are I will have to refuse.
The staff is delighted at my appearance today as they no doubt feel that it means that there is a sea change in the attitude of the school towards the hiring of people to cover absence. I am not sure that this is strictly true but I am not one to deny people their moments of happiness by injecting reality into their lives!
I am now in an art class where at least I have been able to distinguish a Lucien Freud painting being copied by one of the students. My mark has been made! Quite why I am in an art class I do not really know as the class that I took last period has still one lesson to go. Though a change is as good as a rest. I suppose. And any attempt to make the life of a supply teacher more bearable is OK in my book.
Even though I have been able to do some of my OU work it does not compensate for being stuck in front of a class and not being able to be a real teacher. But there again, they are paying me!
The Third Floor tearoom is almost up and running and the work desk part has now also been used for the first time.
Now that the OU course is up and running I have sent in a dummy tutor marked assignment to demonstrate that I can use the system and that the system can work with my computer.
The emphasis on the computer is very different from the environment that I worked with when I first studied with the Open University. I am not sure that it is entirely congenial for me, but I am sure that I will get used to the system. And at least I have a proper working space to get to terms with the intellectual challenges that the OU in all its right-on fervour can throw at me!