I am leaning my head against the splintery fence

  • Monday, June 11, 2018
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I limped into my half term break with holes in my shoes and stones in my soul, emotionally and physically exhausted and suffering from people overload. I was slightly surprised to find I got there at all. I needed to recharge so I locked my front door and retreated to my garden with books, buckets of chicken wings and bottles of beer. I hunched in the sun like a beardless garden gnome, shirtless and a little deranged, staring at the straw footed scarecrow with it’s stoners smile and wondered where the bees have gone, and the butterflies too. I thought the world may end soon and I half hoped I was right. The bees and butterflies may be scarce but the flies have survived, big, hairy arsed bastard things that dull buzzed around me in Vulturous circles and drank the sweat from my face. I listened to Miriam Makeba singing Pata Pata endlessly on repeat. In the recording it is 1967, her voice is clear, pure and powerful and she has already been in exile for seven years.
Post run on a warm afternoon and I am leaning my head against the splintery fence, in my left hand is a fruity Swedish Cider thick with sweetness and crushed ice. Closing my eyes I tilt my face toward the sun and feel the momentary tickle of a small spider or hairy arsed fly on my stubbly head. I ignore it and it goes away.
I had the pleasure of meeting a man called Mattie in the week prior to the break. Guy and I took our sixth form pupils to the local tennis centre, partly because the PE focus this term has been striking games and hitting a ball over a net and partly because we like to get our young people out into the community and expose them to different people, it’s a way of gently piercing the bubble that is school and introducing the reality of the wider world.
Mattie is Mauritian, a former international tennis player, coach and psychologist. He is also Autistic. People like this reignite me, acting as a mirror and reflecting back exactly why I used to love my job and reminding me that deeply hidden I probably still do. He was interesting, fiercely intelligent and the corners of his eyes were touched with humour. He was clearly passionate about working with young people with disabilities. Mattie had a great story of being 17 and volunteering at the so called Special Olympics – the forerunner of the Paralympics. It was his job to place the shot put within reach of a large Swedish lady competing in a wheelchair but placed them just out of arms reach. The lady leaned over, overbalanced and fell on top of Mattie. “She couldn’t move and I couldn’t move and my face was trapped between these giant Swedish boobs”
I’m glad he made it out so that I could meet him.
I’ve been running with my friends and colleagues Annie and Kate a fair amount recently, making scribbly lined routes through the woods on a Friday after work. These have become my favourite runs, they are smart, dynamic women who both run like stink.
I just stink like someone who runs…
Running during half term gave us the freedom to run in the morning when we were not drained by work. We didn’t have to collect children from band practice or go home to cook. We chose to run the other side of the road where the trails are stonier and the inclines longer. Late Spring mornings in England can be beautiful, the sun shines stratified by the mist like floating gold and the shadows lie long and angular in dark geometric patterns but on this occasion the sun is no more than a thought, refusing to untangle itself from the cloud. The morning to looks and feels Jurassic, the trees seem closer to the trail edge than normal and loom like ogres and the vegetation is heavy with moisture. The birds have hidden themselves with the sun but their song is beautiful and clear. Like all communal runs we talked as we ran, sometimes deeply and with eloquence, stringing words and ideas together threaded with birdsong and sometimes with short profane bursts, less divine and much more human and earthbound. We had a great run and when we eventually left the trees behind and ran down to the traffic lights they both bestowed kisses upon my cheeks. They have no idea how blessed They made me.

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