count down to the beginning



after tomorrow I will have 7 Mondays left of my working life, retirement is looming.  I have had so many jobs, worked with so many people, it is fair to say it took me a while to find what I wanted as my profession,  but I got there eventually, and now after a year of indecision I am hurtling towards the finish line.  It feels good.

This week has been tricky, the project I work on is ending, most people are worried, needing jobs to feed their children, pay their mortgages, there is a lot of uncertainty.  This is not helped by mismanagement of the changes, of emotions running high and feelings of inequality and injustice as some are treated differently to others.

I am the oldest person on the team by some way.  None of this is new to me and I have tried hard to support and advise others.  This countdown began back in September, 38 Mondays seemed a long way away then.  School life has moved, as it always done, from new starts to end of school exams.  It is as predictable as the seasons, and just as fickle.  The routines and rituals of a school community are like a powerful ship on a stormy sea, it can get rocky but never sinks.

It is the last week of this, my final half term, and tomorrow I will open my room, setup the laptop, organise files before meeting with colleagues, making lists and then spend the day with a stream of mostly teenagers who arrive at my door for support, for guidance, and to avoid their Maths lesson.  There is a rhythm to this that is soothing.  Even when, often, things are not going to plan, there is a comfort in this job.  Most things I have seen before, different faces, different lives but similar circumstances. Forms are signed, conversations held, and we move on to the next one.

So bring on the next seven Mondays, adventures are beckoning, times are changing, and for once I have no idea what is waiting for me.


Yesterday was a a good day. School was as hectic and as usual and there was managed chaos in the pastoral department as so many things  happened at once.  All my teenagers yesterday were in a good place.  Working hard to make changes to ensure that they can get the best out of school, alongside dealing with life.   Half term beckons and the sun is shining.

I am going to miss working here, in this medium sized High School with a big heart. I will be forever grateful that I have been able to end my career here  it is a very special place.

Once home last night things got even better.  My son has arrived for a visit, the first this year, and it is so lovely to have him in the house.  His hair is growing long and curly and his smile is infectious.  I am so lucky to have my family, my three boys and my girl. I am so looking forward to spending more time with them all.


Today has been extraordinary.  We, my hubby and my son and I, went for a day out beside the sea.  We took a tram to the top of the world and after wandering around the summit we chose a route to walk down.  The sun was warm, the Irish Sea miles below was turquoise and deep blue in places with white topped waves glistening in bright sunshine.  We set off down sloping fields, passing information boards telling tales of people who once lived on these slopes, the only thing remaining is the stone footprints of their homes and the furrows made by the ploughs.

This is a tough descent for me, my mobility isn’t great and the steepness is a challenge.  However with my lovely hubby in front I put my hand on his back and all is well.  We continue down and down towards the sea.  It feels amazing to be out in such open country, with the sea all around. We soon find a road, then another field and finally some steps which take us over yet more furrows and grass to the bottom and the road next to the water.

There is a bench in exactly the right place, we sit and unpack our picnic while watching the waves.  It is really warm now we have left the heights of the hills and I feel completely content.  This is a very new experience as so often I am worrying about stuff or unable to just let myself be.  To be in this place, having conquered my pain and made it to the bench, well it feels fantastic.  The blue of the sea is deep and vibrant this close by and there are tiny sailing boats bobbing about on the tide.

We finish our picnic and head along the road back to town.  This is an easy walk, however I am going slowly, I simply don’t want this to be over any time soon.  Chatting with two of my favourite humans, walking beside the sea, it is heaven.

Once back in town we take a quick break for a coffee and ice cream before heading back to the car and home.  Memories are so important, and today I have banked a dozen.


The weather has changed bringing sharp showers and a cooler temperature, which made it easy to have an ‘at home’ day yesterday.  I was catching up with all the life admin that needs doing.  Hubby’s Blue Badge needs renewing, which meant finding all the right paperwork and uploading photos and details to the council who will issue it to us.  It made me think about how things have changed for us, and how, now, this seems so normal.  I am grateful we live in a country that makes this sort of support easy to access, we are fortunate. It has been good to rest my leg as well.  The hike down steep inclines at the weekend has woken my tendon problem, but I know with a couple of days rest all will be well.

I am really enjoying watching the tiny birds who visit our garden as they make use of the bird feeders we have on our windows.  They didn’t stand a chance with the bigger birds mobbing the other feeders, but here they are free to perch and dine as much as they want to.  It made me this about equality and fairness and how important it is to cater for everyone, regardless of size or ability. Creating a place where people, or birds, can all find what they need is so important.


Half-term has rolled on and we are now on the last day.  It has been a busy few days and I have much to think about.  Mid week we made a spur of the moment decision to book a room in a hotel in the town where I was born.  We would catch up with family and enjoy a change of scene. We did all of that.  The room was spacious and clean, and in a building that had been a pub in my youth.  The road it is on is one I spent much time, as a teenager and later as a youth worker.  By then it was run down, boarded up buildings all around with just the coin arcades and pubs still in business.

It is fair to say that imagination and resourcefulness has completely changed the place.  There are new homes, bringing families to live at the bottom of the road, and the top half is now vibrant and busy, with shops, bars, cafes all displaying wonderful street art on their buildings.

Home the next day I was happy to have seen my family, and revisited my youth, but physically I was unwell.  The pains and aches returned with a vengeance and I could barely walk.  Rest is the only cure, so rest I did.   Being in pain is so debilitating and often makes me miserable, however it is important not to be beaten, and to keep on, so I did.

Yesterday was a fun day.  Good friends, made at the very beginning of our Wales adventure, gathered in our garden, to drink bubbles, eat nice food and be happy together.  Okay we were moved indoors by the rain, but it didn’t spoil the joy.  Later we walked to the beach for the lighting of a beacon, as it is the Platinum Jubilee this week.   There we met other friends and I was reminded how fortunate we are to have so many lovely people in our lives.  As for the speeches, heartfelt and many cheers, well to be honest it made me itch.

Three more days and the the final half term begins.  Seven Mondays to go.


What a rubbish day.  After all the excitement of friends over and going to the beach to see the beacon I found myself in a lot of pain.  Luckily we had not a lot to do, so relaxed and napped and all was well.


First day of the last half-term.  School is changing, there is a taste of freedom in the air, it is always the same.  Exams are almost over, the weather is sunny and you can feel the difference.  It is hard to imagine not being a part of this for much longer.  As I move about the corridors there are many cheery comments, ‘yes I had a good break thanks’, people are smiling and it feels good.  All the other things are still happening.  Some of our teens are broken, others are making the wrong choices, but as a team we have got this.  I will always be grateful that this is the place I ended my career.  Six Mondays left.



today has been all about the girls, sassy girls, sad girls, confident fabulous girls, it was all about them all.  In the course of a working day I have dealt with a broken heart, a loss of mojo, and a sadness only time will heal.  Each very different and each very needy.  Days like this I love my job.  In amongst the chaos and the frenzy there are young people trying to deal with what life has thrown at them.  They do it well.  They ask for help, because they know they will get it, they talk about their fears because trust has been built and each of them managed a smile before they left.  Alongside this there has been the usual mayhem and humour, as, everywhere, teachers and support staff are gathering up young people and pushing them ever forwards.  Exam nerves,  no problem, a quick speed lecture over lunch. No uniform, no problem, lots of spares to loan. Unexpected periods needing pads, friendships falling apart, parents worrying, all dealt with alongside laughter and smiles.  It is a kind of magic, and I will miss it so very much.



Driving to work this morning was one of those glorious Welsh mornings along the coast.  The sun was shining, the sky already blue and the sea reflecting this.  I was filled with emotion realising that the number of commutes is limited now, and I need to hold on to the good bits, this view of the sea, the same water my ancestors knew, and shortly the view of the mountains, all so familiar I have seen them in all weathers over the last four years.  Just then  a song came on the radio, it was from the past, when my babies were small, when I was fit and healthy and life was full.  Unexpectedly my eyes began to leak, as I became so tuned to the passing of time, once I pulled up at school I had to give myself a good talking to, before going it to start another day. Smile firmly on, we have this.


Today the Year 11 learners finish their compulsory education. They did it with laughter, and a few tears, a trip down memory lane which through photographs showed them all five years younger, yet to grow into the young adults they are today.  Shirts were signed, donuts eaten and thanks and hugs dispensed.  The end of the assembly a quote was spoken and it touched me.  Credited to Winston Churchill went something like this.  ‘today is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end.  It is actually the end of the beginning’.   Whatever it is for those leaving school, it struck me that, although I am nearer the end, I also have a new beginning to consider.  The world will go on turning, teens will go on learning and I will enjoy and new life.


It has been a funny old week, with little time to write this diary.  School was, as it often is, a mixture of fun, tricky times and challenges.  I have been signing off those who are ready to finish and talking to others about what will be happening next term.  I am feeling a bit wrong footed as I have no knowledge of who or what is to replace the work I have been doing, which makes these conversations difficult.

Also this week I have seen excellence in managing difficult circumstances and the complete opposite and a shambles of how not to end a project.

Firstly faced with a teenager who feels stuck between a rock and a hard place, I looked to a senior team member for help. He was incredible as I watched him engage and empower her, while at the same time ensuring clarity of her options.

Later in yet another team meeting, the poor quality of management was ever more evident.  The lack of empathy, and leadership has always been an issue in this team, and now as we head to the finish line for some of us, it is getting worse not better.  It makes me so happy to be leaving, but sad that this is why I am going now.

Later this week the impact from poor management is causing problems for others.  I am trying to support with a mixture of humour and stern words.  It really shouldn’t be this way.


The first of the gatherings to say farewell to colleagues happened yesterday.  We met in a bar for food, such an ordinary thing to do.  Colleagues I haven’t seen in real life for over two years sat around the table and we laughed and wished our friend well in her new life.  Then today a smaller group ate lunch on a terrace, with a wedding in the gardens opposite, warm sunshine and good food.  We met new people, who have brought their business to our town.  They were friendly and fun and the food was fabulous.  Most importantly this small tribe marked the end of our team of three.  We packed our friend off with gifts and love.  We will stay in touch, but nothing will be the same.  Instead it will be better.



the end of another week, and we have just three and a bit weeks left to the end of term.  Business as usual, listening to teens, sorting out problems, celebrating successes.  This school is boldly inclusive, so much so that difference is barely noticed except to celebrate individuality.  For Pride and Diversity Week this week there was a rainbow arch across the main corridor entrance, with rainbow flags in bunting and on the walls.  This made for a runway of love towards all the LGBTQ community and made me smile a lot.  What I liked most though was that this wasn’t tokenism, but a true celebration.  The school has an active and supportive LGBTQ group, and the policy of inclusion really works.  It is a very special place.  Sharing the image with gay friends, there reaction was that of amazement.  One saying ‘imagine if our school could have been like this, everything would have seemed easier’.

While I think it is important not to discriminate I think it is more important to actively support.  None of the pupils in this school were remotely surprised by the decorations and celebration of Pride, they accept it on a daily basis, being taught in a place that values all the school community. If the world could be a bit more like this school it would be a much better place.

I am going to miss it so much.


What a fabulous weekend this has turned out to be.  Saturday dawned with bright sunshine that very quickly turned to torrential rain.  This continued all day, sunshine and showers, and gave us the perfect excuse to stay home.  I pottered in the garden when the sun shone and cleaned and sorted indoors as the rain fell.  Later in the evening we prepared to watch Paul on Glastonbury, this closing act of the Saturday night had been long delayed, and when he took the stage he was the oldest headliner ever at the fifty one years of the festival.  I wasn’t expecting much, I thought his voice would let him down, I was wrong.  It was the most joyous almost three hours ever.  Songs from my childhood, teens and adult life belted out, we sang along.  My daughter in another city was with us online and we laughed and cried.  It was brilliant.

Today I have woken after a very late night and the world seems a better place. Somehow in the middle of the music a lot of my worries and fears seem to have vanished.  I wasn’t sure what the unfamiliar feeling in my bones was, until this afternoon on a blowy walk beside the sea I identified it as happiness.  There is much to look forward to.  Family are arriving later this week and next, work is winding down and the sun is still shining.  Things seem doable, possible as if watching one hundred thousand people dancing in a field has reminded me that the world is all still there.  We are all still here, and there is a new life waiting.


Another working week finished and I now have just ten more days in school.  This week was challenging in so many ways.  Not enough staff due to sickness meant everyone was stretched.  I tried to help where I could but it was overwhelming.  The new High Schoolers were here from Primary, getting their first taste of ‘big school’, and their energy and sheer numbers changed the atmosphere around the building.  It is hard to see these tiny people as the teenagers and young adults that they will become.

I also had some incredibly sad news this week when a dear friend has lost a daughter to a car crash.  There are no words of comfort here, just a quiet standing alongside while grief in processed.  A reminder that nothing is promised for any of us, and we should make the most of every day.

As the weekend arrived one of our lovely sons came with it.  He is here for a week or two to rest, have fun and connect again with us.  A beach walk this morning and a hill walk later is planned and we will make the most of our time together.  He is so much taller than me, and yet I can still see the tiny baby, who grew into the most adventurous and accident prone boy.  Looking forward to having him around.


Yesterday was a magical day.  I managed to fit in a morning at school dealing with some very tricky situations and still have time to spend with some of my most favourite people.

I have four children, all are now adult, and each of them are lovely easy going people.  This week one of our boys is staying, he needs a couple of weeks break and we are loving having him with us.  Monday night his sister arrived to spend time with her brother, and we were lucky as the sun shone, we went for lunch in a pub garden and then down to the beach. Later back in the garden we laughed and laughed sharing stories and enjoying being family.  Dropping her at the train to head back to the city I reflect again on how fortunate I am for having these lovely people, and to be living in such a beautiful part of the world.

My boy is only half way through his stay and asked last night if his friend could join us next week.  The weather is set to be sunny and warm and he would like a break too.  Of course we said yes, people are always welcome in our home, and we are looking forward to meeting another nice man to come and stay.

Just two more Mondays left at work now, and I am so looking forward to a new way of living, hopefully having more time with family and friends in the sunshine.  Bring it on.


I have mostly been completing paperwork with young people this week in preparation for leaving.  It has been a funny time, some are ambivalent to the change, others are really not happy.  One boy in particular says ‘I will never see you again’, and while that may be true it is by no means certain.  Who knows what will happen in the future?

Last year I supported some very sassy young women towards their leaving and exams, together we agonised about their futures and what was going to happen next.  It reminded me of how change can feel.  I have no idea what the next months and years hold for me, but will always look back on this job as one of life’s gifts.

Out of the blue on Thursday I received a text message from one of last year’s girls.  She just wanted to tell me that she has passed her college course and is going on to a higher level next year, she says life is good, and she misses talking to me. It made me happy on so many levels, this message.  She was one of the more vulnerable learners, tricky times at home and with friendships, she never really blossomed at school.  We used to talk about how things can change, about new starts and how the world can begin to feel different.  It is so nice that not only that life is good and she is happy, but she picked up a phone to tell me.  A year on from the last time we spoke.  This has reminded me never to underestimate the impact you are making on others.  For good and for bad, your words will stay on.

I guess I am at the same point this girl was last year.  About to make a change that will alter everything and a bit unsure of the future.  I have just two Mondays left then a new life will begin.  I have done this before, I am good with change, all will be well.


The days in this last week or so are flying by.  After ages of counting down, of feeling that time is going too slowly, suddenly it is almost here.  One more Monday and I am done.  This week has been strange, firstly meeting the person who will be looking after my job next term, then introducing her to colleagues and young people.  It felt very odd, and yet strangely comforting. She is a Youth Worker too, and understands informal education, I think all will be well.

This is the last hurdle, I can finally let go and enjoy the future, with plans to do exactly what is right for me.

The weather is helping too, wall to wall sunshine, blue skies and the company of my lovely son and his friend this week as added to the holiday feeling.  Days on the beach, walking in woods and generally feeling fun.

Another life is within touching distance, maybe the best really is yet to be.


What a strange couple of days it has been.  There is a feeling of endings, collecting paperwork, sorting desk drawers and finishing off outstanding tasks.  Another feeling is also present, that of loss, and change and being slightly out of step with the world.

School continues as ever, sports days and reward trips, detentions and troubles, life is as it always is.  Everyone is tired, the young people, the staff, everyone is waiting for the last days to move along, so we can spend our summer doing lovely things.  I am also tired and ready for a break, but I am acutely aware that this end of term is different.  This time I am not off for six weeks, but for as long as I can manage.

Many people are asking me what my plans are, and looking askance as I say I don’t have many plans.  A couple of holidays, some ideas to develop and writing to get along with, but other than that I am happy for life to show me the next step.

Friday was tricky, there was a feeling of foreboding that wouldn’t shift.  Later I found from a colleague that our endings are not quite as we thought.  She was upset, I was a bit angry.  Today we can look more clearly and things are not as bad as we feared, but it proves beyond doubt that this time, this is the right time for us to walk away.  It was never my circus and not my monkeys, but I am saddened that a project with such potential is not being given the chance to thrive.

Onwards and upwards, today has been warm sunshine and the path to our front door en busy with friends arriving, and strangers bringing items to help others.  This is the new revolution, we need to take care of each other.  Maybe this is what I will do next.


No more Mondays!  Today was all about evaluation and exiting.  I spent time answering questions, ‘What was the best bits?  What made it difficult?  I had spent time considering these answers and it felt positive to reflect on how the job worked and to offer ideas for the future.

Giving away resources and spending time with two cheeky boys the day passed swiftly.  This time tomorrow it will be done and the beginning will be beginning.


Today the day finally arrived.  I was spending my last day in my lovely school.  Faced with having to take down noticeboards and pack up resources I was fortunate to have the help of one of my learners who was able to take down posters too high for me to reach.  It was a funny old day in the end.  My room door was open, music and snacks were available as teachers and learners all popped in to say goodbye.  Lunch was the end of the year traditional pizza delivery and the chat was of the future.  Another lovely colleague was also leaving and I think we could all feel the emotion.

Later we assembled under the sails in the middle yard.  Huge triangles of bright colours cover a circular seating area.  Lots of staff were there, in the last hour of the last day of term.  Kind words were spoken for all those leaving for pastures new.  Gifts were given and hugs were plentiful.  I was beyond grateful for the things said about how I had added to the school and supported all the learners.  It was amazing.  These people have been my work family for over four years, and as we chatted and hugged it began to be real.  This was my last day.

It was time to go up to the room to collect the last of my belongings and more gifts and cards. As I closed the door for the last time and walked down the corridor I did look back, and in that moment I saw all of the vulnerable, scared and angry teens that have shared their worries, their fears and their happiness over the years.  It truly was a special place and I have been privileged to play a part in all of their lives.  I did shed a tear, of course I did, I am leaving the best job in the world.

Arriving home with a car full of love we quickly headed to the local beer garden to spend a while letting ourselves get used to the idea that we are done.

Tomorrow is another day, and the start of another adventure.  I am the luckiest woman alive.

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