Monday, 29 March 2010
Ride the wild surf.
The day after my 5th monthly anniversary of being drug and symptom free came a big fat test of mental strength... year 10 fieldwork! Oh yes, not satisfied with the toils of managing 31 stroppy adolescents in the classroom, as a geography teacher I am obliged to apply some kind of contextual reality to their learning in the big wide world. For us this means a trip down the coast to study the impact of natural and human processes. For me this means a trip down the coast to several places without a toilet.
We have been running this particular component of the course for several years now, so I know what to expect - and in a sense that is the problem. As half the battle to surviving with UC is to avoid (or manage more successfully) stress, the pre-knowledge you are about to spend the day with 3 classes (that's about 80 kids) of 15 year olds on three different beaches, two of which are as remote as you can get in SE England, does little to calm the bowel. Last year I went on the back of a flare (subsequent to my azathioprine induced hospitalization, and just prior to my hastily aborted flirtation with 6MP), but with things coming under control with the help of prednisolone. The year before I was also back on the pred having just avoided getting spotted shitting myself at school. This year, then, was the first for a while without the safety net of drugs...
Due to school based issues that are too boring to explain we ended up with 64 kids, 4 teachers and 1 TA (the law requires 1 adult per 15 children). This included about 10 of year 10's most difficult and disruptive boys (in what is, admittedly, a pretty good school - I've done my time in hellish schools, this one is a pretty bog-standard city comp), so that, in passing, on my way into school I am ironically 'thanked' by one of the deputies.
So, while supressing the urge to think about my bowels, I have to think about toilets. When? Where? And indeed what? I stare at the staff loo before the off - should I try? I don't need to go. No urge. I don't want to 'awaken' something... My colon: the Kraken... I hedge my bets and head for the bus. First beach. There is a public toilet. All the kids go in. I can't even use a toilet to go for a wee if there are kids I teach in there. Beyond contemplation, never mind actual action. There's a sign instructing "No sexual activity allowed" report the kids on exit. Why am I thinking about it anyway? I don't need to go.
Beach two. Birling Gap. West end of the Seven Sisters (picture above). Nothing here, except a godforsaken pub, attached cafe ("smells of shit" I overhear the kids exclaim), and what's left of some cottages that have fallen over the cliff. I am considering the tactical approach to using a loo here when another bus arrives. Another school. From London. Oh shit. The boys start assuming their best Liam Gallagher stances, the girls start to get excited (what is it about the inate attraction of boys from another (not local) school?)... The London bus excretes its contents... 45ish VERY BIG boys. The girls get more excited. The boys start to regret trying to look hard. The beach bristles with teenage tension. Bugger it - there's no way I'm going to get a loo break here. Nothing occurs of course (it is worth considering what would happen if it had - between the two schools there were 8 staff and about 100 kids... they could have had a beach based riot to rival the Mods and Rockers for all we could have done to stop them!) it's all posturing. But by the time they go it's time for us to move on.
Beach three. 40 minute walk from bus to beach along river. No facilities whatsoever. Crap.
But fortunately no crap arrived. And so another hurdle is jumped. I am in my 6th month of no drugs. It is the 5th anniversary of being a teatotaller on thursday (April fools day haha), and I've got an appointment at the gastro clinic that day too.