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Chapter 2 A Whirlwind

Chapter 2 A Whirlwind Year I’d met Bill at a dance on a Greek island, where I was the only other Brit attempting the steps of the stately regional dances. What had started as a holiday romance fired up as we fell in love. Living on the opposite sides of England, we met at weekends and survived by phone calls. My daughter watched as one evening I put the phone down looking puzzled. “What’s up, Mum?” “I don’t know… but I think Bill’s asked me to marry him.” “How d’you mean ‘you don’t know?’ How can you not know something like that?” “It’s his Scottish accent. It’s stronger on the phone.” We stared at each other. Rachel walked to the window. Then turned. “Mum, he’s nice, Bill, I like him. He seems sincere, he’s fun and he’s obviously madly in love with you, but… Well, I’m leaving for Kenya in two weeks, for two years. Promise me one thing,” she faltered. “You won’t rush into things.” “Don’t jump in with two big feet and regret later, you mean.” 14

“You said it. But yes. You can be… impulsive.” She came and sat by me on the sofa and gave me a hug. “I love you, Mum, and I don’t want you to get hurt.” “Especially when you’re not there to pick up the pieces,” I laughed. “Anyway, you’re going to have to put all your energies into your first teaching job and seeing what Kenya is like.” It seems she had much the same conversation with Bill. He was most amused but respected her for her care for her mum. He felt close to Rachel, he said, perhaps because having worked in Kenya for twenty-five years he had become interested in her volunteer work, or perhaps because he liked feeling useful by giving her practical advice. When she left, I was glad Bill was there as I felt a bit bereft. Last child leaving home. My son, Gareth, had left two years earlier and was working as an editor in central London. One evening, sometime in October, I was moaning to Bill about officialdom spoiling the aspects of my job that I loved. “The role of being a head-teacher has completely changed. A head is not a head-teacher any more, but a manager. Do you know, the Chief Education Officer actually ticked me off today for being in a classroom?” “Chuck it. Resign.” “I’ve applied for an inspector’s post.” “No, chuck it completely. Inspectors are still part of the teaching profession and are still subject to the officialdom you are complaining about. Try something totally different.” 15