Section 124 is a startled reflection
Having satisfied the school with his efforts on their behalf, and while the leadership team, desperate to appoint, waited for Rev Dr Albright to return from his recruitment expedition to China and Korea, Vernon took several days off school to obtain his visas. He intended to visit India on the way to Thailand and both destinations required permission. After his interviewing ordeal he felt he’d earned the concession.
As every teacher knows, taking time off school responsibly is much harder work than staying and teaching, maybe with a few exceptions. Sadly thought Vernon, there were no romantic fairy tales regarding the ‘elves and the schoolteacher’. Leave the paper and pens on the desk, go to bed and in the morning they’ll be lesson plans and worksheets… not likely. The elves would rebel. In the morning there would be paper aeroplanes, sniper’s pellets and gossipy love notes. Or worse. You might not wake up in the morning.
It was Thursday. Predicted to be warm and sunny, this was as close as Vernon got to gratitude for being alive. Up early and prepared for the usual trek to Redbridge to get the tube, Vernon lost precious time dithering in front of the mirror fretting over whether the time had come to shave his beard. It was going to be hot in India, and humid in Thailand. Should he shouldn’t he?
As he stood in the bathroom, razor poised, he found himself reflecting on the decisions he was making. Either this was the bravest step he’d ever taken, or the most wasteful. Was there any difference? Climbing inhospitable mountain peaks because they were there, visiting islands inhabited by remote tribes who already knew of their own existence – thank-you very much – being the first non-Muslim explorer to penetrate the secrets of Mecca …were these brave acts? In the end Vernon shrugged, and the image reflected in the glass shrugged too. He had a growing suspicion that Nsansa was travelling on a divergent path to his but he had not yet found the courage to address these fears. Surely losing her would be wasteful? A glance at his watch gave him the excuse to put off the reflection he really dreaded, and he hastily went downstairs to collect his documentation, the image of his startled, bearded self, brandishing a razor, was etched into his memory.
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