I have the first of my ten daily coffees at seven in the morning, before my shower and after the nightly, fitful, six hours of sleep. I usually take it with two sugars and milk.
Then, after calling my colleague to arrange a lift to the school, I have my breakfast. I was trying to lose weight after Christmas, but it’s mid February now and these days, I prefer to give in to the slowly ballooning roll of fat that dwells permanently around my sides. I ignore the hopeful January muesli and instead choose the chocolate Frosties which my own children once adored.
They’re at University now and are embarrassed by their mother. I know this inside.
At 7.45, the doorbell rings. It’s Sally. My work colleague. In the car, on the way to the school, we stop at a coffee chain. I hate coffee chains more than I do my job. "Perhaps I should abandon both", is what I muse at this point whilst queuing for my second caffeine shot of the day. I glance at my weighty stomach. This time, no sugar.
Once at the school, we sit down in the staff room for the daily meeting. Timmy Tompkinson’s mother is coming to the school... a playground spat...teacher involvement... The words wash over me now. They didn’t used to, I think, as I sip on my third coffee of the day. It’s only nine o’clock.
Nine every morning is when the children arrive. Every teacher has favourites but none will admit it. I favour the gutsy students. They can do what they like and I envy them.
Break time comes at just the right moment- I am getting tired again. Splitting up Violet and Rebecca from arguing over crayons is tiring work but I do it daily. Can’t they just share?
I am reluctant to have my fourth coffee of the day at eleven in the morning so instead I chew my way slowly through a stick of gum, savouring the cool fresh taste, before heading back to the stuffy classroom. I check my watch- 11.30.
By 11.36, Violet and Rebecca are fighting again. This time, I let them. They’ll stop when they’re ready. I try hard to believe this as I sip on my fourth coffee of the day -this time from a flask (mugs are forbidden in classes in case it spills). Health and safety gone mad, I mutter to myself- but nobody hears me.
Lunchtime comes and goes and so does another coffee. And another; I have run out of gum.
As does my ‘End of the Day! Achievement!’ coffee. I survived.
I walk home, purposefully avoiding the coffee chain which I had visited for that second, quite bitter instalment of the day. Instead I pop to a little cafe called ‘Pippa’s’. The coffee there is sweet and hot, the room warm and quiet- giving me time to pause and think.
Before I know it, I’m asleep.
Woken 20 minutes later, by Pippa herself, I leave the last dribbles of now-cold coffee on my table and pay at the cashier. I walk home alone.
At 4.00, I get home and put on the kettle. There’s nothing else for me to do in this awful house but look over my photos and remind myself to call my son. So I call him. He picks up but he has to go. He’s doing something this evening.
Our conversation ends like this: “Yeah Mum I know! I’ll try and come home over Easter but I’m swamped, honestly!” And he hangs up. BEEEEEEP. It’s the end-call tone. For a second I sit, listening to it. But soon I hear the sound of a piercing shriek coming from the kitchen. The howling kettle signals time for coffee number eight.
By coffee number nine, I’m desperately trying to find something decent on television. Too many channels these days. It used to be three, then four, then five, then the channel list quadrupled a thousand times over. I just want to watch old shows, classics. Like Inspector Morse. All I can find is panel shows and comedy sketch programs.
At 9.00, I make my way upstairs but am stopped by a knock at the door. I’m exhausted.
It’s my neighbour, excitedly trying to invite me to a church fair in March. I make feeble acceptances and offer her inside, hoping she’ll reject my invitation. Like my students, she never learns and walks through the house, into my kitchen- oohing and aaahing over furniture and decor that she mistakenly believes are new. “That sofa’s been there for twenty years, love!” is precisely what I think before I offer her a coffee. She takes milk, no sugar and I take the same.
She eventually exits after a lengthy and dull half hour, leaving me to drink, alone again, on my twenty year old sofa.
That’s my last coffee of the day.