Summer break, with much at stake.

by My little pedagogue

Chapter Two: It begins

I hated public transport. Inconsistent running times, poorly maintained upholstery, and my tendency to attract a healthy dose of the crazies had all contributed in my development of a deep seated hatred of buses and trains. As a teenager, I had tolerated it out of necessity. Now that I could drive, it was particularly unpalatable.

In honesty, there wasn’t much wrong with the buses around my town, but a long lived dependence on them earlier in life meant there were plenty of opportunities for minor delays to inexorably chip away at my patience.

Naturally, I arrived at the station to watch my scheduled bus pull out of the bay, and ignore my signal for it to ‘wait just a moment’. The cheek! How dare this bus leave the station at its precisely scheduled time of departure! They’re supposed to be late!

I thumbed open my phone and fired off a brief text to Sharon informing her that I would be late. The response came a minute later.

- Np. Got journey juice and Malcolm 2 keep me amused –

Malcolm was an Art teacher that had graduated from training in the same cohort, in the same university as me. I was insanely jealous of his job, as I had covered a couple of art lessons, and it was great fun. It seems kids tend to be a lot more cooperative when they’re expected to doodle rather than explain the significance of the laws of thermodynamics.

And what the hell was journey juice?

Well, I’ve got twenty minutes to kill before the next bus, and there’s a Greggs across the road. Might as well get something to eat.

I picked out a chicken mayo sandwich and a diet coke, and tore into the sandwich as I crossed back over the road to the station.

This was a mistake.

I strained every mental and physical faculty to override my gag reflex, and hurried across the road to deposit the contents of my mouth into a conveniently placed litter bin. Bystanders be damned, that was absolutely wretched! Taking a moment to gulp a few lungs full of air down, I was finally able to steady myself, and glower down at the traitorous sandwich in my hand.

I don’t think twice. The sandwich followed the half-chewed mouthful into the litter bin.

“Ungth!” was the unintelligible exclamation that escaped me as I tried to simultaneously expel the air in my mouth and scrape the taste off my tongue with my teeth. “Do not want!” I muttered as I opened my coke, and necked the entire can. The fizzy beverage was surely going to make me feel uncomfortably bloated, as I never got the hang of learning to burp. But dammit, anything was better than the taste of that abomination!

After a few minutes to settle my stomach, I returned to my seat and stuffed in my ear buds and hit the play button to pass the time.

Ooh I love this one!

Of course you love it! It’s your damn playlist. Would you fill it with music you weren’t fond of?

No, I mean really love it!

The opening chords of had me tapping… no, stamping my feet in time to AC/DCs highway to hell… I knew this was not acceptable public behaviour, but it just felt with each bar, my inhibitions slipped further away.

“Living easy! living free! Season ticket on a one-way ride!”

Ok, what? I was singing now?

“Asking nothing! Leave me be! Taking everything in my stride!”

This wasn’t a quiet, ‘singing to yourself’ Performance either… why wasn’t I cripplingly embarrassed by this development?

“Don't need reason! Don’t need rhyme! Ain't nothing I would rather do!”

Oh look what I just found! It’s an air guitar!

“Going down! Party time! My friends are gonna be there too!”

Hey! That line was remarkably thematic, all things considered… Ooh! Chorus coming! Gotta jump on the bench!

“I'm on the highway to hell!”
“On the highway to hell!”
“Highway to hell!”
“I'm on the highway to hell!”

I proceeded to deliver the remainder of the song at full blast in the middle of a crowded bus station, complete with bombastic air guitar outro.

Hell yes! Spontaneous bouts of 80s metal inspired song and dance just shot straight to the top of my list of favourite things!

And how about that? The bus is here too!


“So what’s your excuse then?” Sharon prodded me in the chest with an unmarked plastic drinks bottle containing a deep plum-coloured liquid… I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Ribena. .. in fact, I’m pretty sure that was the fabled journey juice…

I could virtually hear the alcohol in that bottle. The deep liquid matched Sharon’s new hair colour perfectly. Wow, she was really making an effort tonight!

“Slept in. Sorry to disappoint, it’s a pretty boring excuse.” I shrugged.

“You certainly don’t look that drowsy on here” Malcolm chipped in, waving his phone in my direction. “Just been posted, I had no idea it was you until you showed up!”

I take Malcolm’s phone and tap the shared Facebook video titled ‘Overjoyed teacher flips his shit at beginning of summer break.’ My eyes widen… ok, I had no idea I was being filmed, but that wasn’t what was alarming me…

My hands slowly travel up to my hair, and pull a strand into my line of sight… pink… it’s pink. “…I have pink Hair…”

Malcolm snorted. “Well done captain obvious! No detail escapes your steely gaze!” he pauses to study my shell-shocked expression. “uh… so… any reason you have pink hair?”

My glazed over stare into the middle distance was unwavering. “I… I don’t know…”

Sharon prodded me with the bottle again… “Drink up kiddo, you look concerned, thoughtful, or even worse, both! Tonight is definitely not the night for musings, or chin stroking!”

I hand the bottle back. “That may be, but it’s definitely too early in the evening for any of your homebrew, Sharon.”

“I’ve got to agree Sharon” Malcolm chimes in supportively “with Carl’s eating habits, that stuff’s gonna put him out of commission before we even get started...”

“Now is not the time for caution!” Sharon announces! “Start of summer break is one of the few times where we have a right, nay, a duty to act like kids again!”

What follows almost transcends description. Suffice to say, Sharon Leaps up onto a roadside flowerbed to tower over us, and begins a soapbox to end all soapbox moments…

“Men of Science! Of Doodles! My brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come, when the longevity of our holiday fails, when we forsake our pink hair, and break all bonds of one-man flash-mobbing! An hour of black coffee, and twilight CPD sessions, when the Age of summer comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day, we get shitfaced!”

I couldn’t keep a straight face. Sharon hammed up the oration of her soapbox moment perfectly, but the icing on the cake was to aggressively hurl the plastic bottle of journey juice square into my chest to punctuate the end of her speech. I managed to gather it up in my arms before it bounced off. It was minutes before I was able to recover from my laughing fit, and straighten up “Holy shit, I can’t argue with a speech like that. You win!” I uncapped the bottle and took a long draught.

The smell indicated that journey juice was in fact, very alcoholic. However, the unexpectedly sweet, fruity taste was what made it a true weapon of mass inebriation. I could have a real skin-full of this concoction, and I wouldn’t get tired of this stuff!

“It is done!” Sharon proudly announced as she leapt from the flowerbed. Seemingly unable to stop channelling Brian Blessed. Most alarming if you would stop to consider the following… Sharon was around about five feet six, and built like a twiglet.

“Umm, Sharon? What’s the percentage of this stuff?” I handed the bottle on to Malcolm

“It’s homebrew…” Sharon shoots an incredulous look my way “what? You expected me to do a titration to find out?”

There was no way to answer Sharon, so I instead turned to my artistic colleague. “Malcolm?...”

“Yeah Carl?...”

“We’re not making it through the night, are we?” I stated in despair.

“Speak for yourself… You two are the birthday kids. I intend to partake in moderation, and wake up tomorrow feeling completely human” Malcolm slaps me on the back as he finished speaking.

“I have a feeling that’s too much to hope for as long as she’s involved” I gesture to Sharon skipping down the pavement ahead of us.

...Why did that sentence sound so damn ominous?