Episode Fourteen: Out for the Summer

Sylvianne was feeling buoyant.

Today she had taken herself over to the local college to check out the course requirements for the Teaching Assistant roles she had seen advertised online. The final semester of this academic year had already finished and the students were out for the summer,  but college admins were still working and many of the lecturing staff were also still around and she had quickly found herself talking at length with the head of the Education department who was a mine of useful information; she was able to bring Sylvianne up to date on all the changes in primary education since Sylvianne had graduated, what was nigh on 30 years ago,

But above and beyond the jaw dropping time that seemed so easily to have whizzed passed, it felt like yesterday to Sylvianne, it was clear that her post grad teaching qualification wouldn’t be entirely lost in today’s world of education but it was likely that a more modern upgrade wouldn’t go amiss, and it just so happened the college could accommodate on this point with a Level 2 in  a ‘Supporting Teaching and Learning ‘ qualification, and it would be this that could possibly open  job doors for Sylvianne, not just to a T.A position but with a little added experience and time, it wasn’t beyond her to have a moderate career, even at her age.

As she had listened to the departmental head, Sylvianne realised that an air quote “moderate career” was an idea she cherished  because over and above having a job, she wanted to still be free to  live her life to the full, she wanted to participate in the world, the wider world. She hadn’t suddenly woke up and found she wanted to become a blinkered workaholic, she needed a job first and foremost for money, but this represented just the kind of opportunity that made her feel that little spark of excitement at the prospect of actually working for her living.

It was something she could do. And enjoy.

The course itself wouldn’t run until the start of the new school year in the autumn, and that meant a longer wait than she had hoped for and Sylvianne was forced to do mental financial acrobatics to be sure she could wait that long, but as it stood, if she were intending to do this, and she felt sure she was, she was going to  have to manage financially over an entire academic year anyway because this was a full time course, but even that had been softened somewhat with the surprising suggestion she may even qualify for some potential funding; but the coup de grace came with the final piece of the jigsaw, when she was told that this course was often able to open doors to local opportunities.

The notion of a local opportunity was the real selling point for Sylvianne, because when she had been scouring those jobs pages recently, not only was she struck at how few real  opportunities there were available in the first place, she was also confronted with the sad fact that those that did exist often came with a hefty journey attached to get there, and largely it was a journey that would mean significant inter city travel – something she felt certain she really didn’t want to have to do.

Leslie, the Head of Dept, took Sylvianne’s name and details and left Sylvianne with a prospectus, a  potential reading schedule and the date for enrolment – Sept 3rd. A whole summer away. It seemed strange to Sylvianne, to be tossed back in to the academic year schedule after all these years absent from it, but the time could be productive because the reading list was daunting  and generally necessary given the gap in Sylvianne’s knowledge of all things modern education.

The return to her car was completed on auto pilot, she had no idea how she had got from classroom to be sat in front of her car steering wheel, so full and busy was her mind, she laughed a little at her preoccupation, looking again at the book listing, she knew instinctively that the local book shop wouldn’t carry these titles, she would have to order, but she was feeling impatient to do something and so opted instead to drive to the nearest large town, where the local Waterstone’s was not only large but had a very comprehensive reference section, she wouldn’t mind the lengthy detour if she could get her hands on something now.

And here she was back home with a carrier bag loaded with the first few titles from the list, the rest would have to be ordered, but this would keep her going for a good while, it made her feel proactive -hell she hadn’t felt this organised and optimistic in bloody years. Not only was she feeling productive she also had a plan, her, Sylvianne, with a plan for her future with no one else’s input or wants to be considered -wow it felt marvellous, better than marvellous, she was almost giddy with it.

Yes she was feeling buoyant. In fact she felt fit to explode and didn’t rightly know what to do with herself next.

She placed the carrier on the kitchen table and took the books out, laying them on the table top she stroked the top cover, almost reverently, she picked it up and held it under her nose, and inhaled – the smell of a new book, and it took her back to her very first few days, when as an undergraduate, she had gasped at how much her course books were going to eat into her slim grant; a grant for Gods Sake! No modern students knew what the hell one of those was!! Books. Real ones, not some online downloadable or wiki, but real learning, like it had been when she was young.

Should she tell Josh and Lara?

Not yet. It wasn’t exactly real yet and it sounded monumentally disproportionate to ring them to say she’d bought some books!

She turned on the kitchen radio, the house felt very empty and she liked something bubbling in the background, she put the carrier into a bag dispenser inside one of her kitchen cupboards and then took her stash of learning in to the lounge, placing them on to the coffee table, she would choose one to start later on.

It made a change from her usual casual reading material that was for sure. She loved reading generally, all sorts of stuff,  a mix of fluffy fiction and non fiction, it didn’t matter as long as it was interesting; and she wholly preferred reading to watching the TV, which didn’t hold much in the way of entertainment for her these days to be fair. In days gone by she would have a series of books readied for the summer period, because she used to select a few choice pieces to take on holiday so she could bury her nose in them when she was stuck  sat by the pool because Stockard and the kids had loved to spend hours and hours in and out the thing, and much as she had whined endlessly for them to venture away from the resort or check out further afield, universally her family had groaned at her for being so dull,  and so by silent mutual understanding to maintain a happy holiday, she read and they splashed about a lot.

Sad really because she had always wanted to go exploring more, go to more interesting destinations. Ok. So there wasn’t anything wrong with the holidays they had had as a family, but they were of a ‘type’, they never wanted to break out of the mould, not even as Lara and Josh got older, in this instance, both of them were chips off the old ‘dad’ block, because holidays in the Stockard household were always pool based and under a guaranteed sun.

In the very early days their  family holidays were low key affairs, with two small children in tow, it meant the usual seaside ports of call in leaky caravans, buckets and spades and Mr Whippy’s by the ton; she almost laughed out loud at the mental picture of Josh with ice cream up his nose; those simple holidays had been real fun, a real sense of family, playing snakes and ladders when it rained, which was of course was often in the Great British Summertime and eating fish and chip suppers out of newspaper on their knees. But two washed out holidays on the trot had Stockard hot footing it  with the the kids to the travel agencies for brochures and that was it, EasyJet here we come!

And they certainly wouldn’t have wanted any of this, she thought as she picked up her magazine, the well thumbed pages fell straight to her favourite article and she sat down yet again to look at the little islands of Britain, small nuggets of land with holy places, puffins, rare orchids and wading birds. Sylvianne  scanned the article for the umpteenth time, almost from the first she had decided as she read the article that she wanted to visit everyone of these places for herself, she had imagined herself hopping from island to island to discover the secrets of each new tiny haven. The practicality of it wasn’t important, she just got a rush of adrenaline at the thought of going out on her own, like some latter day adventurous heroine of days gone by.

It was easy to drift off in to her own silent reverie, seeing herself in these places, but her day dreaming was quickly interrupted as she heard the crunch of tyres across course gravel, and she put down the magazine and quickly ran over to the side window just in time to see the slope of a black roof  which glided into the drive of  Ellen’s cottage, that belonged to a Mercedes AMG GT4. She knew what it was because she had made it her business to check it out, she had become something of net curtain twitcher when it came to the comings and goings of her new neighbour. She knew the car, but it arrived at odd times and wasn’t around for very long and she never saw the occupant, he, and she knew it was a ‘he’, because Josie had told her it was her brother who would be living in Ellen’s cottage for a while, never made himself known.  Sylvianne had tried to engineer herself around, just to be neighbourly, but he didn’t hang around long enough for introductions but he was becoming something of a preoccupation for Sylvianne.

Parcels arrived, lots of them and he, Stuart, that was his name, would turn up in the middle of the night but be gone before breakfast and Sylvianne couldn’t make head nor tail of it. Even Hugh, her neighbour from across the road had eventually made his way over to catch Sylvianne to see if she knew anything of this newest most elusive neighbour. It was reasonable that Hugh might think Sylvianne knew something about him, given her friendship with Ellen, but all she could say was that he was Ellen’s youngest son and that was it; in fact if she had wanted to elucidate, and she didn’t, the fact was Ellen had never even mentioned that such a son even existed, Until Josie had mentioned her brother, Sylvianne was of the impression that Josie was an only child. What intrigued her most was the fact that having identified his car, she was poleaxed to discover that the car, which he drove like it was a banger, was worth nearly £100,000. She wasn’t at all surprised to see Hugh, with his nose hung over the gate ogling the beast, he was something of petrol head and it was he who told her how much the thing cost to buy. Jeez. Hugh was all but salivating, ‘I bet this guy’s a drug dealer.’ he said as he sauntered, hands firmly in pockets,  back over the road. Sylvianne eyed the sleek lines of the shiny black car with it’s heavily tinted windows and couldn’t help but feel that Hugh might be right, it was some car.

And so it came to pass that Sylvianne became intrigued at the comings and goings of the only drug dealer to live next door.

She strained to see over the hedge, she’d have to trim that she thought if she stood any chance of seeing anything of interest, maybe she should go offer him a bowl of sugar? She decided that drug dealers probably didn’t take sugar, come to think of it, they likely didn’t take the tea either. She held a hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle, this was probably the most excitement she had had in 8 months or more. She giggled again, Stuart the bad boy of Upper Framling was in the house.

When Sylvianne sat back down on her couch she looked at her magazine again. Here she was almost a student again with a drug dealer for a neighbour and a bad-boy-mobile in his garage and suddenly she was seized with a real need to make something of her summer, she wanted some adventure of her own rather than experiencing it variously through magazine photos or the thrill of a dodgy neighbour – so she might not be peddling contraband for bitcoin but in her own way she wanted to do something that was wholly hers. She wanted to go island hopping.