Friday, 12 March 2010

Being Nice by Meg Harper

Ahah! It’s Monday and this is Schoolvisitville-on-sea! Hurray! It only entailed a last minute change of travel plan when we realised that my husband really did need the car, so I have arrived in the civilised way by train. I only had to stay with my sister over night in Birmingham and get up at 5.45! Yey! I’m raring to go. Where’s my pick up?

Ahah! So really they wanted me to go to a different station! Fine. No worries. The nice taxi man takes me to my first school and we have a jolly nice chat. First rule of author visits according to Penny Dolan’s Survival Guide is Be Nice. So I am. I have been being Nice since 6.15 when my brother-in-law took me to the railway station.

Ahah! The teacher taking this session didn’t know I was coming. Neither did the kids! No worries – we have a great time anyway – except for the three who don’t come back after break because they don’t want to miss PE and ‘Miss said it was OK’. Wounded? No, no. I am far too Nice.

Ahah! Lunchtime! I am famished. It’s a long time since breakfast. A taxi whisks me across town to the next school. This taxi driver is Not Nice. He does not want to talk so I am Nice and Quiet. Phew.

‘Ahah!’ says the Nice receptionist. ‘We’re so glad you’ve arrived. We’ve got two classes waiting for you in the library.’
‘But I haven’t had any lunch yet,’ I say Nicely.
Looks of horror.
‘We’ll try and get you some. But the children are waiting for you in the library.’
‘Yes, I do understand how difficult it is,’ I say very Nicely indeed, ‘and I’ll go and start the session – but I do need some lunch please.’
The egg sandwiches and biscuits look enticingly Nice, sitting on the desk while I talk to the children. In the end I ask a Nice teacher to read a draft for me while I stuff them down my face (nicely).

Ahah! Two schools and three workshops down and it is time to go to my B&B. Oh goodie.
‘So where do you need to be taken?’ asks the very Nice Head of English.
‘I don’t know,’ I say. ‘The agency said you were booking it.’
‘No, they said that they were.’

We are both very Nice about it, especially when the agency lady is not at work and we have to wait while enquiries are made. I am especially nice when the phone goes and it is not the agency but the Head of English’s little boy’s nursery – he is throwing up violently and needs a parent RIGHT NOW!

The agency sorts it out. The Head of English (who deserves the Nice Woman of the Year Award) sends her husband to collect her son and takes me to my extremely Nice B&B and I finish my day with a nice hot shower, a very Nice tasty meal and an incredibly Nice walk on the beach under the Nicest sunset I’ve seen for a long time. My face aches a bit from my Nice smile but I cannot deny that I have had a Nice day.
Penny is right. Be Nice. Then you can cope with absolutely anything on a school visit. (Well – maybe not – nobody’s wiped their nose on my skirt (I wear drainpipes just in case!) or thrown up on me yet!) It’s as well, really. I’ve visited ten in the last fortnight! Can I be horrible and grumpy for a bit now please???  Seriously, though – it’s been great fun – and if you haven’t read Penny’s post on the ten reasons for doing them, please do! Now I’m really looking forward to some quiet time in my study!

PS.I'm not stealing a baby in the picture - just taking part in my Princess Amelia workshop for Reception and Year 1!


Book Maven said...

This is why I don't do schools visits! Or hardly ever. I'm just not capable of being that nice!

Penny Dolan said...

Meg, what a dreadful visit schedule, especially all that travelling! You were a total hero dealing with all that and being Nice as well. I find that any public rage or stroppiness on my part just burns up the "working energy" so doesn't help at all in dealing with the day.

Besides, few people in schools realise what the day is like for their visiting author. They see their urgent marking, that their kids are missing a PE lesson or assembly practice, that tomorrow's another fun Dressing Up Day and will be the third year they've ended up as a Wicked Witch - any number of things. They may even have missed out on seeing the one copy of your book that's floating about somewhere in the building. (Who she?) And teachers often eat on the run too. That's life.

But - as your sessions showed - sometimes things are lovely and always there's children - if not every single one - who will have truly enjoyed your sessions. Princess Amelia sounds fascinating!

Yep, being grumpy and exhausted for a time afterwards is necessary and good while your spirit recovers, and the odd comment or two on departure can make matters very plain.

However, what other job lets you wander on strange beaches at sunset? Travel rep? No thanks.

But I am left wondering about the agency that was scheduling the timing of the sessions and supporting you . . .

adele said...

Deep Sympathy! And you coped admirably, I think. Word of advice: if an extremely nice teacher invites you to stay for the night when it's discovered that no one has booked you a hotel, just refuse, NICELY and say in the kindest way possible that you'd appreciate some time on your own. Otherwise you find yourself having to sparkle at dinner and get up at an unearthly hour so as to be able to drive into school with your teacher. I learned that lesson a few years back and I am sharing it here for the edification and education of younger and probably much NICER writers!

Meg Harper said...

Ah, Book Maven, I'm sure you're nice really!

Penny, all you say is so right! I always remind myself what demanding places schools are to work in full time if I start feeling the urge to not Be Nice! After all, I have flexibility, variety, loads of fun - don't make much money but there are other important things!

Yes, exactly, Adele! One just has to stop being sparkly sometimes or one face begins to crack and throb! But there is a wonderful librarian in the Reading area who I'm very happy to stay with - she doesn't expect sparkly all the time and has become a friend!

The agency is the Children's Discovery Centre and they're normally fine - this was a blip! We all have them sometimes so don't judge by this! And as regards the hectic schedule - well, I get bored easily so am OK with it - just about! I'll just check the lunch arrangements in future!

Andrew Strong said...

How well I know the pain of 24 hour grinning. And those biscuits Meg, they should have been Nice.

Yunaleska said...

I'm glad things worked out in the end. Yes, being Nice does make life a little easier. People are happier to help if you're Nice.