As some bloke once said, I have a dream. The dream isn’t about all mankind walking hand in hand, or peace in the Middle East, or anything like that, although those things would definitely be nice. My dream is of a more prosaic nature. My dream is that, one day, Curly will train to be a teacher.

If I close my eyes, I can see it all so clearly… It’s the summer holidays, 2020. We have packed the kids off to some kind of boot camp, and Curly and I are on a walking holiday in Tuscany. The sun is shining, the wild flowers are blooming. We are staying in one of those places where twinkly-eyed Italian farmers grow delicious food and their wives feed it to you. We are, in other words, fully-fledged members of the professional middle classes at leisure.

I can almost feel the sun on my neck, the chilled Chianti as it slips down my throat… God, it feels good. It feels like finally, after all the fretting and squabbling and messing about, order has been restored to the universe.

Before any of you killjoys out there write in to tell me that actually teaching is incredibly hard work, extremely stressful and underpaid, that you would never be able to afford such an expensive holiday, and that even if you could it would not even begin to compensate for the hell that is term time… please don’t. I don’t want to know. This is not about reality. This is about me clinging desperately to the belief that there is an ideal and vaguely realistic solution to our perennial broke-ness and general failure to achieve the standard of living that I, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, still feel that we deserve.

Naturally, I have alerted Curly to the benefits of the teaching plan.  

“Just think of the holidays!” I say, every couple of days or so. “And the salary! And the fact that you would be making such a huge contribution to the wellbeing of the younger generation!”     

“But… I’d have to be a teacher,” Curly points out, demonstrating an annoyingly eagle-eyed attention to detail. He hated school, and has no desire to ever go back there. He has proposed an alternative plan: we sell our flat, move out of London, and he gets a job in Greggs. That plan has been vetoed. So persistent is my nagging that eventually he cracks and looks up teacher training online.

I hover around, reading over his shoulder.

“You see? You could do it. You’re perfectly qualified. You’ve got a degree, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” says Curly, glumly.

“And experience working with young people?”

“I suppose so.”

“There you go. And obviously the GSCEs in English, maths and science aren’t going to be a problem…”

“Actually,” Curly visibly brightens. “They are going to be a problem.”


“I’ve got English, but I haven’t got maths or science.”

“Let me just get this straight,” I say, swallowing hard. “You haven’t got GSCE maths?”

“Nope!” Curly beams, triumphantly. “Unless you count a grade U.”

“I DO NOT COUNT A GRADE U!” I cry, and sink my head into my hands. Gaudy tatters of the dream billow around in my mind. Ruined. No sun, no Chianti; chilly, cramped summers in an Essex caravan site stretch ahead of me like a punishment for I-know-not-what. 

I scrape myself off the desk, grab the keyboard and type in “GSCE distance learning courses.” The dream may be dying, but it’s not dead yet. It’s. Not. Dead. Yet.

AuthorAlice O'Keeffe