Thursday, 22 November 2018

There And Back Again

That phrase is Tolkein's subtitle for The Hobbit. It is also a succinct description of the Travels Of The Supply Teacher. My current job is daily, every morning till Christmas. That is predictable, and manageable. It does mean I work every Tuesday morning [Bob's day off] but we still manage to get part of the day to relax together. I cannot say anything about what I am doing, because I have just one pupil and confidentiality must be maintained. The work is enjoyable, but challenging. We are together from 9-11am.
However, I can tell you about my daily commute. It is horrible!!
I am working in a school about 7.5 miles away in Poole. My Satnav cheerfully predicted a route, and declared it to be 24 minutes. Now I am aware, after almost 4 years here, that to get into Poole or Bournemouth in the morning means negotiating heavy traffic. There is nobody else available to look after my pupil if I am not there on time, and the person who brings the child to school cannot stop. So I need to get there in good time.
Day One - I left at 7.45 - and arrived at 8.35. Almost an hour in heavy traffic, much of it stationary. And an incredibly busy but boring route.
Day Two - 7.30-8.25 - not really much better. Day Three - similar. However, if I take the same route in the reverse direction at 11 am, I am always home before 11.30. 
I checked the SatNav again - it offered a second route. This was further - 9.5 miles, but again allegedly 24 minutes. It was via the dreaded Canford Bottom Roundabout. This traffic fiasco is as grim as it sounds. 
Built for the 2012 Olympics, to enable sportspersons and fans to get from the main stadium in London to the Watersports events in Weymouth, through the bottleneck that is the A31.
It has 14 lanes onto the roundabout, 9 off it, and seventy traffic lights. It was nicknamed The Hamburger because seen from the air it looks like a Big Mac! Many confused drivers panic like scared rabbits  - and there are constant bumps and shunts and generally long queues at every entry point.
Yet again I was spending between 45 and 60 minutes on my journey, but the route was much prettier, past fields covered in morning mists and alongside the woods in Merley and Canford. I could watch the trees changing through their autumnal colours as I bypassed Wimborne.
Then I had a conversation with one of the staff in the school office. She used to live in Ferndown [two streets from me] and she kindly suggested a middle route. This has proved the best of all- - approximately 8.5 miles, passing the beautiful Arrowsmith Coppice.
This route is the best of all. I cannot avoid the initial 2 mile crawl from my house - but after that, the route is steady and traffic is manageable. And the colours are lovely!
My best time thus far has been 28 minutes, and worst 40. At one point, we descend Gravel Hill, and pass the prestigious Poole Grammar School. Here the BMWs, Mercs and Volvos pull into the layby to disgorge the strapping young lads who attend this august academy [as yet I have not seen any boys on bicycles!**] Then on to the edges of Poole, across another couple of roundabouts and I am there at my destination. An ordinary junior school. 
This is the route I am sticking to now. I dare not leave any later in case I do not get to school on time - but as I have to have everything prepared before I set out, there is nothing pupil-related to do on arrival. I cannot waste time just waiting- so I have started a 'two-bag' system. One bag contains all my school stuff, the other has 'odd jobs'. So I have written letters, sewn up knitted angels, prepared labels for play costume coathangers, prepared lists and written draft documents for editing later. 
The motto of PGS is finis opus coronat - "the end crowns the work - the goal gives value to the labour that produced it"
I don't know whether to apply this tag to all the odd jobs which are getting done between 8 and 9am, or to the progress I am making with my pupil between 9 and 11am.
I don't pretend to enjoy getting up so early every morning, but I am beginning to get into a routine. As I drive I listen to Chris Evans on Radio 2. Radio 4 and the interminable Brexit/Trump/politics discussions do not put me in a good frame of mind - and Classic FM is so very soporific, I am afraid I shall doze off.
Do you commute? is it always the same route? Does it take long?
And how do you travel - car, bike, public transport, or walk?
**Jon has suggested if it is only 8 miles, I might consider cycling to school myself. I argued that [a] it would take me 40 minutes pedalling and 20 minutes recovery time and the return trip is mostly uphill [b] some of the roads are not very cyclist friendly [c] I have to transport all my teaching materials each day [d] it is cold and wet and I am a wimp.


  1. That roundabout looks horrific - you wouldn't want to be doing it on a bike!
    Good luck with the rest of term driving - not many weeks left

  2. You're not a wimp; I wouldn't want to do that commute esp in Winter when it comes. It IS annoying when interminable traffic renders a journey significantly longer than it should be.
    My commute in theory is 0.9miles to the station-with bike it takes about 7mins, walking is about double. Then I get the first train which is 27mins, then there is around 6mins between trains (if not delayed or my train comes late. Both have happened this week). The second train takes 20mins then I have 0.5miles walk (10mins) or cycle (5mins) at the other end. On the way home, it is always longer but I would say it is about 1hour15mins-1hour20 , depending on walk/cycle. It IS long and I confess, rather tiresome at times.

  3. Stay in the cycling! It does sound a horrid journey. I suppose I was fortunate when I was teaching in that my school was the local village school, three miles from home.

  4. Funny, someone just mentioned that horrible roundabout (we got a new "super" roundabout in our nearest town, and it's like 4 lanes to it and 4 lanes out of it... and people are already confused with that..!) and it's one of the options I would never voluntarily drive.
    I have been commuting all my working life, worst was possible the one I had to take train (after i had cycled 12km to the station)and subway, I woke up at 4.20 am and got home around 6pm. Don't remember much of that year.
    Much better was when I drove 99,5km along a motorway+smaller roads, in summertime it took less than an hour! But we did have a carpool with 5 people, so there was mornings I was able to sleep most of the trip.
    I have cycled 16km and 14km, but the last 20 years I have been driving 12km with really light traffic, it take less than 20 minutes and sometimes even that drives me nuts... I have no idea how could I survive with real commuting and heavy traffic.

  5. I feel for you - the commute sounds awful. I also can't stand doing nothing so I carry around books or magazines etc to fill in spare moments; Cheers

  6. Your morning commute traffic sounds just as bad as our morning commute traffic, here! I'm glad you found a better, alternate route. We used to have roundabouts in Sri Lanka - a legacy of the British, I believe. Over here, I haven't seen any roundabouts, at all.


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