Off Track

train tracks

Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessing. And  once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”  

Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s been nearly three weeks since my last post. In that time there have been several legal challenges made against the Labour Party by erm, the Labour Party, the Conservatives have announced that they are planning to build more Grammar Schools (shock), Donald Trump continues to insult and abuse everyone he meets: from the parents of a dead soldier, to a crying baby and Nigel Farage has grown a moustache, one assumes in an attempt to look more statesman/German porn star-like. Lack of inspiration is not my excuse for not writing it is just, for once, I have been somewhat distracted by some more uplifting news: Tim and I got married last week. It was a beautiful day filled with the most incredible people. I won’t bore you with the lovely details – I’ll just leave a few of our photos here:

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I should just mention our wonderful photographers Neil and Lisa who are responsible for these beautiful pictures – not just because I know they read this blog!

Last week was also significant for a second reason. We finally activated what we refer to as: The Plan (capital T capital P.)
The Plan

Tim and I have made no secret that we were really struggling with the state of the education system. Earlier this year we both publicly resigned and we’ve documented our ongoing frustrations on our blogs. If I’m honest the decision to leave teaching has been made for a while. Our head teachers knew long before our public resignations and our friends and family long before that. In fact, the moment that exit poll flashed up on the screen on May 7th 2015 we knew it wasn’t a matter of IF we’d leave the profession, just a matter of when and, more importantly, how. Neither of us has ever done anything else; we’d both imagined we’d stay in teaching until we retired.

But handing in our resignations in January filled us with a sense of optimism and hope that we hadn’t felt for long time. We were young(ish), educated and free to choose the direction our life was going to take – we just had to decide what direction that was. It’s the sort of decision most people are faced with when they are 18 and fresh out of school or at 21 as a young graduate. At the age of 11 I knew with such certainty that I wanted to be teacher so I was never confronted with that crossroads. No difficult decisions or soul searching was required, just a few forms to complete to secure my place on the PGCE course. Now here I was at 29, resigning from a successful career that I had, until recently, enjoyed. It was as terrifying as it was exhilarating.

We had three big decisions to make: what our next jobs would be, where we were going to live and, even more importantly, where we were going to go on our honeymoon. What followed was months of discussions and several draft versions of “The Plan.” You name it, we considered it. From buying and renovating a windmill, to buying a plot of land and building an eco-friendly lodge complete with allotment and solar panels to retreating to a cottage in the Hebrides to write stories and make/sell/eat fudge. We researched every career we could possibly do next: from politics, to cheese making, writing, plumbing, developing a scheme that would help Primary school teachers teach politics even foreign currency trading.

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making (lesson) plans.”

All we knew for sure was we wanted to ensure that the next stage of our life had more of a work-life balance than that last. We’ve been good at the work bit but the life bit requires serious improvement. Two teachers/school leaders does not equal a lot of quality time together. It means evenings spent too exhausted to talk or hunched over data or books and weekends spent trying to catch up on sleep – and we haven’t even got children to factor in at this point. It’s not a sustainable model and it’s certainly not a happy one. We’ve both been in the education system since we were four years old. That’s 25 years of the day being structured into hourly lesson slots, set lunch hours, bells ringing to let us know when we can go to the toilet or have a hot drink. What I think we’re both craving more than anything is more autonomy and control over our time.

After much deliberation, discussion and number crunching, we decided we would kick start our married life with a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Inspired by Phileas Fogg Michael Palin we decided on a round-the-world trip – by train. Which is why I am writing to you from a café in Leningradsky station, Moscow, not from a sofa in Wood Green. We’ve spent the last two days on a sleeper train from London, because nothing says honeymoon like 48 hours confined to a small cabin with an old Russian lady and an unwashed student. Our plan from here, after a few days exploring St. Petersburg, is to take the Tran Siberian Express to Lake Baikal where we’ll hole up in a chalet before continuing to Mongolia to stay in a yurt with a Mongolian tribe and a few goats. Then it’s back on the train all the way to Beijing. After we’ve done London to China by train, it all gets a bit more honeymoon-like. We get on a plane to cross the ocean to Hawaii where we’ll kick back for three weeks before continuing on to San Francisco to do coast-to-coat America on, you guessed it, more trains. All being well, we’ll be back in the UK at the end of October to catch up with our loved ones, wash our clothes and repack in time for our move to Amsterdam in November.


Why Amsterdam? A few factors swung it: we needed to be somewhere accessible that meant we could still get back to London, somewhere we could get by with English whilst we learnt the language (Tim has multiple languages up his sleeve where as I have only a smattering of Italian phrases at my disposal which will only get you so far in Holland.) We ideally wanted somewhere politically left-leaning and we didn’t want to live somewhere that would mean relying on a car. So Amsterdam it is. We’ve got a place for 6 months and we haven’t decided the plan from then on. Tim’s got to be back in London for a short time because he’s starring in a one-man show about education – yes really – more on that another time.

So my posts for the next few weeks may be slightly more sporadic depending on whether I can get access to the internet. For the next few weeks I may even venture away (just slightly) from education and politics at times. That said, we arrive in Washington about three weeks before the Presidential Election so I’m sure I’ll have a word or 1,000 to say about that. The Labour Leadership Election takes place whilst we’re in Hawaii and, whilst it feels wrong to dwell on the dilemmas facing the Labour Party whilst sitting in a tropical paradise, I imagine it won’t be far from our thoughts; it has already dominated our conversation whilst travelling through Belarus yesterday.


If you’re interested you’ll find be able to follow our adventures and musings here. Normal service will resume in October  but, for now at least, The Girl on the Piccadilly Line is off track.



4 thoughts on “Off Track

  1. Well done both on the first leg? Is that how you spell leg? Anyway hope all is going well but also that some of the plan is flexible enough to enjoy the stuff that happens…( let’s hope it’s not s*** happens!) It would be great to follow the journey on the blog or maybe that will be the first book? Just wishing you both well and looking forward to hear more about Tim’s show! Fx


  2. Many Congratulations, on both your wedding and your eminently sensible plan. Travelling pre children – wish I’d thought of that 😉 . By the way, teaching outside the UK (I’m in Brussels) can still be really quite good fun, away from Ofsted etc………..



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