When I agreed to tutor a week's course at Oxford University's Summer School, I worried about many things. Would I find enough to talk about for twelve seminars? What can you say about writing historical fiction? Would the other tutors be intimidating? As the day drew closer, however, I began to worry about catching a bus at 8.30 each morning. Would I oversleep? The thing that got to me most was the idea of having to catch a bus every morning. I went and bought a bus pass from the Travel Centre in Debenhams and felt as excited and apprehensive as I did when I first went to senior school. Then Saturday finally arrived and this was it: back to work.
Well. . . it's like a holiday! The weather helps, of course, and going into the city on Saturday and Sunday was quiet and joyful. For a start, there are shops. Recognising an old thought pattern, that a worker deserves treats, I limited my sudden rush of desires to an artisan's loaf to take home later. Then there is Wellington Square, with its heavy scent of limes, and people sitting in the dappled shade as if waiting for a French Impressionist to come along. Having a day timetabled with commitments means there are breaks. Breaks! Breaks for coffee (made by someone else) and lunch (made by someone else), even dinner should I want it. Good generous breaks which, for a writer, means time to get your notebook out and have a scribble. I don't get any of that at home!
Looking back on my years of full time work, I realise they were quite productive. The bulk of the trilogy got written then. When you are at work, you're not at home making a mess and creating piles of washing up. You come home, leave work behind and enjoy leisure time.
Would I want to go back to work full time, though? It's tempting but no, probably not. It wouldn't be long before I was fretting and feeling imprisoned, before I was visiting those shops for workers' treats, before I was missing the bus and taking sickies.
I just need to learn from the experience and timetable my days a bit better. One thing I'll never find at home, however, is the stimulation of varied company. That, in the end, has been the best part of the experience of having a day job this week. Far from being intimidating, the other tutors have given me the best conversations I've had in years.