Work, rest and play

Now that we are actually in December, I can feel my inner Grinch starting to slowly thaw.  The students have a Christmas playlist ear-worming its way through the Common Room and I have reluctantly relinquished THE master key to the Sixth Form store cupboard so that they can unleash the box of tat they like to call ‘seasonal decorations’.

I worry about this snowflake generation, and sure enough, in the name of wellbeing 18 year olds are happy to graft through their study periods to cut up the entire contents of the paper recycling bin and make a festive window snow scene – they are ably assisted by some pinking shears gifted/borrowed/stolen from the Textiles Department (I will delete as appropriate when I next check my work email).

I can see that there will be no going back.  Am I the only sensible educationalist who can see that we still have work to do this term? Surely I can at least assist the school waist-line by banning Christmas food until the last week of term?

Apparently not.

Attending an after school meeting I find that Santa’s little helper has switched the regulation pack of Rich Tea biscuits for a pile of Mr Kipling’s mince pies.  I contain my swelling desire to publicise the calorie comparison with the aforementioned tea dunker and hope at least that the mince pies will be eaten in a traditional way.

Apparently they will not.

I gasp in horror as fellow teachers chomp their way through two or three seasonal pastries apiece; not a single one of them removes the lid of their mince pie to discover their predictive count of future sweet hearts.  Not wanting to be a party pooper, I  miserably take the last mince pie on the plate and prise the top off to discover the grand total of absolutely no currants (therefore no sweethearts) clinging on to the star shaped lid.  Not even a sultana.  I am distracted by the Deputy Head arriving late to the meeting with a back-up plate of mince pies.  “We’ll save these for AOB,’ he says, ‘I challenge anyone to eat three of these consecutively without licking their lips’.

Dodging this invitation to play, next morning I find myself walking through a Sixth Form study area.   I dutifully tidy up a pile of Miniature Hero chocolate wrappers and confiscate a take away coffee from a female student cramming for her January mocks.

‘It’s a no eating and drinking zone,’  I say, nodding to an array of food police posters on the wall (I can’t point because my hands are so full of contraband).  ‘You can collect it later from the office kitchen.’  The student starts to cry.  I am concerned that she looks a bit clammy, and a little bit hyper.  ‘It’s just a coffee’, I say in a conciliatory tone, ‘we can heat it up later in the microwave. Pop in at break.’  It’s not just a coffee, she replies, ‘It’s a black forest gingerbread latte with a caramel shot.’

Apparently this is a Christmas ‘thing’.

I carry the recyclable cup of seasonal gold to the kitchen and wonder how many miles you would have to run if you were addicted to these Crimble Coffees and yet didn’t want to match Santa’s waistline by the end of the holidays.  I call the CHOC line (Child Help Over Christmas) but end up in some voice mail jail listening to a loop of Abba’s ‘Happy New Year’.  At least this respite reminds me to get back to the Common Room and get the students to turn their music down.

I do a little homework (every day’s a school day, after all) and discover that Which are all over this Christmas Coffee story like a workshop full of elves.  Sit down reader – well, stand up if you are drinking one of these Christmas criminals because you will need to get your metabolism up. This is no time to rest.

My research reveals that Costa have one festive drink breaking the 600 calorie mark (that is at least six miles of running in Mama J’s life, but I have just bought a new pair of trainers as a seasonal gift to self, so may be biased;I should point out that other calorie burning activities are available).  This is the equivalent of three Mars bars and more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Who wants to drink their Mars bar?  Where is the Work, Rest and Play in that? I would prefer to eat my designated three Mars bars slowly.  If I am to go boom or bust in a sugar rush, let me at least sit on the sofa in front of ‘Love Actually’ and nibble the chocolate off my chilled Mars bar before peeling away its caramel in round two #howdoyoueatyour’s?

Weight up (couldn’t help myself), Starbucks are tipping the scales as the pantomime villain with their Signature Caramel Hot Chocolate – this has got three times my entire daily allowance of sugar and has menopausal food sweats written all over it.  I would trade it in for a Domino’s pizza any day.  My stomach will not be fooled by this twisted parody of a smoothie.

I had booked in for a post-school run;  a whole new world of Christmas Coffee research is blowing my mind, however and I sit scrolling through the web.  Since my post-childbirth days with Fat Fighters, sadly my only Christmas party trick has been to guesstimate  the Weight Watcher units in a Christmas Pudding or to identify bread sauce as a ‘sin’ food  – hence you will usually find me standing alone at any seasonal gathering (thank you Slimming World).  Now I realise I could have held centre stage with an impressive and theatrical  recitation of a Christmas Coffee Beverage menu: Eggnogg latte; toffee nut latte frappuccino or Millionaire Praline & Cream Expresso Double Shot – I’m frothing at the mouth just getting through the list so we could ditch the cappuccino machine altogether.  I feel a bit clammy and a little bit hyper; I will go to running club to burn off some energy.

Apparently I will not.

Two hours of festive research later and I realise that along with the Christmas playlist and decorative tat, my coffee grinch may just need to get over itself.  I find myself wondering if we can ride this tinsel-crested wave to the advantage of our school. I am distracted and desk bound and far too late for running.

If the students want to consume their own body weight in sugar and froth then at least we can offer them a self-serve drinks machine and cut down on their queues for a hot lunch. If I hold onto those pinking shears I may be able to cut out some snowflake stencils which the students can use to customise the foaming tops of their recyclable coffee cups.  If I speak to our Economics students they can suggest a profit margin which may fund some upmarket decorations for next Christmas.  If I speak to Terry, after the selfless support and consumer sampling I have given him over the years, he may just allow us to trademark our own Chocolate Orange Macchiato in school – imagine selling this in the interval at the forthcoming Christmas concert, surely the new drama studio will quickly pay for itself?

I will not make it to running club but I am fine with that. I am feeling a little rush of energy and a little spring in my step anyway; I find myself whistling ‘White Christmas’ and rifling through the tub of Celebrations on our receptionist’s desk.  I might just leave those running shoes in the box until January and gift myself some baggy trousers with an elastic waistband.

I am going to put the emphasis on rest and play through to the end of December and work on chilling out.  Apparently I am dethawing – comfortably and profitably – into a snowflake. Let it snow.




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