February 1, 1996

I was back in my home town of Colchester, at Colchester Institute, studying for my teaching diploma. These notes are taken from the diary I kept at the time.

Up at 5 a.m. after very vivid dreams in which I’m haunted by visions of my college tutors. Is there no escape? Spend the time I’ve gained from being startled awake on writing an assignment. As ever, I keep BBC Radio 4 on in the background – they cheerfully announce that January was the dullest since records began in 1909. Great. I’m tired, it’s cold and it’s dull (though to be fair, it does brighten up later). Assignment done, I go to get a haircut, then visit one of the tutors who’s haunting my sleep. I’ve passed my teaching practice, he tells me. Massive relief until I realize that I now have to plan the next one and finalize my project proposal. Briskly teach my two hours’ cover class at a nearby school (the extra money is very welcome). After college, I go with half a dozen other students to ‘The Hole in the Wall’ ( the nearest pub – built in a hole in the Roman Wall. The joys of living in Britain’s oldest recorded town). I treat myself to a swift tomato juice with way too much Worcester sauce, then make my excuses and leave as the assessment post-mortem begins. I can only take so much. To switch off, I head to the Odeon to watch ‘Heat’ – decide that as life mantras go: ‘Have nothing in your life you can’t walk out on in 30 seconds flat when you spot the heat around the corner’ is pretty cool. Fixate on the Pacific-view villa used as a location in the film – it’s stunning. My two hours of escapism done, I catch the bus back to my railway-view house – it’s dark. There appears to be a large black bin bag on the doorstep. Luckily, I carry a torch as there are no street lights. In the flashlight, the large black bin bag turns out to be a former colleague who has found out where I live and wants to bitch about work while fishing for it. Get rid of him sharpish as I’m unlocking the front door, though he continues to lurk, Hammer-horror style, outside for a while. Cook, eat, bath, write, then to bed – after checking the street view. All the shadows have now joined forces and there’s a blanket of darkness in the sky and on the ground. Good night.

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