Songs of struggle and damage

The word that sometimes came to mind, back then, was ‘burnout’. And yeah, that’s how it looked (to me too)… but actually it wasn’t even the issue any more. Burnout’s just a word, it doesn’t really mean anything. I guess people ‘burn out’ – but they don’t, really. It isn’t the right word to use… they ‘make songs of struggle and damage.’


Thursday  11th June, 2009:

I haven’t cooked dinner even once this week. Like I said, I’ve got past trying. But today I buy milk, and baked beans: the first glimmering of supplies in a long time. It’s as if I have a little more desire to behave with relative calm. I think yesterday was the point when I decided to just let it run, and now that feeling of panic has been taken out of the mix. It’s gonna run, it’s gonna run – and I’m gonna stop trying to control it.

I need to see what happens when I give up my control, my totting and tallying, my ticking things off. I’m letting them all just float away while I watch them leave… and once again that feeling of sangfroid: where it takes me, who knows?


Friday 12th June:

Today at school the whole network goes down: the database, and the server, internal email, all the printers, copiers; everything. Nobody has access to anything. So I improvise and just let it run, same way as at home. I have no panic left in me, and it means I can handle it when things don’t go as intended.

There’s a ‘guest’ in my year 10 class as well – Noa. I say to the kids, “He’s making a special guest appearance today.” He’s been kicked out of his own class for (as he puts it) ‘rapping and tagging’. He behaves impeccably with me, of course. Noa, who I’ve never taught apart from in Project – he really doesn’t know me that well, but for some reason he’s right on the money with me, and  handles it perfectly when he needs somewhere to go: doesn’t give me pressure, doesn’t presume, and doesn’t play up.


Monday 15th June:

Rain falling hard outside. But I’m warm, and not unhappy.

Sometimes if I just let go even a little bit, I can see patterns to what’s happening. If I stop trying to hold things together, something else takes shape; it makes a bit more sense.


11 Social this afternoon. Dimario and Jack are both away, but Alexander’s there and he really tries from start to finish –  I’m amazed by his persistence. He doesn’t do a single piece of artwork, just writes and writes, and every now and then he just says, “Miss?” and I come over, no matter what I’m doing at the time. I really do like Alexander, with his extraordinary, swirly eyes, which are murky and then go quite clear when he focuses in on you.

I’m so surprised by his work rate today that I quickly print off the notes he’s missed during the first half hour (he comes late, as usual).


The whole class are good today; there’s an air of calm and confidence in the room – fortuitously for my reputation, for at one point when I look over, there’s Nio, who has slipped in and sat down by Alexander.

“When did you arrive?” I ask him.

“Ages ago,” says Nio, with an expression of complete trust in the warmth of his reception. He turns his attention then to Alexander’s book, saying, “What are you doing?”

Alexander flicks through to show his work to Nio, who is impressed and remarks admiringly, “All those pages!”

A week ago it would have been different: Alexander bombing for the greater part of last Monday’s lesson. But Nio arrives today to a class in the zone, they sense liberation – theirs and mine. Three more weeks of geography, and I feel like we’re on the home stretch, finally I’m finding my legs – today I feel not blank at all. I can talk for ages about Civil Defense emergencies and restoring essential services; and write paragraph starters with ease.


When Nio leaves my class, a few minutes before the end of the day, he leaps over the desk and away, nearly kicking Jamal’s eye on the way out.

Jamal stares after Nio in disbelief, saying, “That was so close!”

I say, “Do you think Nio would have stopped to offer first aid if he’d kicked you?”

“No,” says Jamal, and Alexander smiles at the thought.

Oh Nio… for some reason he just delights me.


But school’s so senseless sometimes. The utter stupidness of it gets me very tired. Just having to function there like a spy in the camp – which is what I am, to be quite honest – and oh, of course there are days when I have to ‘oppose’ the kids too, cos that’s just the way it is. To get by, sometimes that’s what I have to do. Because it can’t be chaos, there has to be some kind of order, to be able to do the job – which is not the same thing as my job.

My job – what the fuck’s that all about, I don’t even know. But I have to keep things running. Cos if I don’t, I’ll have no hope of success, and then, what does ‘success’ mean to me? Success, it’s just… giving Nio a place to go; letting Tau know I care about him; it’s Alexander walking over to get my felts; Dimario ‘signing’ his poster: the smallest moments of solidarity, the smallest. Do they count for anything?

I don’t know – but I’ve noticed that ever since Dimario signed the poster with their tags, Nio refers to them freely in front of me: “Here’s SIRC, Miss, here’s Alexander.” This did at first surprise the others – even Nio was surprised the other day to think I knew just ‘who’ they were. Now they almost seem to take it for granted.



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