My months in Oman

In October 2019 I visited Oman to tutor a student privately in the family home. I stayed there until March 2020 with a short trip back to the UK in February.

Oman was oppressively hot even in the middle of October when I arrived. Daytime temperatures were typically in the mid to high thirties and it was very humid indeed.

The lad I was teaching was seventeen years old and in the final year of high school. He was not doing well and struggling in all subjects. I supported him in mathematics, English, Biology and Physics. The examinations are in two parts in the final year. They are held in January and July. However due to covid, the dates of the first examination session were postponed, often less than 24 hours before the exams were due to be taken. There was a lot of assessed work too.

He passed all his examinations in January and the examination session in June was cancelled due to the pandemic. I had disagreements with the father because he seemed unwilling to accept that his son had learning difficulties. I tried to make him have more realistic expectations but it was a struggle.

The boy had no interests apart from watching Youtube and had no understanding of the world so it was a challenge.

I emigrated to New Zealand

A few years ago, after a holiday in New Zealand, I fell in love with the country and really wanted to move there. I researched the options for emigrating as a qualified teacher and decided to go for it. It was a slow and expensive process. I had to get all my home qualifications certified in New Zealand, get letters from every school I had ever worked in to confirm my employment and get an expensive medical examination. I went through an agency. They offered some different schools and I decided on one in Auckland. It seemed like a decent school. I had a Skype interview for the job.

Time passed and I must have spent in the region of £2000 on visa fees and other fees. Finally my visa came through. I was quite anxious about starting in a new country even though I have worked overseas a lot in the past. There was also the added worry that my stepfather was elderly and had dementia. I had really wanted my son (who was 20 at the time) to join me but he did not seem interested. He was on a working holiday visa in New Zealand at the time and had decided to do the same in Australia. So I was on my own.

My new school in Auckland. I started in July 2018.
On the way south in 2017

Furthermore I had not taught in schools for some years. I had instead been private tutoring and I was not prepared for the behaviour I would encounter.

I decided to have a bit of a holiday in NZ before starting work. I arrived in country about 5 weeks before the start of the new term. I met the staff as it was the end of term and they were still in school. I met one of the teachers whose year 9 class I would be taking over as she was going on maternity leave. She proceeded to tell me how I would not be able to cope with the kids in her class and went through a list of all their problems. It was all very off-putting.

I had a lovely holiday and drove all the way down to Wanaka on the South Island, stopping at Fox Glacier to see friends..

I was renting an Airbnb in Auckland while I began to seek out a place to live. I was depressed by the cost of some of the accommodation and what I could afford was very pokey indeed. The school was in Henderson, a deprived area of Auckland. In fact all I read in the local newspaper was about the high levels of crime and gang violence.

I had been taking antidepressants for many years. But I had decided to make a clean break and stop taking them. I had not realised how difficult this would be. I had also not declared this to the school (that I was on antidepressants). So sue me.

The new term was approaching and I was about to start my new job. I felt strangely detached and yet at the same time quite anxious. The staff in my department (science) were lovely and very supportive. But as I took on each of my new classes, I was concerned at the low standards and very poor behaviour. Sone kids in my year 9 class constantly tapped on the metal legs of their desks and that was when they weren’t shouting unprintable obscenities at each other. I felt that I was losing control and by the second week this was happening in two of my classes. I had to ask for help from the year 9 pastoral head. By the end of Tuesday of the second week I ended the day so depressed that I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I was mostly concerned at the reaction of other teachers as I could only see things getting worse with these classes. I was on my own in the country so I had no-one outside of the school to talk to.

I went home that day feeling empty and just knew that I couldn’t cope at this school. That evening I stayed up late thinking about the predicament I was in. I booked myself onto a flight at 8am the following morning and went half way round the world to get home again. At the airport, I had to dump a lot of my possessions as I was over my weight allowance. In the bin went my tent, sleeping bag and a load of my clothes.

I had even shipped all my worldly possessions out to New Zealand at great expense.

Once I was about to board my flight I emailed the school to tell them the truth. I was so ashamed.

The whole experience cost me the best part of £10 000. I decided to leave so abruptly because I thought that they would try to persuade me to stay otherwise.

A beach view
View from a still lake towards Mount Cook.
My son Paddy in 2017

I had to return later that year to collect my possessions which had followed me to New Zealand. I could not afford to ship everything back so when I returned, I sold most of my possessions (bookcases, books, a bed, mattresses, a whole load of kitchen appliances, furniture, lamps, my TV, a full-sized desk, you name it.) I gave away my entire CD collection and more to charity shops. I even threw away my entire collection of exercise books from my school days. I shipped a fraction of what I had sent back home. Then much of what I shipped home got pilfered by the shipping company.

It took me two years to get up the courage to write to my former head of department to apologise. She said that they had been worried about me.

It was a learning experience for me and a very tough one. Not only was it a big financial hit for me, but I had failed. I was very embarrassed about the whole thing. No more teaching in schools for me.

On my return, I stayed in a friend’s static caravan in Folkestone while I got my private tuition business up and running again.

Physics and me

I was always interested in science growing up in the 70s. This was the era of space flight. I was too young to remember the moon landings but I must have watched them with my mother and two older brothers. I used to drive my mother crazy by doing experiments on mouldy bread. The colours of the different species of mould fascinated me. I also grew bacterial cultures in water and looked at them under my microscope. My interests also pointed heavenwards as I was given a pair of binoculars by my step-father. I was always looking at the stars and knew the names of the planets from an early age,

I used to ask my older brothers about what they were learning at school. It always seemed that we never did anything interesting at my primary school in Burgess Hill, a rapidly growing town in mid-Sussex. I really think that the teachers were very mediocre. For example, I never remember doing any experiments or learning much science. I was ahead on the maths programme so I was given a more advanced book to work through to keep me occupied. But I was bored at school where we seemed to always work at the pace of the slowest learner.

I remember receiving a big book from my father and step-mother on science for Christmas in 1978. It had one page which described the scale of the atom by describing the nucleus as a doorbell. The town was the atom. Things like that grabbed my attention.

When I was twelve and began at Lewes Grammar School, we had a pretty useless physics teacher so I was quite disappointed that he did not make the effort to explain anything to us. He just sat behind his desk and expected us to do worksheets. He hardly wrote anything on the board and was pretty lazy really. But these uninspiring lessons did not dampen my interest in science or physics. I did well in tests and exams despite the hopeless physics teaching. However, at the end of the third year, I only achieved 59% in the end of year test so I was not allowed to go into the top set physics class for my O-level.

I had a very intuitive understanding of how things worked so even though the teaching in most subjects was inadequate, I managed to do well and get an A-grade in my physics O-level. I was the only one in my class to do so. This was in 1983. I chose mathematics, physics and chemistry as my A-levels.

I breezed through my maths and physics A-levels. Chemistry was a different matter. We had a young ex-Rhodesian teacher who taught us this subject and she was not very good and was unable to get ideas across. I remember long tedious triple lessons on a Wednesday afternoon where she talked for two hours non-stop. They were very painful. My friend and I found ways to amuse ourselves by imitating her accent. We were so rude. We used to mimic her voice saying “2-4-dinitrophenyl hydrazine” and squirt ethanol through the Bunsen burners when she left the classroom to alleviate the chronic boredom. She mentioned it to my mother at parents’ evening and my mother was mortified.

There were two of us in my A-level year who were very good at physics. In 1984, I attended a three day summer school at the University of Sussex and it interested me in taking the subject at university. In the end though, I was offered BCD grades at A-level as entrance requirements for Warwick University I think because I must have been so nervous in the interview. I was deeply concerned that I would not achieve the D in Chemistry. I was struggling and failing to do much of the homework because I did not understand it. For the first time at this school in my experience, there were no consequences when I did not do it. I don’t know how, but I pulled a B out of the bag in chemistry. Mathematics and physics were no problem – I achieved A’s in both of these. These were in the days before grade inflation and the ridiculous A* and A^ grades offered at A-level now.

In 1984, I had applied to go to Oxford University. I had been called to interview at Magdalen College but I was so out of my element that it was clear to anyone with any sense that I would not be offered a place. I was chronically shy and handicapped by a severe stutter. I had been attending weekly free physics tutorials given by the husband of my physics teacher. He was a researcher at the University of Sussex. Those lessons were attended by me and my good friend Richard. I recall understanding very little indeed as Peter Dawber went through question after question from the sets of past papers published by Oxford for their entrance exams. They were beyond anything that I could cope with.

When I failed to get a place, I was so disappointed that I threw all the revision material that I had purchased in the bin. I was in a depression for a long time after that. It made me realise how little I knew.

I was offered a place at Warwick University to study physics and started in 1985. Warwick is one of the new ‘red brick’ universities built in the 60s to accommodate the growing number of students resulting from the population boom. It was built just outside Coventry, an unattractive city in the West Midlands that was heavily bombed during the war. I used to comment that perhaps the Germans should come back and finish the job. In the first year, I was staying on campus. I had been looking forward to starting university, but it had not turned out as I had hoped and I was not feeling happy.

I found that I was struggling to understand much of what was going on, especially in mathematics. A long lecture course was presented in the first term of the first year on electronics of which I understood almost nothing. I also performed poorly in the weekly laboratory sessions which were marked by physics PhD students. They were exceptionally unhelpful and I began to see my dream drift away from me. I was like a fish out of water and anyway, I was depressed and socially inept. I did not know how to make friends and was very lonely and missed home. I did make one friend soon after I started and we used to keep ourself amused and cheer ourselves up in the face of dire teaching by memorising and reciting catch-phrases that lecturers used to come up with such as “but does a real device behave like that” and “pi-be-two”.

Somehow, I got a high 2-1 in the first year exams. But my weakness in mathematics at university level was making coping with the work very difficult. There were weekly questions posted which we were supposed to tackle. I never did these and neither did most of my colleagues. However nothing was done about this. We had a weekly tutorial with a PhD student in the first year and also a weekly tutorial with our personal tutor whom I and a friend mockingly called our impersonal tutor since he was so distant. It was sink or swim.

I left Warwick University with a 2-1 Honours in Physics but felt that I had not deserved it. In our year, there was only one first and one upper second (me). All the others received lower second class or third class degrees. I had seen my dream of a career in physics drift away. I did not want to become a teacher or go into a technical or applied physics field. I did not have the interpersonal skills anyway.

I ended up getting a job as a “systems analyst programmer” at IMI Computing in Maidenhead, programming in COBOL, and hated it. I disliked programming and was not good at it. However, after about a year, I had an idea to call up my former personal tutor, a Professor Malcolm Cooper. My luck was in because a student from my physics class at Warwick had started a PhD a year previously but for personal reasons had had to drop out. I was offered a PhD studentship. It was that easy.

Professor Cooper worked in the field of Compton Scattering and was an expert in the field. His team used intense x-rays from an electron synchrotron to probe the electrons around atoms and find out about bonding. In this way, his team offered confirmation to theoretical models.

My first task was to build a device that could concentrate and intensify the available x-ray source to provide quicker data collection rates. It was called a focussing x-ray monochromator. I was seconded to the engineering department to cut slices from a large single crystal of silicon and attempt to machine it into a shape like protruding teeth attached to a base that can be bent into an arc. This would focus a broader beam of x-rays into a much more intense one.

I had no experience of machining silicon, which is naturally brittle anyway, and as soon as it was bent, it broke into several pieces. So that idea was going nowhere.

At the beginning of my second year, an opportunity arose to work with a researcher at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory’s Neutron Spallation Source called ISIS. RAL is based about 18 miles south of Oxford. The research being done was to develop a similar experimental technique that would work with neutrons instead of electrons. As neutrons interact strongly with the nucleus and not the electron shell, this would provide a way to measure the distributions of velocities of nuclei in a sample and hence be able to test models of bonding.

I began my secondment to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in 1990 and worked under Dr Jerry Mayers. The facility uses a proton synchrotron to fire protons at a metal target. This strips neutrons from the target in a process called spallation.

The instrument was called eVS, standing for electron-volt spectrometer. The neutron beam came in at one end, scattered from the sample in a large evacuated chamber, and the scattered beam was picked up by detectors arranged around the outside. The machine operated in what is called time-of-flight. Neutrons, having mass, have an energy which depends on their speed therefore by measuring the total time of flight of a neutron from arrival, scattering and to detection allows the energy transfer to be determined. The clever bit was how individual neutrons could be picked out. Metal foils were placed around the outside of the sample chamber just before the detectors. These were either gold or uranium foils which absorb neutrons strongly at so-called resonances. By taking the difference between a ‘foil in’ and a ‘foil out’ run, the difference gave those neutrons arriving with a specific energy. As the neutrons arrive in a pulse, the arrival time is known precisely so energy transfer can be calculated.

The computing side was complex for me and I relied on Jerry Mayers to do most of this though he was disappointed that I could not take this on. By 1993, I had sufficient data to write up my thesis on the development of eVS as a valuable experimental technique in condensed matter physics. However, I battled with the computing and data analysis side and it showed. I feel that I was lucky to be awarded my PhD. During my viva, I was questioned at length about who did most of the data analysis. I found these questions very stressful.

I remained seconded to RAL as a postdoc until the end of 1996. I lacked motivation and had personal problems which got in the way of my work. Because I found it so hard, I felt that I was not highly regarded by colleagues. So it was in 1995 that I was recruited by Voluntary Service Overseas to teach mathematics and physics in Zimbabwe.

Sponsoring Nhlanhla

In 2005, I was living and working in Swaziland. The boys from the neighbourhood used to tout for business cleaning cars at the school where I worked and so forth and it was this way that I met Thabo. I’m not using his real name because there is a lot of jealousy towards people who manage to advance themselves in Swaziland. At that time, he was fourteen years old and his family had not been able to afford his school fees. Consequently, he had been out of school for a year. I offered to meet his mother and discuss the possibility of paying for his school fees where he was already enrolled for the new school year due to start in September. So it was that he started form 1 at Mbabane Central High School that year. He progressed very well and was a keen student. He completed five forms and left school in 2010.


In 2011, he enrolled at the University of Swaziland to study for a business management and accounting degree. I pay for his accommodation and a living allowance. He is now in the final year of his studies. Most likely, he will continue in education for a year to study for a post-graduate qualification in education so that he will be able to get a job as a teacher if he cannot find a job in business.

Having sponsored him for over nine years, I have seen him grow in confidence and expand his horizons. He keeps in contact with me and is good friends with my son. He also helps my son keep in touch with his roots in Swaziland. My hope is that he will be able to start a business one day. I have probably spent in the region of £5000 so far in supporting him and if he leaves with a University degree and gets a job, it will be worth it. Hopefully, I will have contributed in some way to the development of the country.

Update January 2019

Nhlanhla at his graduation ceremony, 2015

In 2015, he graduated from university with a bachelor of commerce degree. He then got a job with Swazi Railways in May 2016, being one of only three selected for interview. He has recently been promoted.

British International School Bratislava


In 2007, I began teaching mathematics and physics at this school in Bratislava. My son Paddy began attending in year 4 although he was ten years old. He had missed out on many years of education in Swaziland and could not read or write. He had probably only had a year of schooling. I was impressed that the school had been prepared to take him on. We lived a short walk away from the school in the northern suburb of Dubravka.

The school was staffed by a mixture of British and Slovak teachers. It was increasing in popularity and had a new principal. I taught mostly mathematics. The physics I taught was to the 11-14 age group. I taught HL mathematics for the IB Diploma too. The salary was excellent. The students were from many different countries. One of the biggest groups was the Koreans. The parents worked for Kia cars or one of the other Korean manufacturers that had relocated to Slovakia. I taught children from the UK, France, Germany, Slovakia, Russia, Serbia, Spain, China, the United States, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, amongst others. I like to think that I made the lessons entertaining. I liked to try different learning styles and avoided formal lesson planning like the plague.

I loved teaching physics to the young ones. They were very interested in science practicals and we had a lot of fun. I designed a website for Key Stage 3 Physics. We built electric motors and we had great success designing model houses to see who could make the design that kept the heat in the most. I never enjoyed teaching as much as I did at this school.

Paddy and grandparents in Bratislava

In 2008, I bought a house over the border in Hungary. The idea was to save money on rent and buy an affordable home in the countryside. It was a 45 minute drive to work in the morning and really not at all bad. The house was in the sleepy village of Halászi. In 2008, the border controls came down and Hungary joined the Schengen area though it seemed that the Slovak police took about a year to realise this. I lost track of the number of times we were stopped crossing the border. For a while, we took an alternative but parallel route back home because of this hassle at the border crossing. Another reason for moving to Hungary was the overt racism that my son had received in Bratislava on numerous occasions. One on a crowded tram, a young man began making a monkey impression at my son. It was clearly directed at him. I did not react because when I get angry, I can lose control. I don’t like to do this. On another occasion in 2008, we were in a small supermarket called Billa in Dubravka and I could tell that my son was upset. I urged him to tell me what had happened and he did not want to tell me. In the end, he told me that a woman had pushed him out of the way. He pointed her out to me and I let her have it. Then there were the looks that people gave us. You may say that it’s just a look but I called it ‘the look of disgust.’ People stared. It was just rude. Paddy liked to ride his bike and I would not allow him to ride ahead of me in the park because I was concerned about his safety. He had been called ‘nigger’ by some youths in a park once, with me within earshot. Of course, unless we were walking close together, people assumed that we did not know each other. We were required to go to the ‘foreign police’ once a year to have our resident permit renewed. When I went the first time, the policeman at the desk looked at my son and asked if he had a passport. I felt like saying ‘No, I smuggled him into the country in a suitcase.’ I never experienced problems like this in my three years living in a village in Hungary.

The school knew of the difficulties I had but chose to ignore them and offered no support to me. When you are constantly faced with these difficulties, it has a detrimental effect on your psyche. When my son Paddy got into trouble. the school was not interested in taking into account the difficult background he had. They made no exceptions for him. They were just concerned about how the other parents might react.

I don’t want you to think that we had a bad time in Slovakia. The school was a very safe place and great for my son to grow up with. There were many lovely Slovak staff there who really went out of their way to help.

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Memories of Lewes Old Grammar School from 1979 to 1985


The headmaster at Lewes Grammar at the time was Roy Mead. He was a very authoritarian figure and ran the school how he saw fit. It was a small school and still is. There were only two forms per year with each form taking about 14 boys. It had a junior department on the other side of town and a girls’ school just a few doors down on the High Street. There had been a boys’ grammar school on this site since 1714. The school was founded in 1512 at Southover near Lewes. Lewes is the county town of East Sussex and is surrounded by the South Downs, the chalky hills that run parallel to the south coast.

I joined in the summer term of 1979 aged 12 years old. I was very shy and didn’t make friends easily. I was collected with about twelve other boys in a minibus driven by one of the teachers. I was so shy that at first, I waited in my mother’s canary yellow Ford Escort Estate for the minibus to arrive at my pick-up point near St. Johns Park a short walk from home. I’d had an extended Easter holiday because I had left my father’s house at the end of March where I had been living with my two brothers. I returned to live with my mother and stepfather of my own volition because I was being emotionally abused at my father’s house. The first day at my new school was on 8th May, being the day before Margaret Thatcher’s new parliament assembled for the first time. I had not spent much time with my mother in the preceding twelve months and I was upset and homesick for the first week or so. I fought back tears each morning before lessons started.

Continue reading “Memories of Lewes Old Grammar School from 1979 to 1985”

Teaching in Denmark

This is my son Patrick in Sønderborg‎, Southern Denmark, taken in October 2011.

I taught at a college in this small provincial town in Southern Denmark for just over a year. It was called EUC Syd. I found the transition from working in Slovakia (where I had lived previously) to cold and wet Denmark difficult. Part of the reason was the high cost of living and my reduced income. The other factor was getting used to the Danish rules and the culture of expecting foreign workers to find out important facts by osmosis. The attitude was one of unhelpfulness. I found this very frustrating. The language barrier was also another factor and the high tax regime.

EUC Syd  would fall broadly under the category ‘community college’ in the UK. It is mostly for vocational students but also has a technical high school. There was being set up an IB department (International Baccalaureate) here but there were certain people in the school who seemed hostile to the idea that they should cooperate with the setting up of this school within a school. This caused a lot of difficulties.


The academic coordinator was a Czech man who had lived for thirty years in Denmark. He had recruited me and had been very optimistic about the opportunities the new department would afford. However the first cohort of students was too small. We only had eleven students to begin with and I had had no hand in recruiting them. They were mostly unmotivated, lazy and bored by the whole concept of education. I don’t know if it was something in the water but they were rude and surly too on the whole. Getting homework done was like getting blood out of a stone. Forget deadlines. Plagiarism warnings went unheeded as everyone copied off each other for coursework assignments. We went down from 11 students to four by the year’s end and two of these were students coming in from other colleges. I really felt that I was wasting my time.

The behaviour of a lot of the students in the college left a huge amount to be desired. They became aggressive when challenged. Some of them used to enjoy kicking a full water bottle as hard as they possibly could down the entire length of the corridor. Once, this happened right in front of the principle and he did nothing. They also enjoyed pushing each other on office chairs as fast as they could. After I began complaining, a spate of door knocking began on my classroom door – by the invisible man. I found the group behaviour amongst the students the strangest. They had an unnerving habit of all turning and staring at someone at the same time. It was very odd. Danish culture to me seems a warning against those who would say give young people all the freedom they want.

I made these notes about three months after starting to work there.
22nd Nov 2011 
Teaching coordinate geometry. Harry, Nick, Nour and Deanna absent. Annetta may as well be absent too – not paying any attention. No one copies down any notes. No response from anyone to questions except by repeated questioning, even to simple questions. Last week, only one person did homework. Everyone looking at their computer screens instead of at the board. The exercise does not need the use of a computer. I cannot teach this SL class because they do not want to learn or listen. They just want to play on their computers. I have never known anything like it in 15 years of teaching.
Annetta browsing internet all lesson. Refusing to cooperate.
23rd Nov 2011
Daniel doing nothing for one whole lesson. Instructed to do work on paper but did not. Annetta seeming to sleep for first part of lesson, with head on the desk.
29th November 2011
Nick disappears after 5 minutes. No one greets me. Given tasks to do on paper and most of sl students are tapping away on their computers. Saw Daniel and Nour had facebook or similar open. Arndis not paying attention to what I am saying, looking intently at her screen. Harry, Agnieszka, Nick, Deanna are absent. No homework done from last lesson even though it was simple.
30th November 2011
No Harry, no Nick. Not greeted by anyone on arrival. Explained to everyone that when their absence is down at 50%, they can’t expect to do well. During this, Diana is chatting and ignoring me. Diana is doing some other homework during the lesson. Annetta is on the computer definitely not doing maths related work. Agnieszka and Nour are taking notes and Daniel and Arndis are working properly. Deanna really should leave and so should Annetta. Annetta, Deanna and Agnieszka are routinely not paying attention.
2nd December 2011
Went through simultaneous equations with Annette. She was only half paying attention. For the other half of the time, she was staring intently at her computer screen. Long silences. After 20 minutes, I decided that I would just leave her to it.

I was also struggling financially and I could not afford to own a car. Most of the other staff had two breadwinners. I was at the time a single parent with a teenage son.

Here is a comment I made on FB in 2011. “Been trying to persuade teachers in my school that the behaviour of the kids here is not good enough. Lost the battle a long time ago. ‘You’re used to working in private schools – their behaviour is fine. ‘ So kicking furniture around the corridors is fine. Disrupting lessons by fighting in the communal areas is fine. Not doing homework is fine. Being rude and arrogant is fine.

Meanwhile, our IB coordinator shows a prospective replacement around constantly introducing him with the wrong name. How difficult is it to get someone’s name right?”

“Danish students – a group walking past my classroom overhear another teacher giving instructions to their class:’Ok please sit down and …’ so they mimic ‘Please sit down motherf***ers’. In Denmark, this is normal and is not reacted to by any teaching staff.”

When something needed doing urgently, the attitude was ‘who gives a fuck.’ Not even the management seemed to care. No one seemed to try to plan ahead of time. My first pay packet was taxed 55 % and I had to inform the school that unless they taxed me correctly, I would have to leave. I needed my son’s residency permit in order to register him for school in August 2011 and to apply for educational support for him and I had to plead to get this piece of paper in time. No one had thought that I might need it. On some days, I would be the only one in the office 5 minutes before lessons started. One childish teacher began to accuse me regularly of not putting away lab equipment and would even chastise me for having an untidy desk. I would definitely advise anyone against working in Denmark.

“If you are interested in horrible places, I can recommend Denmark. No one starves. Everyone lives in small, pretty houses. But no one is rich, no one has a chance to a life in luxury, and everyone is depressed. Everyone lives in their small well-organized cells with their Danish furniture and their lovely lamps, without which they would go mad,” V.S. Naipaul.

The holidays were a lot shorter than in the UK and in Slovakia. In Denmark, the school year starts in the first week of August and continues right through to just before Christmas but nothing ever seems to get done for the amount of time kids spend at school.

To say that I disliked living in Denmark is an understatement. I noticed a “couldn’t care less” attitude in many different ways. I once got locked out of my bank account for entering my PIN incorrectly. I went into my bank branch and without showing any ID, they gave me money from account. They didn’t know me from Adam. After 17 months of this, I decided to leave because I could see that it was a lost cause. I did not make myself popular because I vented my frustrations in the staff room. Other staff did not seem to care or were too soft on the students. I would just say most didn’t care at all. Communication was very sloppy and my feeling was that many IB teachers were not following the IB guidelines in grading and assessing material and in assessing group coursework. Staff were always happy to make excuses for the students. This is how things work in Denmark: I call a meeting at work for all teachers who work in the physics lab. I invite the head of the section too. Out of 4 people, only 2 turn up. Even the head of section doesn’t turn up. He even acknowledged the invitation and I saw him moments before the start of the meeting. The other person disappears from the meeting while the first person who turned up is showing me something in the next room. I find the way people work in this country very strange.

Yes, I felt that the Danish claim to a perfect life was a big lie. Everyone seemed miserable, like the weather. And I didn’t mention the casual racism my son encountered.