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The Sword of Damocles

One of my students was shocked at the price of the plane tickets to the UK at the beginning of this month. He didn't know about the English school system of half terms. With more potential customers for the planes the ticket prices had risen substantially. Here there are no half terms.

School is just about to finish for the summer break. Maggie's children finish tomorrow leaving the teachers alone for the last week to close down the school year. All being well Maggie will be back at school on September 1st and the children will return a week later. So the school summer break is all of July and all of August. The school day is also a bit shorter for the youngsters in June and in September.

At Christmas the term ends, for teachers and children alike, around  December 23rd and they go back around January 8th, a couple of days after the Three Kings have delivered their presents. The Easter break is a bit shorter; all of the Easter week and maybe a day or two at either end.

There are a few bank holidays scattered throughout the year and the holiday is taken on the actual day. So if Labour Day, May 1st, is a Thursday then the holiday is on Thursday. Sometimes the holidays fall over the weekend. As Saturday is considered to be a working day some holidays can simply get lost. A couple of years ago for instance two of the three Christmas period bank holidays, Christmas Day and New Year's Day fell on a Saturday and so lots of Monday to Friday workers simply missed out. The other Christmas holiday by the way is Three Kings or Epiphany on the 6th of January.

A very common practice when a public holiday falls on a Thursday or Tuesday is to "make a bridge" by taking a day's holiday between the public holiday and the weekend. The current Government has said that it intends to change the bank holidays to be on the nearest Monday rather than on the actual date.

Maggie still isn't certain that there will be a job for her when she returns. The school certainly expects her back as they have given her an extra subject for next year. All the signs are that she will still have work but as she is on yearly contracts she can't be certain until she signs the contract and starts work. Last year people in Castilla la Mancha on the same British Council project turned up for work on 1st September only to find that they had no job.

All around us people we know are losing jobs or in fear of doing so. The place I work, Wall Street, seems to be doing well. Lots of people think, quite rightly, that being able to speak English is a good thing to have on their c.v. so we are very busy. On the other hand I do as much work in the offices of private companies (who have contracts with Wall Street) as I do in the language school. One of my regular companies has just made about a third of its workforce redundant as a cost cutting measure. It would seem perfectly reasonable to me if they chose to save on their training budget too leaving me with much less work.

So, we're both looking forward to having July and August off even though in my case it means no pay for two months. Nonetheless there is just a nagging doubt that one or both of us won't have anything to come back to in September.

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