As usual, I don’t know where to start. Because, as usual, the story starts in five different places at the same time.

I could start here, in December 2005, when I first visited Exmouth and the course that was going to be ‘my course’ for the following two years. Because one of the things that happened on that Thursday was that I got to sit in on a session, and listen to people’s accounts of their experiences in the schools they had been visiting. And two of those people had been to a tiny little school in Exeter, and the things they said made me think, rather irrationally –they talked about a mixed-aged, mixed-ability class of about a dozen children operating out of a caravan– that it was my kind of school.

Or I could fast forward a year to the first time I actually visited said school, in December 2006. It had just moved to a new building, so the class had an actual classroom of its own by that time. A very cold one. I spent two weeks largely sitting in a corner, half-asleep, owing to the hour-long commute from Exmouth, and half-frozen, owing to the lack of heating. When the two weeks were over I wrote a long and (I think) eloquent essay about the history of the school and how it affected its every day running. The sentences “you can’t run a school on idealism and goodwill alone, at least not for a long time”, and “you can’t run a school when you don’t know in which direction you are running” stood out, along with a firmly held belief that, were I to get involved in something so messy, it would be years before I looked up again. I resolved to stay well away for the foreseeable future.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Fast forward a year and a month, and you’ll find me sitting on my couch, gloomily contemplating my imminent return to Derbyshire, where I had previously spend two sleepy, cold weeks in another classroom corner. This time it would have to be for four weeks, in February at that too. Upon realising that the prospect filled me with dread, and that the thing I would love the most would be to be able to sleep in my own bed after spending long days in yet another classroom corner, I thereby committed myself to another hour-long commute to Exeter and forgot all about my previous resolution. After all I had heard rumours that things at the school were better, and the teacher I would be observing from my cold corner would be someone I knew and liked. It sounded promising. And so I dug out some of my initial love for the school and proceeded to get a little excited about it all.