When I walk in they all clap

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The Independent Culture
My Week

five days in the life of sue mattocks, 42, head of religious studies at clarendon house girls grammar school who this week returned to work. she was among 16 western tourists kidnapped by terrorists in the yemen last week


Wake up at around 8am, relieved to be back home. I go out to buy the newspapers to find out why this had happened and who those people were. At 11am a reporter and a photographer from a tabloid arrive to do an interview. Later I get on the scales and I discover I have lost three-quarters of a stone, most of it through fear and adrenaline. I am very shocked to have lost so much weight as I thought I had been eating normally.


I read my interview in The Mirror, worried that they would sentimentalise the issue, but it was OK. I didn't like getting my photo taken, as I'm not Cindy Crawford, but fortunately I look all right. This Morning want me to go on the programme. I talk to my headteacher, as I am concerned about the publicity for the school. Jane Bennett tells me that I should do the interview: "It's only going to happen to you once."

I am keen to get back, as I want some normality and I want to see people. The head says, "by all means come in, and see how you go". There is no pressure on me; the school is wonderful.

I phone the hospital where Margaret Thompson is and leave a message to send my love. I travelled with a really good group of people in Yemen. We went through such a lot. I'm sure we'll be in touch. But I think we all need some space at the moment.


At the television studios I am not nervous, because teachers are used to performing, standing up in front of classes and sometimes making idiots of themselves. The make-up girl says, "You're a good colour", and I think, well, I have just been held hostage, standing up in the sun for hours. I am then asked to look at some video footage of Yemen to see whether it will be appropriate. It isn't unpleasant or horrible. I recognise the architecture and the landscapes.


Get up just after 6am and go into school. I teach religious studies and have a GCSE class in the morning. When I walk in all the children clap. They have also bought me a box of chocolates.

I take assembly in the hall at 9am. I say: "I am happy to be back, but you must remember that people have died. Can we sit quietly for a few moments to remember the families?" I nearly cry at this point. I am feeling really wound up.

In the evening I decide that what I want to do is write a detailed account of the abduction. It takes about four hours. I have typed 10 pages and it is midnight when I go to bed. Writing it isn't traumatic but I want to get the sequence of events right. I am not entirely sure what I want to do with it, but I am glad to have got it all down.


At school I make a couple of photocopies of my account and put them on the general staff noticeboard. During the day Dawn Ball, head of maths, takes it down and photocopies it 20 times, asking me why I didn't copy it for everyone. I thought people would ask a few questions; I didn't think they would want a blow-by-blow account. I am very touched.

At lunch time I go to my doctor. I have suffered no physical injury but want to be sure I'm OK. I ask the practice nurse to take my blood pressure. She laughs, because it's lower than when I last had it checked. I thought it would have gone through the roof.

I have a lesson in the afternoon with my A-level group. We're quite close, and some come up to give me a hug. It's very touching...

Daisy Price