Saturday, 27 July 2013

Six glorious weeks . . .

It's the least wonderful time of the year. With a heavy heart this week came the realisation that school, as Alice Cooper once succinctly put it, is out. For the summer. God help us. Yes, the never-ending roster of discos, summer visits and end-of-term proms (don't get me started . . .) are over and the little darlings are now free to roam the streets until early September. In other words, they are free to blight our summer. By the time these precious darlings are safely locked behind the school gates, Blue Peter will be lighting the first candle on its Advent crown.

For those of us lucky enough to live in the nation's capital, this time of year offers something of a double-edged sword. I will rejoice, like Thatcher stumbling towards a bank of microphones, at the prospect of early morning Tube trains being a little quieter. Parents are off on their holidays which means more space for me to plonk myself down. Shops are quieter at the weekends, particularly Waitrose as all the teachers who normally fill the play are taking identical breaks in Provence. So far so good. However, the evening rush hour takes on nightmarish proportions. Already the Central Line, shimmering nicely in over 30 degrees of sweaty heat, must now find space for the weary, wan-faced grandparents hauling little Jake and Lucy back from a fascinating day at the British Museum. On they cram, jamming their bums on seats meant for haggard office workers with mean faces and thin lips. Enough of me for the moment though.

My own childhood memories of the six week break are, of course, bathed in the rosy glow of nostalgia. The break would always begin well, buffeted by the sheer relief that we didn't have to crouch over a slice of toast whilst listening to Wogan at 8 a.m. every day. Hurrah for that! There would be other signs of a change n the routine. Salads and the summery joy that was Instant Whip would make an appearance on the menu. Dad would suddenly be around for a week or so. Mum would shepherd us to the park with an array of tennis racquets and foiled-wrapped potted beef sandwiches. There would be the day trips to seemingly random places - Blackpool, Cheltenham and the ever-popular York. Also on the cards, the traditional visit to the local swimming pool with a friend and his mum, the latter of whom would appear poolside, decked out in a floral bathing cap and goggles. Oh the shame of it all.

Of course, there was always the chance to watch some holiday TV which back in the 1970s usually meant the insufferable Why Don't You? followed by the delights of Crown Court and Afternoon Plus where Mavis Nicholson would be looking at a new recipe for flapjack and saying 'womb' every few minutes.

The teenage years were much worse. I resented every day the sun shone and determinedly holed myself up in my attic bedroom, resplendent in heavy denim jeans and a jumper, playing pompous Ultravox LPs. A surly collection of us would eventually shuffle into town and slouch in front of Woolworths for a few hours, sneering at anyone who looked more than a year older than we were. Then on to the local park to watch the cricket we all loathed but which offered another chance to snort with derision. There would be the standard train journey to Blackpool, complete with the 'let's get lost in Manchester' option, those foiled-wrapped sandwiches, the Pleasure beach, the sunburn, the beer. Halcyon days!

Therefore, six week holiday kids of 2013, please remember to stay in doors and mooch around at home. get under your parents feet, whinge a bit about life being 'not fair' and endure the embarrassment of well-meant trips to the Natural History Museum. You have my full support but please, please don't be on my train at 5 p.m.

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