diamond geezer

 Monday, July 21, 2003

School's out

What wouldn't you give for six weeks off work? Back when you were a kid you got six weeks off work every summer (or even longer if your parents paid for you to have a 'better' education). Now, if you're employed, it's highly probable that your annual leave entitlement is even less than that single six week break. The days of endless half-terms and holidays are long gone. So, my apologies for reminding you that the annual school summer holidays start this week. Probably the last thing you want to be thinking about today if you're trapped in a stuffy office but sorry, I'm going to mention it anyway.

Many years ago, when you were about three-quarters of the height you are now, the school summer holidays were the promised land at the end of a very long year. You'd looked forward to them for months, you'd survived the last day of term where you brought games in so the teacher could have a day tidying the cupboards, and week-off 1 dawned full of promise. There was Why Don't You on the TV suggesting inane ways of filling the day (or, for those of us of a certain age, there was yet another repeat of Robinson Crusoe or White Horses). There was a museum to visit, or a park to hang out in, or just the chance for a bit of personal space. By week-off 2 that personal space was getting a bit excessive, you'd played Swingball once too often and ideas for things to do were running out. Never fear because week-off 3 was the annual family holiday, probably somewhere in the UK in those days, with a frugal B&B, crazy golf and sandcastles to look forward to. Weeks-off 4 and 5 were more difficult because everyone else had staggered their seaside breaks to occur once you were back at home, and by week-off 6 you'd be begging to go back to school just to have something to do and to meet your friends again.

The long summer break got even longer when you reached higher education, maybe even twice as long. You probably had a 'reading list' or something that was supposed to fill your time, but you just skimmed through the most important books on your last afternoon and spent the rest of the time slobbing. It's different nowadays of course, where those three months need to be spent trying to earn enough in wages doing some desperate summer job in order to reduce your millstone debts to vaguely-manageable levels. And then after graduation, unless you stayed on in education and became a teacher (and good luck to you if you did), those long summer holidays suddenly disappeared overnight.

So here you are today, part of the rat race, working through the summer with minimum leave entitlement and afraid of taking a proper holiday because they're always so astronomically priced during the school summer break. Even should you manage to slip out of the office and take the odd day off then you'll discover that the normally-quiet world outside has been invaded by children of all shapes and sizes, everywhere. Shops are packed with mini-people and their disinterested parents, cinemas are full of loud teenagers more interested in raucous social-climbing than watching the film, and streets are crowded with extended families of tourists who haven't a clue where they're going. To be honest, you're probably better off staying safely inside your office right through to the end of August and taking a break in September instead. It'll still be warm enough and it'll be a lot cheaper. Plus it'll be a lot quieter because all the children will be safely tucked up in school, dreaming of their next summer holidays ten months hence. Ah yes, I remember it well.

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