The concept, post university, of marking years by dates and not by term starts took some time to sink in. It was a shock to the system, despite having had jobs since my teens, to have to work a whole year and only get 4 weeks holiday. I was aghast at the notion of the world not working like that, giving everyone regular breaks and a lovely long summer holiday. I’m laughing a lot at my naive early 20’s self, by the way, there’s no need for you to do it for me.
As I don’t have children, yet, the notion of half terms and terms has, by and large passed me by of recent years. I might notice the traffic go up and down, or the fact that a teacher friend is not able to go away somewhere due to term time, but that’s it.
The modern half term seems to be catered for so well. Round here signs have sprouted over recent weeks, advertising activities, play groups, sport activities, a positive cornucopia of opportunities to relieve parents of their children and their cash.
I remember half terms of holidays in the Yorkshire Dales, running about with my brother building dams and climbing hills, usually in the rain, before heading back for cake with Granny. Or going to an arts group at the local college with my best friend, where the most memorable activity was making ice-cream sundaes out of candle wax and washing powder. One half-term we were signed up for a day in Grassington where we were forced to paint our faces green and wander round pretending to be aliens, only ‘beeping’ at each other not speaking. It took a long time for me to recover from that one, I tell you. Or sports camp, which seemed to be made up of never ending swimming and rounders. One big treat was to go to Daddy’s work and play offices, which involved being very quiet for the day and cutting up lots of paper before using half the Tippex supply to stick it back together. A couple of sleepovers usually snuck in there as well, involving much giggling and many midnight feasts, eaten at I would guess around 10pm before we all flaked out.
Yet one of the biggest realisations I have had looking back on all this is that I didn’t make these choices. They just ‘happened’. If the local sailing club had a free day, off we went with a packed lunch and instructions not to drown. If the weather was nice, out we were thrown with our bikes and a promise not to talk to strangers. Being of a less athletic frame of mind and body than my brother, I usually had a book packed in my rucksack and quite happily whiled away a couple of hours with my nose stuck in a story whilst he flung himself down hillsides and slogged back up again. Then we both ate our sandwiches, and returned home.
My parents weren’t complete autocrats, there must have been some element of discussion, but what wasn’t up for debate was doing nothing at all for the week. Both my parents worked, my father full time and my mother part time, and we were very fortunate to be able to do all these activities. It must have taken hours of research and planning to make it all happen, in those pre-internet days. By the time we got to senior school, we were more settled into our individual pursuits.
Who knows what the future holds for me, and what decisions and compromises will be made about work and childcare. I hope I do as good a job as my parents did of trying to give us loads of experiences and then letting us choose our own paths and find our own passions.
One thing is for sure. There will be no beeping alien activities.
*Disclaimer, I am rubbish at maths so this figure may be more than a bit inaccurate