Nostalgia and sadness as school summer holiday comes to an end

Children may be nervous about the dreaded return to school, but they will soon get back into a routi

Return to school, but October half-term hovers on the horizon. - Credit: Pixabay

It's about this time of the summer that a little melancholia steals over me.

The evenings begin to shorten, the sun climbs lower in the sky, and I start to feel the pangs of The School Return.

It's a whimsy I should not be free to indulge, in truth; my working hours are precisely aligned with the school timetable, and I am obliged to maintain those hours throughout the holidays, with the exception of a short break; I can lay no claim to being home alone and missing my offspring when the new academic year commences.

I could, perhaps, convince myself that they miss me - but I'm not inclined to believe my powers of persuasion are that potent. 

On the whole, during my own days in education, I was a happy pupil.

My secondary school, a medium-sized faith school, had a sound heart beating within its walls, and I was comfortable under its care.

I was bright enough to satisfy my teachers and had a small but loyal circle of friends with similar interests to mine.

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Of course, it wasn't a fairy tale; there were episodes of unhappiness that seem synonymous with school life - fall-outs with friends, a personal antipathy for sport largely influenced by my ineptitude in most physical pursuits, the occasional bout of bullying - but as a reflection of my affection for school, these difficult days were the exception rather than the rule.  

Each school year would progress along similar lines: early September would see me optimistic and organised, equipped with immaculate uniform, stationery and attitude. In a flurry of autumn leaves and anticipation, I would merrily skate the downward slope, festooned with musical concerts and religious services, towards Christmas.

The spring term, crawling out of January's icy grip, could be a dismal one; school stole the daylight hours and held us to ransom with seasonal snuffles and the latent threat that we would never emerge from winter's protracted hibernation.

The bright spark of Easter brought forth a welcome resurrection of our spirits as we found ourselves on the final furlong, galloping toward the promise of endless blue-skied days.

As we suffocated in sun-soaked classroom saunas, it seemed the final week of the summer term would never end: onward it stretched, all normal behaviours of time suspended in its elastic grasp.

And then, at last, the final bell of the final day of the final term would ring, and school would be out in a manner that Alice Cooper would approve; certainly, between the ages of 11 and 16, it seemed as though school truly were out forever, with six gorgeous weeks floating alluringly ahead.

Augusts of my childhood have retrospectively assumed mythic qualities, painted with wall-to-wall sunshine and scorching temperatures.

As a late-August baby, my youthful focus was firmly fixed on the latter half of the month.

This had the unsettling effect of slowing down the first few weeks to a pace that my impatient younger self found interminable; once the big day had passed, however, September rushed relentlessly towards me.  

I enjoy the shifting of the season from summer to autumn: opening the back door onto a starry, twilit evening and catching the sharp scent of wood smoke from the first bonfires; feeling the dawn chill freshen the air before the day's heat descends; marking a mellowing in the air.

But although I welcome the transition in a seasonal sense, as August approaches its ripened conclusion I am suddenly conscious that the holidays are ending and the rhythm of the new term is poised to take hold.

Mindful of my own scholarly perceptions of summer's last days - a mixture of nervousness, excitement and uncertainty about the return to school and the year ahead - will my best friend still like me? Will I have been put in a different class? Will I ever remember to rearrange algebraic formulae? - I am filled with a heady mix of nostalgia and sadness that for the children the long holidays are coming to their inexorable close.

Inevitably, when the first morning of the new term dawns, and I struggle sleepily out of bed, set about the school-day routine of lunchbox filling and breakfast preparation, and coerce all and sundry into the shower, my heart will sink a little that the indolence of summer has once again come to an end.

But then I remember that October half-term hovers on the horizon, and I am consoled.

Only six weeks to go...