There was a novel by Meera Syal called Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee which I didn’t read. I thought I’d seen the film, but when I just read up on the plot, it didn’t really ring any bells, so maybe I didn’t watch it either. The title however has stuck because it contains a truth, even if, in my opinion, it would trip off the tongue better with two extra syllables (an extra Ha and a Hee). Life isn’t all… is it?
I thought of this this morning because it is that momentous day in the school calendar called Back To School. The shops start reminding us of the hideous fact immediately the kids get out of school in July. I was once a kid, and I never wanted to go Back To School. Old feelings die hard it seems because I would prefer it if my children didn’t have to either. They, on the other hand, are rather sanguine about the whole thing (and I keep my own feelings to myself – aside from publishing them on the internet of course). For the first time ever, the Back To School mission is staggered because the eldest is off to Big School. (I was forbidden from calling it that months ago, even before the David Walliams comedy of the same name aired.) Anyway, the eldest went this morning, the youngest goes back the day after tomorrow. There is no middle child.
There are two narratives I could relate about this morning and the events prior to it. One is quite Ha Ha Ha, Hee Hee Hee; the other is not. This is a brief attempt to navigate a course straight down the middle of that particular dual carriageway of life and a displacement activity from wondering how the child gets on 46 minutes into her first day at Big School.
There has been a staged intake by the school of their new year sevens. They arrive, mainly with parents, although we saw one girl we know with her elder brother, and congregate en famille around the front door of the school prior to the allotted arrival time of 9 a.m. We park round the corner. I cannot get out of the car because I am not fit for public consumption, even with my sunglasses on. My daughter finds my morning mien an embarrassment (so do I frankly) so we slump in seats (more Walliams references if you’ve seen the offending show) and appraise the children in their new blazers trotting to join the throng. Well my daughter does, I try to be the voice of reason. She has taken against her blazer most violently because It Does Not Fit. I remind her that she was there, in the school outfitters, and we tried them all on. She is Between Sizes. It cannot be helped, it is, surely, a temporary situation and anyway she will soon have other sartorial matters to worry about, like the standard issue tie due to be doled out this morning.
Whilst she fulminates that even, ‘Bob’s blazer fits,’ ‘Bob’ being an exceptionally short 11 year old, I mention that, ‘all the girls have gone for what look like sensible shoes…’ My daughter, who prefers to interpret the uniform list to her own satisfaction, has been issued with a last minute set of emergency plasters in case her shoes rub because to my horror she has refused to put on any socks or tights. Fair enough it is hot today, but still. I hope she does not bring the wrath of the school uniform gods onto her head on day one. I tell myself that it is better that they learn some of their lessons straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, than a parent ruins their whole summer arguing about such matters…
I have done what I can. She has been issued with the mini first aid kit in case of inevitable blisters; she has ten pounds for some fingerprint-based monetary system that is too new-fangled for me to understand and also a new eyebrow pencil (don’t ask). She will survive. As we watched a friend of hers disappear round the corner with her mum (who was wiping away a tear), the step-father, the younger brother and the dog, I knew that we have a certain kind of approach to these things (minimalist on the surface and a lot of angsting underneath) and other families their own. There is no right way of doing it. I do hope she is alright, but she is on her own now, for another five hours and three minutes.
In the meantime, maybe I’ll buy her some pop socks. It will fill some time.