School holidays, hats and digital grandparents
By Julia Moore
No more election-speak. June is here - the month, I mean, not an unexpected visitor. At this time of year, across Europe, millions of young people are disgorged into the public domain, apart from those in the UK. The longer I live in mainland Europe, the more it appears that the UK youth are being imprisoned in school for over a month longer, in some cases, than their other European counterparts. Say nothing of the teaching/school staff, many of whom are on their knees by mid-July. I know, I were one of them (irony, please, no letters to the Editor).
So, discussions and debate rage, about this time of year, as to the ‘ideal’ way in which ‘the youth’ should spend their time. If I understand correctly, in France, at least, teenagers are not permitted to work for more than 2 of their 3 month vacation - a sensible measure. In the UK, I supported many a young student who, having just completed a double/triple time hourly rate at any number of chain shops, fell asleep in school and missed deadlines, classes and, sometimes, the appointment to see me, to ask for help? The USA initiative of summer camps chills me to to bone, although I can see the temptation of sending one’s offspring away for a period of time. Too much over-regulation, the kids have just had that at school, why prolong the agony?
...In Europe, grandparents, of course, come into their own. For the moment, I am too young and beautiful to be asked to house, feed, cajole and shout at, our grand-daughter. At time of writing, she is only 15 months old, the long summer holidays are yet to come. But come they shall, and I, for one, will urge her parents to put her on a plane, unaccompanied, as soon as the law allows (certainly not 15 months, one presumes), to spend bits of the summer with us here, on the Cote d’Azur. But I learn from the tired-looking French grandparents who plod around our village (which has legions of child-focussed activities to occupy). The age disparity makes for an exhausting stay, when you are 60/70 yrs, running at ‘full speed’(eg not very fast), to ensure Jocasta does not pitch into the sea/river/road/dog.
And so to hats - not a very good link to school holidays, but it will have to do. I once harboured a passion to run a hat shop in our village. Rather than work seriously on the business plan, I spent almost a year figuring out the punchy shop name…’Chateau Chapeaux’ (we have a chateau in the village, otherwise this would not be joke)...’Hats for Cats’ (which sounded like a boutique for cats, rather than a fashionable shop for humans) ‘Brimming Over’ (a milliner’s in-joke), ‘Crowning Glory’(could be mistaken for a hairdressers)...etc...etc...you have the idea. My personal favourite, which was far too oblique, was ‘Knock Your Block Off’. If you WERE/ARE a milliner, you should be on the floor by now, clutching your sides, impressed by the sparky reference to a key hat-making item. I’m saying no more, go research and see if you think it is funny (again, no letters to the Editor, please).
Back to summer child-care...our weekly conference-call to see our grand-daughter has provided an idea. When she does, eventually, come to stay...I’ll hide in the cellar - grandpa can do the hard work of running, cooking and putting to bed - and then, when boredom sets in for them both, I’ll arrange an on-line conference with her, from downstairs. It will make her less homesick, give her a familiar surrounding?...as you can tell, I did not teach Early Years age-group, where nurturing is part of the process. Mind you, now I think of it, some of the 6th-formers wept a lot in our meetings, too. I put it down to the long hours at work, but perhaps it WAS me, on reflection.