My kids are going back to school – but no one will ask them what they did over the summer
When I was a teenager, one lad lied that he was going to LA, which, in the eighties, was as cool as going to the moon. He stayed in all summer so he wouldn't bump into anyone and be found out. Today of course, he'd be rumbled from the get-go
September – the month to rummage about and dig out The Big Coat. Jackpot! There’s a fiver and half a pack of chewing gum in the pocket. (Throw the chewing gum away. It’s got clammy. Buy more with your loot.)
Along with the winter finds comes that unmistakable “back to school” feeling. The glorious smell as we kicked up leaves, excited to see friends and hoping all the bullies had moved to Peru. I feel it still.
August, with all of its Cider With Rosie freedom, has gone and it’s time to start afresh, buy new notebooks and get on top of things because in a blink, before you’ve been able to shake the last dried up conker from the bottom of your bag, you’ll be hurtling towards the Christmas circus. You can already see the tip of the bell of an elf’s hat in the distance.
My children have very different summer holidays to the ones I had during my childhood. We seem to have lost the senses-crushing boredom long August days could bring. There was only so much fighting with one another my brother and I could do. So we’d wander off and climb garage roofs, build fires and explode old paint tins in them.
I’m so modern about safety that my poor children have had barely a chance to break a limb or eat something poisonous this summer.
They are starting a new term now, as am I. As a comic, I still regard September as the start of the year, the robust embrace of new projects after August’s Edinburgh Festival. “Edinburgh” is what comedians call the month of August. I once heard a comic say “for Edinburgh this year, we’re going to the south of France” so ingrained is the festival and its significance in a comic’s psyche.
We troop up and take over the city. We rent flats for the month and set up our stall (new show).
Thousands of performers in the same small space; all lock out the rest of the world and try to make their dreams come true. The days are a ferocious flurry of flyering and press (if you are lucky enough to have a “profile”). The evenings are spent running around doing every possible shared-bill gig in order to get bums on seats at your own show. At around midnight, everyone pours into the performers’ late night bars to booze, snog, and talk loudly over each other until the sun comes up.
After a few days of decompression, it’s Back To School for everyone. August was a place to hide. Whether you go away or not, whether you have children or not, August is The Summer Holidays. Once it’s done, deadlines loom.
Yet the summer is no longer a secret planet. We will know who has moved, who has bought a dog, who has become vegan (me, this term. I’m still blushing from enquiring on Twitter if Mini Cheddars were vegan).
No, it’s not the cocoon it used to be. “What did you get up to over the summer?” has become a disingenuous question, a social nightmare: “I plastered what I did all over Facebook! Oh My God! Have you unfollowed me???”
Most can’t resist displaying their summer on social media. When I was a teenager, one lad lied to our gang that he was going to Los Angeles, which, in the Eighties, was as cool as going to the moon. He stayed in all summer so he wouldn’t bump into anyone and be found out. Today of course, he’d be rumbled from the get-go when no pictures of him at the airport/with Mickey Mouse/Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared on his Snapchat.
In adulthood, I realised the smell I loved as I kicked up leaves was actually the smell of dog poo on damp foliage. But I will not let that sully my memories of those halcyon days.