The first day of a new school year for the children is a bitter-sweet moment. Expectation and apprehension collide head-on as the sweet summertime makes its way through the Departure gates and a rip-tide of waving hankies. Nearby, Autumn comes bounding through Arrivals; dressed not in shorts and flip-flops but a tweed jacket and light jumper. I am a chauffeur, waiting to greet the new season. Holding a card reading MR AUTUMN I greet my passenger who tells me forlornly that it is getting colder. It is getting colder and there is much work to do.
Crisp and pressed, lily-white clean in their brand new uniforms, the pupils lined up outside their new classrooms for the start of the year this morning. Parents bleary-eyed from 6 weeks as improvised children’s entertainers want to pass them over but some, like me, do so whilst straining their neck for one last glimpse at Summer as it meanders through passport control.
Obligatory for the new term is the pristine pencil-case; recently purchased and fully loaded. I watched a six-year-old unpack her’s today. It was a Justin Bieber themed case. Not being that far removed from popular culture, I did, dear readers, recognise the famous, bubble-gum face. I had seen the same air-brushed puppy expression, with its nuclear-white teeth and Julius Caesar hair cut grinning at me from countless supermarket magazine covers during the past year.
The proud owner lovingly pulled the zipper across the bottom of Justin’s saintly chin. I could tell the scene had been rehearsed dozens of times at home during the past fortnight in anticipation of this great unveiling. The child’s friends drew long breaths as the contents were neatly aligned on the desk top: 2 perfectly sharpened pencils, a 6 inch ruler with ‘I (heart) Justin’ emblazoned across, a pouch for multi-coloured paper clips. A scented heart-shaped eraser was passed around for all to sample. The young girl held it out to me eagerly to experience for myself.
What could possibly be the aroma? I asked her of it smelled of Justin himself but the joke was lost in translation. She looked at me quizzically and replied, “No, strawberry.” Inhaling the rubber (albeit shallowly) I lied. I told her it smelled lovely despite the fact it was what it was: a hunk of cheap rubber that smelled like a deodoriser in a taxi cab.
“Justin would be proud,” I replied as I passed the eraser to the next expectant nose.
And so we unpacked a new school year. Dressed in our new clothes and stiff shoes (size 11 Doc Martens of course, dear readers; equally at home on the football pitch or taking in an olfactory message from some plastic American 14 year old) we opened the door to 198 days that will take all our school community to some point beyond the horizon we have yet to know. I headed back to my glassbox and began to plot out trajectories for the children’s exam score predictions. In the spirit of the day I used my new pen. It writes in orange ink. Awesome.
Keep the Faith,