Despite being sick and peevish, and spending yesterday failing to fend off 'karate practice' directed against my head, I still think on balance the holidays are better than term time. I know! I didn't think I would be saying that either. This is WEEK FOUR OF TEN for me, anglo-saxons, you wimps with your six week holidays.
Given I am, as you know, relentlessly negative, let me set out the relative demerits of term and holiday for you.
- Packed lunches. Every. Fucking. Day. Handling "saucisson de jambon" a neon pink flabby luncheon meat made from horse penis. It's got to the stage where I get a Pavlovian gag reflex kicking in every time I open the fridge. In any event I might as well pack a whole pig's head in Fingers' lunchbox, it's not as if he even OPENS it. The child lives on air and stolen biscuits.
- Early finishes. All the activities I have signed my children up show a curious reluctance to keep them beyond 4:30. This is unfortunate, since by 4:30 I have usually managed nothing more impressive than desultorily clicking between four or five open windows and a short nap. Much as I try to impose my theory that the children have had sufficient stimulation during the day and can play peacefully for the remainder of the evening, I still find my presence is frequently required to remove fingers from eye sockets, vital Bionicle parts from the weepette's jaws, toothbrushes from the lavatory bowl.
- Driving everywhere. I feel like an extra from 'The Real Housewives of Anderlecht', loading my children up into my wagon of death and vaguely steering in the direction of whatever low rent activity they are signed up for. Even though there is virtually no traffic on the roads now Belgium is shut, I still manage to veer into the face of ongoing trams when fiddling with the GPS, or to park absent-mindedly in front of the police station exit. We are stuck on one CD in the car too, and I am beginning to hate Regina Spektor's new album as a result, which is unfortunate.
- The STUFF. Every week they come back with several cubic metres of carefully crafted, uh, tat - symphonies of pipe cleaners, polystyrene peanuts, loo roll tubes, feathers, clay. Casting a baleful eye around the room from my perch, I can see at least ten bulky creations - I particularly like the large blobs of clay with dried grasses stuck in them. The weepette is doing sterling work chewing up anything left within his reach, but I swear the stuff breeds overnight. I suppose this is my fault for signing them up for creative stuff. If they were just doing football it wouldn't be such a problem, but they have inherited my morbid fear of moving balls.
- The perpetual state of Two Child Stalemate (first identified in Waffle, 2009)
Me: Shall we go and do x (get ice cream, go to the park, go to the bookshop, look for dead things, throw slugs over the fence into Mauricette's garden)?
Me: I hate this. What am I supposed to do now?
They both stare scathingly at me, as if to say 'you are the adult, you work it out'.
- The endless tyranny of homework. Forgotten homework, misunderstood homework, homework covered in grease stains, the 8am search, muttering and fulminating, for rubbers and red crayons and always, ALWAYS pencil sharpeners.
- The ever present danger - nay, inevitability - of lateness.
- The last minute requests for €7,90 (exact money please), two yellow facecloths and a fragment of the true cross.
- The nagging unfocussed guilt at my failure to be a proper hothousing parent. For some reason my psyche takes a break from this in summer, presumably reasoning that the holidays are there precisely for the purposes of understimulating your children until they crack and finally agree to amuse themselves for more than 30 seconds at a time.
But I'll admit it - I rather like the holidays. I like the drifting, getting up late and still having time for a shower, eating pancakes for breakfast in front of the tv, having a half-arsed picnic dinner with the maurauding dog begging for crisps, not having to nag until the sound of my own voice makes me want to vomit.
Clearly, this could be summarised as follows: I am slack, and in the holidays slackness is allowed. I can revel in the rare feeling of social acceptability. Also, I think we all know that I would not be so sanguine if the CFO's parents weren't coming in 2 days to spirit the spawn off in their spanking new caravan (well, new to them. Apparently Fingers will no longer have to sleep on the table!) for a week. Let's see how the benign pro-holiday spirit holds up for two, doubtless rainy weeks in a Normandy village where electricity is viewed with suspicion and computers are witchcraft.
Pro or anti holidays, reader?