‘Tis the worst Sunday of the year – that last drab, depressing and doom laden dominical limbo before the long hard crawl back to reality. Tomorrow we head all back to those places we so cheerfully left a couple of weeks ago – schools, offices, factories – no matter where you are headed on « the first Monday » back, it is perhaps the most difficult return to reality of the entire year. And once back at work with all our other long-faced colleagues, we lethargically and indifferently wish each other a Happy New Year.
Oh, how the hell can you be happy? Off to work in the dark and heading home in the dark. Off to work through torrential rain, snow storms, fog … it is no wonder that animals hibernate. Why don’t we do the same? From 21st December through 21st March, we should just stay at home, nestling under the covers with a hotwater bottle and a good book, or sitting swathed in thick sweaters, curled up in front of a roaring fire with a good whisky and non-stop feel-good films on the TV.
This is the period for the Winter Blues, or what medical experts now call Seasonal Affective Disorder – you get depressed in Winter, so sit at home under a sun lamp for three months or head south for the duration. Our bosses, masters, employers, enslavers … they must have realised by now that they will gain little profit from making us work in these dark times.
No exaggeration – In France, we will all be back in the class room or in the office come 8am on Monday morning – What in heaven’s name is the point of starting the Learning process at 8am? No one ever learned anything much before 10am. In the evening it is the same, kids finishing lessons around 6pm. Even in summer no one is especially receptive after 4pm.
Then of course there is all the light and heating. Save an hour’s energy by starting the winter’s day at 9am (or even 10am).
I plead for this every January, and I am totally serious – work less and save energy and by working shorter hours in winter, people may just be more receptive.
And so, here we are, the evening before the morning to come, which, if you have kids means, frantically doing all that homework that the kids were set before the holidays, but haven’t even touched. Why oh why do teachers even bother setting homework for the Christmas holidays? Kids never do it. Even as far back as the first year of primary school, at the tender age of 6, my daughter was set holiday homework: Of course this is France where formal written homework is officially forbidden in primary schools, but all teachers give their pupils something to learn – poems, multiplication tables, words for spelling test or a dictation – and in many households I daresay that the children have been studiously slaving away all through the Christmas break, but in this house … 4pm on the evening before the next day, first we try and find the school bag that has been thrown in a far flung corner of the house, then we try and find the « to do » list and then we ring round every other parent trying to find out what to do.
« Oh s**t, my offspring has left everything at school » – more phone calls to other parents. The exchanging of e-mails.
« Oh yes, that would be so kind if you could just scan the list of vocabulary /poem and send it by mail. »
« Oh f***, there’s no more ink in the printer – okay, you’re just going to have to learn this on screen. »
Then we get the stinky sports bag – yes your kids have got PE, first lesson tomorrow and their kit has spent the past fortnight festering at the bottom of a bag – yes, we do have a spare kit, but that is at the bottom of the laundry basket – just go dirty or give your kid a false sick note.
« Dears Mrs ….
Our lovely daughter cannot take part in your sports lesson due to a …
Ear infection … »
« Dear Mrs …
Can our daughter be excused sport because we didn’t have time to wash her stinky, mould encrusted sports gear, which has been festering at the bottom of her sports bag for two weeks? »
By some miracle though, at some point before midnight, your kids manage to get their homework more or less done, and after a long rummage through the darkest recesses of drawers and cupboards, you manage to muster some semblance of a sports kit.
This is my daughter’s final year at high school, so this is my final mad back to school post festive Sunday, and it is pretty calm. She’s worked through the holidays and her stinky sports kit is in her locker at school and she assures both mum and dad that it isn’t so smelly that she can’t wear it for sport tomorrow.
I suppose this is the end of an era, in my life as a dad. Next year at this time, there will be no more stinky sports bags and unfinished homework. I’m going to miss the ritual, nevertheless, a thought for parents everywhere who , on this pre-school Sunday, are hurtling round the house in near apoplexy getting their brood ready for the fist day back.
Don’t worry, it can only get better.