I would like to say I no longer panic at the thought of the dreaded back to school organisation.
Clearly, it is not my first rodeo.
Therefore, it should stand to reason that I am the pinnacle of precise preparation and execute the grand return of my children to the land of academia like a seasoned pro. Not so much.
I very much fall into the camp of lastminute.com.
Yet strangely, this should not in fact be the case as I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about it all in lieu of actually doing anything about it.
Not helped by the targeted ads that pepper my social media for school book labels or uniforms.
My husband recently walked in as I hissed, in unhinged tones, at my phone: “Stop listening to my conversations!”
As I write this, a mail has just popped up denoting, ‘Back to school essentials’, which has caused the bile to rise in my throat and for several chocolate digestives to mysteriously disappear from the cupboard.
Now that I have two children attending primary school, I look wistfully back upon my own school years.
Whilst I’m sure that parents then felt the same financial pinch prior to September 1 just as we do now, the playing field seemed to be somewhat more level.
I vividly remember parents switching the occasion of ‘The Big Shop’ for the month of August to the hallowed halls of Quinnsworth.
Advertised by the housewife’s favourite, Maurice Pratt, the lure was not simply the competitive prices but more so that with each purchase you received an allocation of yellow-pack copybooks.
Our branch was a small local one which meant that everyone knew one another so the rules of strict allocation of the copies per spend were disregarded entirely.
“Are you collecting the copybooks?”
“By god, I am!”
Which resulted in about 20 of them being deposited into my mother’s trolley.
They were not only packed into our school bags; they littered the house and were used for list making purposes, address books, diaries and my personal favourite: “Pull out the centre pages there and colour in a card for Father’s Day!”
Every child in school had them. The prolific supply also negated the need for covering them lest they get damaged.
Unlike our copy of ‘Busy at Maths’ which was subjected to two layers of brown paper from the large roll my mother would purchase.
There were strict instructions not to write on, eat or drink near it or even breathe in proximity to it lest it devalued the selling on of the edition the following year.
Mothers in the 80s were partial to wallpaper.
Particularly, the flocked kind. You always knew whose parents had decorated the year prior, as the roll of wallpaper would be used to cover schoolbooks in lieu of brown paper.
My friend had a tulip laden affair wrapped around her books.
With a textured flock on the petals in deep crimson. I was beyond envious.
To compensate for my poor ranking in the fashion stakes of book coverings, but mainly I think because of the whining, my mother agreed to purchase ‘The Pen’.
It was the Bic four colour ballpoint pen and the level of smug I felt as I placed it inside my pencil case was unparalleled.
I am happy to report that I was the talk of the classroom. At least until small break.
Friends cooed over it and asked could they have a turn.
‘Just one go!’ eager was I to conserve the ink.
My acceleration towards the dizzying heights of fame was short lived however.
Just after mid-term, one of the girls had returned from her holidays in exotic Dublin.
She had brought in a postcard from the Wax Museum to show us all. So far so mediocre.
Then, she reached into her pencil case and pulled out the Holy Grail.
It was a stackable set of markers, all housed in one nifty pen.
My stomach dropped as she delivered the death knell for my beloved Bic.
Sweet baby Jesus, they were! The yellow smelt of banana, the red of strawberry, the blue… indeterminate but with distinct chemical whiff nonetheless.
I congratulated her on her significant coup as we all headed out to the yard.
A few days later, tired no doubt of the incessant bragging, someone took it upon themselves to dismantle the pen to let the colours dry out when we were all in the yard.
Unconfirmed rumours suggested that the culprit had been a fifth class girl.
A few days ago, my daughter tried to convince me of her need for an overpriced set of gel pens.
“Well, its like this. You can pick one pen or go to school barefoot. The choice is yours.”