Counting down to home time
Just over four weeks until the end of term.
On Wednesday, 21st December, school closes for the two week Christmas holiday.
In my own schooldays, I was always delighted when there was only one month of the term to go; it meant each date in the calendar would only occur once more.
If the term ended on the 21st day of the following month, I would begin the countdown on 22nd day of the previous month, so the counting would have started tomorrow.
The end of term was a morning of high excitement. We piled onto an old bus, undoubtedly overcrowded, for three to a seat was thought reasonable.
The bus would wind its way from the Dartmoor valley where our school was situated, flying down the long descent into Bovey Tracey, before passing through Newton Abbot, and bringing us to Teignmouth railway station where we, and the staff appointed to escort us, would meet with staff and girls from our sister school in Teignmouth.
The half single fare to Taunton was 63 pence. The British Rail ticket was a red and white vertical rectangle with one corner chopped off. It was so significant for me that I can remember the print on it.
A carriage would have been reserved for us and there would have been a press to be sure to be seated with friends, not that it made much difference when Taunton was only a short hop away.
Getting home was, of course, always an anti-climax. I didn’t know anyone anymore and there was nothing much to do. Nevertheless, the end of the holidays and the approach of a new term was something to be met with gloom and apprehension.
The journey westwards on the train was a pale reflection of that eastwards just short weeks before, I can barely remember the details.
The countdown to the school holidays remained a lesson in how anticipation is a significant part of any experience, a lesson in how the event itself was sometimes a disappointment when compared with the excitement.
Perhaps the anticipation of school holidays derived more from what the holidays were not, rather than from anything they were. In simple terms, the holidays were not school, and the repressive regime that it enforced. Holidays meant freedom from timetables and rules and people telling you what to do.
Perhaps the anticipation of school holidays in four weeks’ time is not so far removed from what school holidays meant in the 1970s.
The line I find interesting is ‘I didn’t know anyone anymore’.
I would think that most of us lost touch with friends at home. Our experience was completely different from theirs, at least I found that I had little in common, other than living in the same place. As for the train journey, we often stopped at my home station going to and from school, but I couldn’t join or leave the train there as the council escort had parked his car at the next station up the line. It was then a tedious car journey going out of the way to drop a fellow pupil off in the sticks.
We were neither fish nor fowl. Without the friends we would have had if we had remained at home, we didn’t have the ‘old boys’ network that came with ordinary boarding schools.
Not only that, officialdom didn’t appear to know who we were. I was sent to the careers office from the job centre. The man in the offices grunted that he’d never heard of me and that he’d have to open a new file. Personally I felt lost, for want of a better word. Living in the same place as I always have, I still get the questions, “you must know so and so”, or “do you remember…”,sometimes.