If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
The long summer holidays just seemed to stretch out forever ahead of us when we were little.
There was no end in sight, because September just seemed so far off, unimaginable. June had brought the smells of summer already, as though teasing us with tiny touches to our senses, awakening notions of dreamy afternoons wasted beside cricket pitches or under ancient trees while someone mowed a lawn far away or bees drifted somewhere, just beyond our reach.
But there was never really any plan at all. Honestly, I don’t think I knew of any cricket pitches beside which I had any intention of sitting, and I couldn’t picture what I’d occupy my time with under any tree. Books, I might have supposed, if I’d given it any deeper thought.
Parents were the ones responsible for arranging things like trips to beaches or amusement parks, if we were lucky, or long drives in thick traffic to fussy relatives if we were not.
In her recent book, “British Summertime Begins,” my former classmate Ysenda Maxtone Graham describes that sunny and delightful period of nothingness as though it were a giant void for children but something of a tedium for adults because, you know, someone should do something about all these nippers with nothing better to do than hurl cricket balls and lounge under trees. Someone will have decided there should be a schedule of sorts, and so we would eventually be corralled and coaxed into doing purposeful things, like reading literature from a list provided by the school, learning who the Axis and Allies were, or solving page after page of algebra problems with the windows open to the sounds of laughter, birds and ice cream vans.
Perhaps the very first day of the holidays was the best of all. It was filled with excitement, travel and anticipation. I’d have packed my little leather suitcase in the boarding school dormitory and trotted down the lane from the gloomy red-brick pile that we called home for all the months of the school year, to the charmingly dilapidated station and then, relishing the smells of old tar, leather and dusty upholstery, rattle along in the shabby train through the countryside to London. I’d gaze in near-revolted wonder at the million grimy windows, the smoky chimneystacks and the jaunty jags of little tiled roofs, and the train would clatter between girders over the Thames to deliver me, wide-eyed and thrilled at the throng and the bustle, the clamor, the filth and the majesty, to cavernous Charing Cross.
These were the hours when I’d assess the year that had passed, take stock of my lonely pre-teen self in my scratchy shirt and my grey flannel trousers, consider how much older I’d become since the last summer had passed, such a long time ago, and really wonder whether this summer would be the greatest, whether I’d do all the things I hadn’t yet thought of doing, and how far in my mind I could place myself from the stifling and dreary school life I had just left behind.
Breathless we tumbled into the summer, pitching headlong into the void, reckless and hopelessly free.