Until my working circumstances changed, and I became a man of leisure, I was bound despite not having any children of school age to the school holidays for going on holiday. The shoulder season was unheard of and unchartered territory for going away. My wife, shackled to school holidays by dint of being a teacher is also similarly non-plussed. She now counts the number of Semesterferien left until retirement. We’ve tried to dodge going away at the this time of year, as when we have, the lurgy sets in and we pay full board to be ill in a hotel bed because they won’t let us cancel our accommodation. The motorail routes are also, if operating, booked out far in advance and we prefer to have a longer summer break than bankrupting ourselves by mid-February in search of snow.
As I walked through the underground garage at a friend’s place this evening around 7pm, the most primeval of sights in this day and age when man is not out slaying a woolly mammoth is the sight of a harassed father attaching the ski box to the roof of his car, muttering about whether it is on straight, correctly etc, while a bribed child brought out the collection of skis, poles and boots to be packed into it. As he triumphantly buffed his nails in pride at his handy work, when I passed back through about 20 minutes later, he turned to his neighbour, who was about 20 minutes behind in the process. There was a barrage of questions – which resort, how much is the life pass, which ski school for little Hans, self-catering of hotel – and of course the same will happen upon their return. For the cosseted little darlings they will take with them, another perfect ski trip beckons.
When I was a schoolboy, I remember the end of half-terms and terms mainly for the fact that the last day always had an assembly. At the end of term we would mumble our way through a tiresome hymn called “God be with you until we meet again” and our ex-WW2 veteran headmaster would extol his young charges to “go out and do something exciting with your freedom!” The staff members heeded his recommendation with varying degrees of success, sauciness and seriousness. At one first assembly of the following term, we were informed that our geography teacher had broken his back hang-gliding, and would not be returning to teach us again. Taffy Williams, the maths teacher seemed to spend his holidays brewing and wine-making – the early 1970s were the halcyon days for the self-sufficient, even if they could not always convince their friends and victims of the merits of Chateau Hedgerow, although many pupils would buy his produce to get tanked up, with his “equipment cupboard” filled with brewing paraphernalia rather than textbooks and chalk. And then there was poor old Mr. Little, who was rumbled by a guy in the Remove whose brother was a barman at a seedy motel, where Little would go to get his end away with an English teacher, quite possibly with Mrs. Little being fully unaware of his babycham-fuelled romps.
Vienna tomorrow promises to be extra specially non-productive in the afternoon. The over-keen have been known to park near Hütteldorf station to beat the others onto the Westautobahn, others slope off another half an hour earlier than is acceptable even by Viennese standards in order to beat the traffic, cars idle by school entrances to roar off with the children the very second that they get out of school. In some cases the drive-by routine means timing the pick-up to barely even have to stop the car, with wife in the passenger seat ordered to check the traffic information every five minutes in the delusional hope that a traffic jam can be avoided.
But what about those who can’t go skiing with Mummy and Daddy? There are other programmes on offer closer to home. I’ve agreed to help a friend out for a couple of days with some activity club, although am unsure what I am letting myself in for, other than helping out with a soldering iron for one afternoon, and supervising a chess club one morning. My wife is helping a friend with a holiday art and crafts club, and I have been pressed into action gathering loo rolls, balloons and all sorts of craft miscellany, to help with the effort. Nephew is also going to help out with a bit of music, playing guitar for a pre-school group as part of his rehabilitation back into the less reckless society and will be waiting on people at his mother’s hastily coordinated Vernissage. Otherwise, it will be walks, jam making and maybe even finally finishing off my piece about the Burschenschaften, that is proving too interesting to finish.
Now go out and do something exciting!