Obviously, it has been over 1,000 years since I parked my saggy, old buttocks behind a classroom desk - hyperbole, I know - but it was definitely, genuinely, in the last century. So, a long time ago. Anyway, what is extraordinary about those school days is how much the rhythm of the school year still permeates. How, despite being firmly in my middle youth/age, September always makes me feel like I have a new lease of life.
It’s like I have moved up a year. A new year. However, unlike the real New Year when all that lies ahead is the misery of losing those Christmas kilos and giving your liver a break, while waiting for your tax bill and wanting to garrotte yourself due to lack of sunshine and day light - in September, I feel energised, focused, there’s work to be done, stars to be won. After the long summer holidays, it’s back to school, back to the desk, time to pop on the typing fingers and get cracking. In short, new year, new pencil case, new me!
The only problem is, this feeling always takes me by surprise. Much like most things in life, I am always a few minutes/hours/days/years behind everyone else.
So, as I stood at the annual well-fought fash-off at the school gates this morning, dropping child number two off at his first day of big school, I released I had done it again.
Unlike the 64 per cent of women who were recently surveyed by Debenhams, I had failed to buy a new school run outfit to impress the flock of lunching ladies who do enough Pilates to assassinate Putin with a ping pong ball and their pelvic floor alone. Not only that, I had also singularly failed to book a “beauty appointment to coincide with the first day of school”, which apparently, again according to Debenhams, is what 76 per cent of women do.
I was, in the words of my daughter, an all round epic fail. I still had my beach face on, my sandy, swimming pool hair was scrunched into a bunch, my orange nail varnish was chipped and peeling and I was wearing the most cardinal summer holiday tell of all: flip flops.
Which is one up from the white and gold Magaluf hen-night boots I was wearing the year before - which I thought showed off my tan v nicely - until one of those jogging mothers swathed in spandex, sucking on a hydrating teat, said to me: “Oh, I see you’ve been on holiday”. I was about to shove her water bottle somewhere unfathomably dark when I realised she was absolutely correct.
A tan, beach hair, faded gold tattoos, clip-on feathers and feet so cloven with dead skin you need to go to a farrier are very well and good when you are sipping rose watching Kate Moss dive off the rocks in Formentera. But keep that look going beyond the hire car and you start to look like those orange people who wander through airports wearing pistachio-coloured wife beater T-shirts and teeny tiny ball-dividing shorts. It’s not good and it’s not chic.
Touch-down at Heathrow and once you’ve passed customs you need to hit the ground running, don’t goof it and wait till next week. Get with the Debenhams 64 per cent, or was it 70? Head straight for a trim, a strip, and a bloody great hooves-off pedicure. Oh, and pop on some black while you’re about it.
But I never learn. And as I walked down the school stairs, weeping slightly, devoid of son, and smelling gently of coconut and mango; I bumped slap-bang into one of my very best friends. There she was, resplendent in black, sporting boots, with zips, her dark hair was glossy, as it swung in the autumnal sunshine.
“Darling!” she said, bringing her neat, short, amarena cherry coloured fingertips together underneath her smooth pale chin. “How on earth are you?”
I can honestly say I have never felt more ‘last week’ in my entire life!