I’m 53 now but I persist in thinking of the year in terms of the school calendar. My year begins in September, when I have an urge to go out and buy new shoes and tights and pencils, and put brown paper covers on all my books.
So even though I’m supposed to be finishing There Is No Dog (I’m close now, very close), in my heart of hearts I’m on vacation. This means wearing the same slightly grubby clothes day after day, going barefoot, eating leftovers from last night’s barbecue for breakfast and swimming at night in moonlight.
There are a bunch of genuine teenagers with us here on the beach, and they are (quite naturally) disgusted at the thought of their embarrassing parents getting drunk and laughing till they fall off chairs, but the upside is that they go for days without any supervision at all.
The wondrous KM Peyton came for dinner last week with her entourage and we sat outdoors with hurricane candles, eight of us and the dogs, a bit bundled up and huddled together because – well, because it’s England and it’s summer. I’d stopped counting empty wine bottles when the kids loomed up out of the dark saying they were going for a swim. Two thirteen-year-olds and an eleven-year-old. “Be careful!” we warned, ever the responsible parents. “Try not to drown.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be in charge,” promised the youngest solemnly.
It’s a hundred yards over undulating hills of pebble to the water, and there was no moon that night, and the fabulously acerbic Ms Peyton looked at us admiringly. “Hmm,” she said, “it’s just like the good old days, before people worried about their children dying in accidents.”
We felt very proud. And a little later, slightly chastened. So the whole party trekked down to the water and sat on the edge while the waves crashed in the dark and the kids experimented with floating in ways that made them look dead.
“Still alive?” we shouted down at intervals.
“No.” came the inevitable reply.
I can’t bear the thought of going back to school.