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Here we go again...

Back to school. Three of the most depressing words in the English language. All summer we could faff around just like God intended. Now we have to sit down, shut up and pay attention again.

You can't let on how much you hate it. You have to participate in the great delusion that school is a splendid experience full of pixies and ice cream. Really, you just learn how to take orders.

I know I'm going over the top and, in fairness, school is pretty soft-core these days, especially the infant classes. One of the schools around here even had a bouncy castle on the first day back. It's a far cry from my first day of school when my big sister had me convinced everyone got an injection in the arse first thing.

Nowadays, you spend about two years colouring stuff in. I looked into this and found there are almost no job opportunities for colourers-in in today's modern workplace, so I don't know why they place so much emphasis on it. But then school has always been about teaching you things with zero practical relevance. I can't remember the last time anyone asked me to give one function of mitosis in multicellular organisms or prove Pythagoras's theorem. I've never had a promotion depend on how well I was able to comment on the effectiveness of Bronte's imagery and symbolism in Jane Eyre.

The holidays are great. You can sit on the sofa all morning, listening to the rain and watching cartoons. Everyone can stay in their pyjamas all day. You don't have to be back in time for anything and if the weather is nice, you can have water fights and eat ice cream. The last days of August, it's like that Sunday night feeling when the theme from Glenroe came on and you still had your Irish essay to do. This is why I don't have a normal job. I just couldn't hack the Sunday evenings. You can write while stark naked at four in the morning. And if you like writing naked, so much the better because with what you get paid, you won't be able to afford clothes.

Now I have to put on clothes and drive to the school every morning and fail to get parking and have to talk to people. The Woman Who Never Shuts Up will be there, waiting to fill me in on all the surgery her elderly relatives had during the summer. You're in constant danger of being co-opted onto committees. I'm especially vulnerable as the principal knows I work from home.

The phrase "work from home" is universally understood to mean "sits on his fat arse all day watching Jeremy Kyle and playing poker online".

My wife, when she does the school runs, gets asked to bake things for various fundraisers. She has a real job, with three kids and a cantankerous, poorly paid, naked husband to take care of, so there's no time for baking.

The last time she was asked, she bought a couple of fruit cakes in Aldi, took them home, threw out the packaging and re-wrapped them in tinfoil. I warned her that it was a dangerous game, because the parish priest was going to be there and everyone knows parish priests can only eat home baking. Otherwise they drop dead. He mustn't have had any because he survived, and everyone complimented her on the cakes and she said thanks and blushed to the roots of her hair.

Mike is starting school this week and we're all up to 90 worried about this. For a start, he hates colouring. Secondly, he has not mastered the art of sitting still. Thirdly, he has an extremely tenuous relationship with reality. Last year in Montessori, any time the teacher invited him to do colouring or stick bits of coloured paper to something, he would explain that this was impossible for any number of reasons: he was a dinosaur and lacked the opposable thumb necessary to hold a crayon, or he was a zombie and everyone knows the undead don't colour.

Then there's the cost. It cost more than €70 for junior infants books. It would be more only we're able to pass on a handful of his sister's books from junior infants two years ago. Only a handful because most of them are workbooks and fully coloured in and can't be re-used. Is there any reason they need so many workbooks? I guess publishers have to eat, too. And wear clothes.


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