It seems a long time since the start of term doesn’t it? Does it to you? It does to me. As usual, I began September in a frenzied whirl of sparklingly good intentions. All items of clothing labelled clearly; the late summer sunlight glinting off the pointy tips of freshly-sharpened pencils and freshly-polished shoes. A homework rota pinned to the fridge and everywhere the pervading smell of a Fresh Start.
Fast-forward seven weeks and quite a different picture emerges. The FreshStart™ scent has been replaced by quite a different smell – the lingering odour of the Path to Hell, and something rotting behind the bread bin. The pencils are blunt and the shoes are scuffed and someone used the homework rota to line the hamster cage. And come to think of it, when did you last see the hamster? But thank goodness for those name labels because at least you know who to return that far-too-large cardigan to tomorrow.
Perhaps you don’t recognise this picture at all. Perhaps there is never an unnamed lingering odour in your kitchen, which may or may not be attributed to a lost pet or perhaps the rotting of your abandoned standards. Perhaps your homework diary is always signed and you always know where the swimming hats are and what day the bins are emptied and you never have to use a Sainsburys carrier bag to wrap the potato peelings because you’ve run out of green bags and if so LUCKY YOU and can you come and stay here for a bit because I need to know your secret.
I really do try to be organised, honestly. I have all the right equipment – calendars and notebooks and even, alarmingly, an in-tray and out-tray (both piled high by mid-October with the usual detritus of crusty Macdonald’s toys and curling junk mail). But if it’s one thing I’ve learned by now it’s that the right equipment simply won’t help cure your underlying psychological issues. All the lovely Cath Kidston letter racks in the world won’t help me remember to pay the milk bill on time.
The squishy centre of my weak spot is the Birthday Issue. Fundamentally I just don’t have space in my head or my life to remember all the birthdays I need to remember in my life let alone actually Do Something About Them. And yet, and yet, the Birthdays just keep coming, relentlessly and ever increasing, dividing and multiplying like ever-marching broomsticks. That feeling when you see the calendar and think, March the 12th, March the 12th?? The 12th?? Of March??? Oh gracious that sounds FAMILIAR. But why?? The worst case scenario is that this is your actual own wedding anniversary, which is the kind of forgetfulness that you might get away with once, but after two years running I’m saying that’s hard to justify and may require some sort of trip to Paris the next year. Just make sure you write it down somewhere or – and here’s my tip (in fact my dad’s tip) – get your children to remember for you.
So birthdays, as you will gather, are not my strong point and – if you are reading this and you know me – well I really am genuinely sorry and all that and I promise you it’s nothing personal and it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. (The way you can tell if I love you or not, if you are interested, is if I’m very rude and sarcastic to you. Birthday cards don’t really come into it.) But they do say that everyone is good at something. I am wildly disorganised and only remember birthdays on the actual day, or possibly the day after, but there are many things I’m good at. Here are just a few:
- Burning myself, especially on piping hot food stuffs and candles.
- Going to the supermarket and forgetting the key thing I’ve gone for in the first place but coming home with some very nice biscuits.
- Competitive card games.
- Making very short lists.
The other thing I’m very good at, as you’ve probably guessed by now, is avoiding the thing I really need to do, by doing something else that quite frankly I don’t need to do quite so urgently. Like writing this, for example, when I should be packing my daughter’s bag for her school trip, leaving in the morning. Or, more accurately, ‘encouraging’ her to do it herself. Her response to my most recent, rather fervent, request to pack? ‘I’ll do it in the morning.’
I don’t know where she gets it from.