Accompanying my daughter to collect her two youngest from school (they break up today, later than many other schools) I overheard parents wondering what they were going to do with the children for 6 weeks. I refrained from pointing out that Spanish children have already had a month of holidays; I don’t think they would have appreciated it.
The debate about school holidays has come up again as Mr Gove has been suggesting that the school year should be restructured to reduce this long break when, apparently, children from a disadvantaged background fall behind because they don’t get to do the stimulating activities more privileged youngsters are presented with. I can see the arguments for both sides but I still come down on the side of the pro-long(ish) summer holiday lobby. I always enjoyed the sense of a demarcation line between one year and the next.
Having said all that, on Monday I received a whole series of text messages from our eldest granddaughter to the effect that she was bored and that there was nothing to do. Her school finished for summer last Friday, the school where her mother works finished on Tuesday of this week and the smaller siblings’ school finishes today. As a result she was home alone and had not organised any activities for herself. (She had had a friend to stay over the weekend so she couldn’t be said to be deprived of company but that’s teenagers for you, I suppose.) My suggestions that she should walk the dog, tidy her room, read a book and so on did not go down well.
However, later on Monday I suggested to her that we might take a trip to Liverpool on Tuesday as the Tate Gallery is currently hosting a Magritte exhibition. This turned out to be the just what she needed. She is starting a GCSE Art course in September and has a homework task sheet (so much for six weeks of freedom and nothing to do!!) which includes, if possible, going to the Magritte exhibition and then doing some follow-up work. So off we went.
The plan was that I would get on the train at our nearest station – Greenfield – and she would get on the same train at her nearest station – Mossley. It was a brilliant plan except that either her mother had not told her or she had not been listening. Whatever the reason, she was not at the station but at her house when my train arrived at Mossley. Most annoying! I had to hop off the train and go and find her.
Eventually, armed with task sheet, sketchbook, camera, almost everything but the kitchen sink, we caught the next train an hour later and still managed to reach Liverpool in the very early afternoon.
The sun was shining, it was quite summerlike and Liverpool looked very good. They have done a lot of work on making the centre of the city pedestrian – shopper- tourist friendly and the result is good.
So we made our way down to the Albert Dock and into the Tate Gallery where we spent a happy hour or three looking at Magritte paintings, discussing them, taking notes, sketching bits and pieces and generally being very studious. Not a moan at all about this being too much like a school visit. The only (very minor) complaint was when I ran into an old friend I’d not seen for about 10 years and we spent too long catching up.
Having “done” Magritte, we made our way down through the rest of the gallery, happily discussing whether a pile of concrete bricks in a supermarket trolley or a heap of old clothes in a corner of a room really constitute a work of art. But we also got to see a Picasso, an Andy Warhol, a Mondrian, a Henry Moore and a load of other good stuff. There was some question, though, about why a Campbell’s soup tin was a good subject for a painting!
Finally, having expended a lot of energy in art appreciation the teenager needed sustenance so we stopped at Prêt à Manger on our way back to the station and found her something to eat. Then it was back to the station through the Liverpool sunshine, a final dash for a train which was leaving in two minutes time and which allowed us to make our connection back to our neck of the woods.
A successful expedition. She was very good company.
I suppose this means that she is now one of the privileged youngsters who are taken out to do stimulating activities. Only another 6 weeks to go.