Thank God It's The Holidays

4th August 1995 at 01:00
Monday: I ask myself why I do it as I struggle from my bed on another Monday of the summer holidays. Insanity must run in our family - I'm surprised my mother never told me. You'd think that somebody who survived to the back end of the summer term would be determined to spend the next few weeks in a totally vegetative state.

Not me. I'm setting off to run a summer playscheme - not for money, which would be understandable, but as a volunteer, a committed committee chairman, the sort of mug who always says yes. The trouble is, I have been involved with it for so many years, long before I went back to work, and I don't want to see it fold up. And don't tell anyone I enjoy it.

Today is hectic. On Mondays we take the money and the parents have to register their offspring. By the time we've finished that, there's barely time to count the cash and see if the play leaders are happy when it's time to make l20 cups of orange squash. Before we know where we are, their mothers are back to collect them.

Tuesday: The art workshop is going well. An enormous monster is growing out of cardboard boxes. The children are paint-flecked, absorbed in a way that they rarely have time for at school, where there's always something else waiting to grab them.

Some do nothing but play snooker, others skip - we are reviving the dying art of long-rope skipping, and the sound of "Teddy bear, teddy bear" makes a constant background chant. Some play games, others basketball or football or they walk on stilts. Some do nothing but sit with their friends and talk. Why not? It's their holiday.

Wednesday: It's Bouncy Castle day. Swarms of sweating children make their way in constant streams to the kitchen to gulp endless supplies of water. The orange squash ration comes out at 11am. We use four litres a day as it is.

Ben takes his cup outside and empties water over his head and several of his friends follow suit. Stephen swoops in to stop them before it turns into a water fight.

Fine weather makes life so much easier, spreading the noise into the surrounding trees. The teenage helpers cuddle the little ones as they wait their turn.

Michelle makes the mistake of giving a lollipop to a child with a grazed knee the number of "accidents" suddenly soars.

Thursday: Today we bring out the karaoke machine. Brimming with confidence, children display their talent, or lack of it. George abandons his attempt to read the song sheet and sings Humpty Dumpty very loud and out of tune. Everyone still cheers - they must be tone deaf.

The play leaders are starting to look punch drunk. They never knew it would be like this. The trainee teachers stand up to it best - I wonder why?

I get summoned to talk to the press. At least I can stand behind the photographer and make sure I don't feature in the pictures.

Friday: You wouldn't believe how long the talent show can last, or how much the children enjoy it.

Bad jokes, dancing, recorder playing, singing: the highlight is when some of the play leaders do a spoof Blind Date. The kids don't care what it is, they sit there and applaud it all. Their mums can't get them to leave and end up coming in to watch. In the end we have to push them out, so we can tidy up.

"I think this is marvellous," one mother says in passing. "My two love it." Well, so do mine, but please go home because we all need the weekend off. We'll be back on Monday for another week of fun and games.

Rosemary Baxter is a part-time teacher and home tutor from Surrey

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