Only ten days to go. I am like a prisoner carefully marking off the days on my calendar till my release. I am marking off the days till they go back to school.

The end of August is always the same. My patience has worn thin, my nerves are frazzled. I am like a hen on a hot griddle, sizzling and fraying around the edges. Its time they were back in school.

Of course, I haven’t felt like this all summer. Oh no, by the middle of June I was rightly fed up of the endless homework, school lunches, projects, head lice notes and necessity for clean uniforms every day. I embraced the beginning of summer holidays as I do every year, relishing the freedom and the relaxed routines. And of course in late June and early July, the weather co-operated. It actually felt like summer, which is always a bonus.

But as July soggily seeped into August, the weather reverted to type. Night after night I watched as that nice John Eagleton apologised on behalf of God for the endless weather fronts waiting out in the Atlantic for their turn to move Eastwards always managing to arrive here around mid morning.

But early in August I still had a reserve of energy and enthusiasm for this holiday lark. We did the Dead Zoo, the local library, the bus into town – all good old fashioned and free fun. I even did a marathon expedition to some strange kids wonderland and waterpark in Drogheda which I still have nightmares about. The kids loved it and I felt sure I had bought myself enough positive karma to see me through till that magic date of the 1st of September.

But I had forgotten the annual horrors that are lurking in the final two weeks of summer holidays: namely the shopping for school shoes and school books.

Ok now lend me a soapbox for a moment. I have two kids, two years apart. One going into 4th class, the other into 6th. This year I have managed to pass on just two books from one to the other. That’s right, two books. Why? Workbooks, that’s why. In my day (and probably yours too), we had Text Books. Text books had text but they had questions too. We wrote the answers into our copies. Copies that cost 2pence halfpenny. But not in post Celtic Tiger Ireland. Oh no, our little darlings now fill in the answers in the text book sorry workbook. So instead of having to write out a whole sentence, they just fill in the gap. Apart from this being of dubious educational benefit, it is surely very un eco friendly. Does John Gormley know of this current practice in our Junior Schools? And if he does, what is he doing about it. I expect that he should be at this very moment beating a path to Mary Coughlan’s door. Workbooks, I ask you! Lack of Work books they should be called.

Shopping for school shoes is another special kind of torture. It is the only time in the year when I seem to remember an important nugget no doubt gleaned from a Penelope Leach book during pregnancy, “it is vital to have your children’s feet measured regularly.” So off I go, along with what seems like every parent in the country to the local shoe shop to have feet measured and spend exorbitant sums on sturdy school shoes. The shop is always crowded and hot. While we wait for attention, the little darlings take a look at the shoes on display and announce either of two things. They hate all of them or they like this one – which is from the Toddler range. When the assistant finally appears with the foot measuring yoke, I look at the little darlings feet and realise they are wearing their oldest, most pungent runners which are most likely hiding socks with holes. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

Oh only ten days to go. What started off as a relaxed routine in July has deteriorated now into no routine at all. The little darlings won’t get out of bed till mid day. While I am having lunch, they are having breakfast. They won’t get dressed. Afternoon visitors are treated to the sight of my pasty faced mini pre teenagers wandering about in PJ’s and hoodies and giving the house an Adams Family feel. They are eating lunch in the middle of the afternoon and dinner is getting later and later every day. Myself and himself don’t know if we are coming or going.

Only ten days to go…. Only ten days to go…. I just can’t wait to make a few school lunches, and get stuck into some homework!