Friday, 1 February 2013


Back to School

“Well I ask you, have you ever heard of a triple edged pencil?” quizzes a woman I’ve just met in a shop. No, I haven’t. This unusual stationery item features on an exhaustive list of requirements for a child’s return to school. The complaint continues: “And glue, it’s not just any glue, it has to be a special brand that’s double the price of anything else.” “So much for the humble Perkin’s Paste”, I say. We nod in recognition of that white stuff in hot pink pots from simpler days.
Strangely, this woman tells me, the kids don’t get to keep any of this stuff. It all has to be handed over on the first day of school, is stored in a locked cabinet and gets doled out on an as needs basis. ‘It’s not as if it’s posh either, just a little Catholic school in Willoughby’, she adds.

All over Sydney for the last couple of weeks, mums and dads have been dragging reluctant children and teens around the shops to get uniforms, shoes, sporting equipment, stationery and the other paraphernalia required for this week’s return to school. They enter Officeworks with auras of exasperation and lists in hand.
Heidi is just about to start year 10. ‘How many exercise books will you need?’ asks her Mum. ‘About twelve, but I’ll need something more colourful for drama.” she replies. 
Arielle and Sophie are discussing the merits of different white out; some brands dry out too easily.
Both are going into Year 8 on Thursday. Re-entry has been staggered across three days this year, they tell me and they’re pleased as some of their friends had to start today.
Father and son try to decide on which type of calculator to buy.
Abel has just completed his orientation day at Sydney Boy’s Grammar. He says it went okay. Mum says gearing back to school is a shock to their systems.

At the checkout counter, some mothers are catching up. “Would you believe we just got back at 10.30 last night” says one. It seems like she represents about half of Sydney as the city feels fully occupied today for the first time since Christmas. The long Australia Day weekend was the last hoorah. We’re all getting back to work, or school. Only university students have a couple of weeks of holiday left - if they're not already working jobs to pay off their fees, that is!

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