The hell of hol-shaming

Claudia Savage-Gore on the pitfalls of the back-to-school run at the worst time of year

Hot House

This article was taken from the September issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering three issue for just £5.

So just as schools vaguely reopened in July, the bloody summer holidays rolled around. Seven hellish weeks of quality time followed, with the new nanny Aurelia more or less like an extra child. I found Aurelia on Koru Kids (“disruptive” nanny agency that all my friends in Highgate rave about, and which looks more like a new social media channel than a childcare source) and was stupidly dazzled by the fact that she was studying fashion at St Martins. Why? Am I 20 myself. Obviously a fashion degree in no way  qualifies anyone for childcare. It might, in fact, be an anti-qualification.

But I remembered this too late, having only ogled her on FaceTime and not actually met her, and then spent six weeks literally paying to look after this girl as well as my own children. Will hid upstairs WFH every morning, leaving me to watch her manhandle the coffee machine and listen to her moan about how unfair it is that she’ll probably have to do her final show on Zoom. I’d thought that the fact she could speak English would be a relief after years of signing at clueless Spanish au pairs, but in fact it just highlighted how self-obsessed millennials are. I mean, she wasn’t remotely interested in my memories of Nineties Glastonbury, even when I pointed out how much inspiration she could and should draw from rave.

Anyway, we used the start of the autumn term as reason to sack her, which has meant doing the school run myself at the worst time of year — when post-holiday competitiveness is rife.

Lyra’s school (the blingy one in Hampstead) is the worst. I’ll mention to whichever mother is blocking my way back to the Tesla that we had a lovely week near Lake Como, and she’ll invariably have spent six weeks in the Maldives. Then I’ll have to hear about the yoga retreat her daughters did in Ibiza, and feel sick for the rest of the day.

Hector’s prep is draining in a different way, in that nobody wants to be seen as too showy and will say that they’re “just going down to Norfolk”. It’s fatal to admit you are too, because then you need to make sure it’s the right bit of Norfolk (i.e. Salthouse or Blakeney, not Burnham Market). But if you don’t mention this “coincidence” you’re doomed to bump into them in Holt, and get the “I didn’t know you came here” chat.

I have no idea where Minnie’s new friends at her boarding school go on holiday. Probably home, since they’re all foreign anyway.

I’d hoped things would be different this year, what with hardly any travel and all the holiday camps cancelled.

But no. If anything, the annual holiday one-upmanship has risen to new heights with everyone raving about how wonderful it was to go to a bothy with no WiFi (Hector’s school) or the private island their in-laws own off Corfu (Lyra’s school). Tried to spin our London staycation as “family time”, but I could see by the horrified looks that everyone interpreted this as “bankruptcy”.

Speaking of which, all private schools are now broke so we’re being badgered incessantly about “socially distanced fundraising events”. One of the few upsides to 2020 has been the lack of school fundraisers, but it looks as if we’re now firmly back on the PTA email treadmill. Might actually be worth alluding to bankruptcy, now I think about it. Anything’s better than watching retired hedge funders and their second wives attempt the Uno Dos Tres challenge, right?

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