When we first arrived in Gibraltar, we were introduced to the phenomenon that is ‘half days’ or ‘summer hours’. This means that for the last 3 to 4 weeks of the school summer term and the first couple of weeks of the autumn term, school finishes between 11:45am and 12:45pm depending on the age of the child. Yes, that’s right 11:45am – the school day still starts at 9am, so for the very youngest students (Nursery & Reception) they have a school day lasting just 2 3/4 hours!
I completely get why this happens – it gets too darn hot in the summer time and despite the fact this is a nation well accustomed to the hot sunny weather, the school buildings are without air conditioning. You do get to a point when an open window and electric fan don’t quite cut the mustard in the midday heat. It’s not really conducive to a comfortable learning environment.
On the flip side, if you are in a family where both parents work, or you are on your own and work, how on earth do you deal with childcare? It’s an annual headache for several of my friends who resort to flying grandparents in to take a few weeks hands-on child caring duty or face paying additional childcare costs to have their little darlings looked after while they finish their working day. In fact the half day situation, paired with an 8-week-long summer break from school, is the primary reason why many of us stay-at-home mums stay-at-home in the first place. There is only so much flexi time an employer is willing to flex in order to cater for such prolonged child caring time.
Fortunately for me and my family I don’t work (well, I don’t do paid work). This means that the 2 3/4 hours I have between 9am and school pick up time are incredibly precious. It serves as an annual reminder that this is my last chance to get jobs done unhindered and uninterrupted. It’s a last opportunity to fit in a trip to the hairdressers or get some jobs done in the house, to nip out to the gym in a last desperate attempt to get a body which won’t frighten young children on the beach or just to sit down and have a cuppa in peace.
For me, today that meant a flying trip to the supermarket and then my watercolour class. I’ve been learning to paint with watercolours since October last year. My teacher, Deborah M Lawson is a very talented and very patient lady. Myself and my fellow students agree that our Tuesday morning classes not only produce sometimes surprisingly good results but are also a form of therapy, giving us the chance to calm down and zone out of whatever is going on in the rest of our lives. At times, Deborah’s lounge (where she holds her classes) echoes to the sounds of our hoots of laughter and other times you could hear a pin drop as we try to get our heads round a new technique she’s encouraging us to experiment with. Today, we did a study on trees to varying degrees of success…
These are just first attempts I hasten to add! There’s quite a bit of work still to be done. Sadly I have just two watercolour lessons left before we break for the summer, I’ll miss by weekly dose of colour-filled therapy!
So after my art class a quick dash got me to school in time for the 11:45 pick up and an afternoon of fun lay ahead. I’m not 100% sure how we filled it, there were computer games, a piano lesson and a trip to the pool. It’s now after 11pm and I’ve just got back from my twice-weekly trip to the local recycling bins (the glamour!). I think it may be time to hit the hay before it’s time to start all over again!
Please excuse the grainy quality of this image but this is the view from our local recycling bins, I had to share it. It makes the trip worthwhile!