The blackberries finished early this year. We picked our share, and have more in the freezer. Blackberry-picking with YoungestGirl is a chore; for every one you manage to get in the pot, you have to put at least three in her gawping mouth, or else the shouting starts. In the meantime, EldestGirl will either prick herself and squeal like a stuck pig, or be startled by an insect. But they started early this year, the blackberries. And finished early too.
And today, EldestGirl, YoungestGirl and I went out conker hunting. I knew it was early in the season, but we did find a few. Some still milky blanched and unready, untimely ripped from their prickly green cases, others absolutely mirror-shiny and brown, but small. The others hung heavily above us, waiting for a stiff breeze.
Summer is over. You can tell in the mornings when the air is crisp and the gravel paths are somehow crunchier. Spiders make their webs, visible in the morning dew. It is not cold enough, yet, to need the heating on, but neither do we need to sleep with the window cracked open. Summer is over. Autumn is here.
This year, more poignant, perhaps, as it marks the start of EldestGirl’s journey through the education system; she starts school on Monday. Her green uniform is ironed* and ready to go. Her teacher has visited our home, we have visited the classroom, and all that remains is to drop her off on Monday morning, ready to be educated for the next 14 years, or longer.
She feels exactly how I would expect: excited but nervous. She has been ready for school for a little while. She’s almost five, so one of the oldest in her year.
I suspect the biggest challenge will be YoungestGirl’s feelings. She adores her sister, and when we have to drop EldestGirl somewhere that YoungestGirl can’t go, she will often have a meltdown, shouting for her sister. This is going to make the school-run extra fun.
For me, well, I’ll miss EldestGirl’s helping hands with YoungestGirl; she plays with her, keeps her busy, can keep a brief eye on her whilst I pop to the garage, or get the laundry and so on. I’ll miss hearing them laugh together all morning. But, school days are short, and she’ll be home mid-afternoon every day, instead of the 5.45 p.m. that she’s home on her nursery days at the moment.
(I am not looking forward to providing her with dinner every night. From being a baby-led weaned, eats-everything child, we have now whittled it down to about four meals she will actually tolerate, which excludes anything that has ever been near a tomato. Until recently, this has largely been nursery’s problem!)
So for the last week we have been having a last hoorah. Taking advantage of Reception’s later start to the term, we visited Mr and Mrs Nunn, whizzed around CBeebies Land at Alton Towers (plus some of the bigger rides because EldestGirl is a bloody nutcase when it comes to adrenaline), saw lots of friends and had ridiculous amounts of fun before school starts.
When EldestGirl was first born, the minutes – let alone the hours, days, weeks and months – stretched out interminably. It seemed we would never get to the stage where your conscious effort wasn’t needed every single minute to keep her happy and well. Born in September, it seemed to me that summer would never arrive. But it did. The sun came out, we played in the garden and the blackberries came.
But now the blackberries are finished. I think they finished early this year.
*I hope she doesn’t get used to this as this is the second time this decade I have tried ironing, and I didn’t enjoy it any more the second time.