This weekend past, for the first time in my adult life, I experienced the hell that is half-term.
Up until this weekend the half-term school holidays had no bearing on my life. As such I approached the recent half-term break with the casual audacity of a man whose casual yet audacious behaviour regularly sees him left with egg on his face.
On Friday, arrangements were made for a family day out involving Lucy, her cousin and a trio of responsible adults at a reasonably priced indoor kids play area. The bags were packed and the kids duly worked into an excited frenzy when the plans crumbled before our very eyes. Just before we were about to get into the car it emerged that there was to be no toddlers session at our chosen venue on Friday because it was half-term.
Much as the decision annoyed me, I soon learnt, in terms of the health and safety of the toddler population, it made perfect sense. With an army of bored school kids on the loose the last place a toddler needs to be is trapped in a climbing net while a sugar-fuelled seven-year-old pelts him or her with the contents of a ball-pit.
Not wanting to totally drop our idea of a day out we made alternative plans for the day which involved going to a play park in Killinchy followed by a restaurant favoured by the blue-rinse brigade - two locations which we were correct to assume were unaffected by the half-term rush.
On Sunday afternoon, despite my previous run-in with the half-term break, I decided it would be a great idea for myself, my wife and daughter to visit one of our favourite beauty spots.
Shaws Bridge was pandemonium. The car park was overflowing and several people had resorted to abandoning their cars on double yellow lines and grass verges. The price of a parking ticket was obviously outweighed by the immeasurable value of allowing their kids to inhale actual fresh air and see a real life bridge.
We left immediately, disgusted that a location we often enjoyed unhindered by any life-form except for wild animals had suddenly become overrun with fairweather visitors. I felt like a Man City fan who supported them before they won the league.
I’m of the opinion children don’t really need a half-term break. What’s the point having time off school during a period which is unaffiliated to an annual celebration like Christmas, Easter or Halloween. Letting kids loose at a nondescript time of the year is a recipe for disaster. Can they sing carols? No. Can they binge on chocolate eggs? No. Can they dress up as zombies? No.
And that in a nutshell is the problem with half-term. If children took to the streets as carol-singing zombies and were rewarded for the efforts with chocolate eggs then at least half-term would have a bit of substance to it.
As it stands, those half-wits in the education system who came up with the half-baked idea of the half-term holiday would undoubtedly benefit from a bit of extra time at school... perhaps over half-term.
A touching tale
The other day in my favourite supermarket, which I’ve decided to stop name-dropping as they’re yet to send me any freebies, I witnessed an exchange between two gentlemen which I felt it was necessary to share with you.
At the check out to my right a man, who was with his two young boys, was about to be served. When he got to the till he looked behind him and noticed that there was a bearded man on his own with three Easter Eggs. Because the man behind him only had three items while the man himself had a two-metre-long conveyor belt of goods, he told the man with the beard to go in front of him.
After politely objecting a couple of times the man with the beard eventually accepted the offer and paid for his eggs with a crisp £10 note. He then gave two of the eggs to the man’s two children explaining that he’d only wanted one egg for his wife, but it made more sense to avail of a three-for-two offer.
The boys gratefully accepted the eggs while their father repeatedly thanked the bearded man for his generosity.
The romantic in me wanted to cry, the cynic in me feared the crisp £10 note may have been a forgery, while the comic in me wondered if the Easter Eggs contained any horsemeat.
Here’s this week’s teaser: At a farmers’ market you can buy a cow for £10, a pig for £1 and eight hens for £1. How many animals would you need to buy to get 100 mixed animals for exactly £100?
The winner of the signed Phil Taylor photograph was David Abraham from Lurgan. Well done David and may the darts be with you.