Today was Jamie's last day at the Courtyard Preschool, bringing down the curtain on his two years there, and our own four year association with them as a family. It's amazing to think it's nearly four years since a very small Ollie first walked (very reluctantly) through their front door.
I am going to hugely miss walking up with one of them every day, chatting to the other mums and dads and of course the staff, at least three of whom, Donna, Tracey and Sarah have been there throughout. I imagine the end of the year must be quite a wrench for them too - saying goodbye to the children for the last time.
Jamie seems remarkably unfazed by it all. It was just another day to him. Perhaps children at that age don't measure out the passing of their lives in the way that we do.
It certainly made its mark on me - yet another landmark in a life that's pegged out with first days and last days here and there. I've been trying to think back on my own experiences and the key thing that stands out for me is that I can remember my first and last days almost everywhere in finite detail, but a lot of what occurred in between is lost.
I remember my first day at Primary School. It was January 1975 and I would have been almost five. I remember an older boy (all of six) called Terry being asked to show me around the school. I remember the last day too. The Headmaster had all of the leavers in to the hall for an assembly and I remember his exact words - "You may think this is the end, but in fact, it is just the beginning". I can remember some of my schoolmates thinking they were escaping, but in fact we'd had it easy there.
My next school was very different. I remember my first day there too, as well as the day I sat the entrance exam. Amazing the trivia you remember. I even remember in the school hall them sending us off for lunch that day with the announcement: "Able to Disley - go and get lunch". In case you haven't a clue what that means, Able and Disley were surnames - first names were frowned upon in this austere seat of academic learning. Fortunately I fell into the Able to Disley category so I got to go to lunch first which meant I got chips. My friend Gavin Dixon was highly annoyed - he was the very next one after Disley and they'd run out of chips by the time he got there. That was a feature of the canteen at the school - they only made a limited amount of each dish so all the best stuff went first. There were no end of scams played out to get the hallowed "Early Lunch Passes" which were like gold dust. I even joined the choral society at one point to obtain one - useful training for my future karaoke career. I wonder what my music teacher would have made of that.
A good alternative to the canteen was the legendary "Brett's Burgers" just around the corner on the Cowley Road. In 1981 a portion of chips from there was 25p, and the cooking of the burgers was amazing, I've never seen flames so high.
On my first day, my first lesson was Maths. My teacher was Mr Cooper, a young graduate in his first job and it was his first lesson too. He's still there, 33 years on, in fact I saw him just the other day.
On the day I left, a student prank took place. On the day that all the posh parents came to the school for the annual commemoration. The teachers were horrified to discover that someone had painted "THE END" in six foot high letters on the wall at the end of the science block. Clearly I wasn't the only one who was pleased to be leaving. The solution was to park a large van up against the wall and hope nobody noticed. It wasn't me who did this by the way. In fact I never did find out who did, but you have to chuckle.
Over the years every time I have left somewhere I've felt sad and nostalgic, even if I didn't really like the place. Facing the final curtain somewhere marks off a stage of our lives. Of all the last days I have had, undoubtedly the most significant took place almost ten years ago, just before my 35th birthday. We're all familiar with the phrase "three score years and ten" which is a long-winded way of saying 70. It's how long people were generally expected to live when this biblical expression was coined. On this particular day, Friday 28th January 2005, I was leaving Nielsen for the last time after almost fifteen years in the market research industry. It was a hugely significant day and one that bearing in mind all I've written above marks the dividing line between the first half of my life and the second.
Those two halves could not have been more different. The first half was about academic achievements, careers, and conformity. The second half has been about family, creativity, and individuality. I should point out that when I walked out of there back in 2005 I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life. It was scary.
But what an amazing ten years it has been. A family, running my own business, writing books, presenting videos about pork, and all the rest. None of this would have come my way if I was still driving up and down the M1 to and from clients. Yes, life part two has been infinitely preferable - and it's also very unpredictable. I've no idea where my adventures will take me next.
Meanwhile Jamie will go on to St Edburg's to join Ollie who will move up to Year 3 - two more steps on their own personal journey. It's fascinating to see them develop as they do. I wonder what life holds in store for them - if their lives are as colourful as mine has been, they are in for a lot of fun.