The last week of the summer holidays



It’s getting to the point where it is no longer possible for people to ignore the impending doom of autumn term, even though the teenagers are holding out on getting into any kind of morning getting-up schedule.

This year sees GCSEs for daughter two, a new school for daughter three, finding a job for daughter one, year four for only son, Brexit, the anniversary of the Catalan independence vote, the US midterm elections and more general overwork and anxiety.

It makes sense to cling on to the summer for all it’s worth – if only to gather enough energy to get through until Christmas when who knows what will have happened. For many on or below the poverty line, though, the summer holidays are an endurance test. The usual suggestions have been made to shorten the summer holidays.

The fact remains, however, that in 2018 people, whether they are working or not, do not have enough money to feed their families and the rising price of food is only going to make this worse – as is the looming threat of a no-deal Brexit.

Even for those on average incomes, trying to keep everyone entertained during the summer for as little money as possible can be difficult. Another potential problem is that children of different ages don’t like doing the same things: in our house what a 15-year-old recluse likes doing differs tremendously from what appeals to an eight-year-old swimming fanatic.

Outings have involved walks [not hugely popular except with daughter two whose number one suggestion for summer holiday outings is “to sit in a field of flowers”], parks, trips to charity shops and anything with the word ‘free’ in it.

Hence Monday was spent at Westfield shopping centre – not, you would think, the best venue to save money, but it had a free funfair and you can go into the Lego shop and play for hours on end without buying a thing while teenagers window shop elsewhere.

I had to upgrade my phone. I was hoping to upgrade downgrade it, but daughter three made a good business case for going with a phone which is around the same price as my old one. In our house, my phone is viewed as a family concern rather than private property.

Only son had a whale of a time playing on all the phones. The only problem was when we left the shop, he left behind his copy of Mr Gum. We only realised when we had reached the car park and paid for the ticket. “I’ll just run back and get it,” I said, keen to encourage summer holiday reading whenever possible. I am fighting a losing battle with daughter three.

The phone shop was on the bottom floor at the other end of the shopping centre. I’d been having sinus headaches all day, which I put down to the menopause, and running is not my favourite pastime, despite the name of this blog. I often ask myself at what age running everywhere in a mild panic no longer becomes a thing.

I was doing well. I could see the EE shop on the floor beneath when all of a sudden fire alarms started sounding. “Smokescreens coming down. Everyone evacuate”. Nooo. I got to the escalator as people streamed past me to the exit. There were people going down rather than leaving the building. Could I chance it and grab the bag just in time? The answer was no. The people going down were evacuating through the ground floor and ticker tape had gone up by this point.

I headed outside. I had no way of letting my partner know what was going on so I ran round the building towards a sign marked ‘car park’. It turned out to be the wrong car park. I ran back and all the way round Westfield’s outer perimeter to the other car park. My partner was oblivious to the whole thing. It was a slightly dramatic end to the day, but, silver linings and all, at least I got some exercise.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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