September 2016 · Sharpen your pencils
Marginalia: Notes written in the margins of a text. Rhymes with Australia!

Back to school special

There's a primary school around the corner from our house and last week it shrieked back into life after the summer break.

I love seeing the kindergarteners trot down the street each morning, their backpacks threatening to engulf their tiny bodies. I know it's time for my lunch break when the bell goes, followed by the universal playground din of thundering feet and squealing. So much squealing. It's a happy sound.

I reckon I'd have liked a Scottish education. The timing of the school year appeals, both weather and attention span wise. Over here it seems like you're never too far away from some fun...

The Scottish school year:

SEPTEMBER - Begin class after the long summer break. Sure it sucks to be back, but just around the corner is...

OCTOBER - Mid-term break. A couple more months of study, then along comes...

CHRISTMAS - Ho ho ho, hello! It's another week off.

JANUARY-MARCH - The weather is grim, so you may as well learn something. But what's that up ahead?

EASTER! Then only a brief jaunt until it's summer holidays again.

My Aussie school year:

END OF JANUARY-EASTER - Return from summer break and try to learn while roasting alive in various locales: a shadeless, concrete quadrangle for school assemblies. A baked and dusty football field for PE class. An airless demountable classroom where thighs stick to plastic chairs and the ceiling fan above halfheartedly stirs our various teenage stinks.

Plus, the horror of swimming lessons.

MORE OF THE BLOODY SAME UNTIL JULY - A brief respite with sausage rolls at the canteen and about one month of tights weather.

AUGUST-DECEMBER - A vast stretch of learning as long and flat as the great continent itself, with increasing temperatures. More swimming lessons.

FINALLY, CHRISTMAS - Hide inside all summer hols reading books, until the cycle starts again.

Of course I exaggerate! And not everyone is a flammable ginger curmudgeon. Most of my friends loved all the sun and swimming.

Gareth, who says his Scottish high school experience was like "a really shitty, grey version of a John Hughes film" would have swapped places in a heartbeat. "It's just like Neighbours, right?".

Super school supplies

I reckon the pinnacle of 80s school gear was the vinyl pencil case with the wee windows, as per the pic below. Carefully cutting out the letters of your name then sliding them into the windows with a pair of tweezers... magic!

You're never too old for back to school supplies. Why should those pesky kids have all the fun? Here are three of my essentials:
Clairefontaine 1951 Vintage-Style A5 Exercise Books

1. Clairefontaine 1951 Vintage-Style A5 Exercise Books

J'adore these little chaps - they come in cool colours, the paper is silky smooth, they're relatively cheap, and they're French! 

Also, since they're exercise books the lines are quite wide so you can fill the pages very quickly and feel like you're achieving something.
Staedtler Textsurfer Classic highlighters

2. Staedtler Textsurfer Classic highlighters

I'm a fan of using highlighters to cross things off To Do lists, because you can still read the words underneath. And once you've filled up the notebook, you can flip back through the pages and admire your beautiful rainbow of productivity.

This set of Textsurfers are my highlighter holy grail. There's a colour for every mood and they're more subtle than your usual neon. They glide across the page like butter. I busted them out during a recent brainstorming session and my friend squeaked, "Oooh... what ARE these?" after just one swipe in her notebook. So good! 

Lamy Safari fountain pen

3. Lamy Safari fountain pen

The scratch scratch scratch of a nib on paper is a glorious everyday pleasure and the Lamy Safari is an affordable classic.

It feels so comfy in the hand and there's ink cartridges (both official Lamy and cheaper brands) in all sorts of colours. So even if you're writing rubbish, it's classy-looking rubbish!

NB: No affiliate links here; just sharing the stationery lurve!

Things of the Month



Lovely Rita

I've just graduated from Season 1 of Rita, a cracking Danish comedy drama about a teacher named Rita (surprise!).

Rita is a rebel and a rule-breaker, a single mum to three kids, a smoker, a swearer and an unapologetically blunt speaker. The show follows her adventures through the school year, from her extracurricular activities with the principal to helping students in peril to navigating messy family situations. 

For the first episode I just gawped in awe at Rita's swishy long hair, but was soon drawn in to her world. She's flawed and complex but not in the usual contrived TV way. When the show deals with Issues™ it's with subtlety, humour and humanity; never waffling into preachy cliches.

The supporting cast is brilliant and I love the peek into Danish school life. I'm not sure if it's accurate - do all Danish schools have bean bags dotted around for students to flop into, or just the telly schools? I really hope it's all of them.
Seasons 1-3 of Rita are on Netflix.

This will be in the test

For your ears this month - a superb selection of songs about school. Themes of lusting after one's teacher crop up frequently. Rock out with Ramones, Rufus Wainwright, Van Halen, The White Stripes, Pulp, Lulu, the theme from Saved By The Bell and more.

Wishing you a superb September!


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