Belfast Telegraph

Forget New Year, September is time for new beginnings

By Frances Burscough

The first of September has always felt to me more like an annual turning-point than New Year's Day itself. Summer is effectively over, the days are getting visibly shorter and suddenly there's a chill in the air that wasn't there before.

Look up and the telegraph cables are filling with rows of twittering swallows and swifts, queuing up like passengers in a departure lounge, ready and waiting for their long return flight to Africa. Above them, if you scan the skies for long enough you'll start to see V-shaped flocks of geese from Canada and Russia cutting through the clouds in the opposite direction, on their final approach of their autumn migration to Northern Ireland's fertile shorelines.

Meanwhile, school gates are unlocked and thousands of kids in brand new uniforms and shiny shoes excitedly gather in noisy swarms. Every year, every new form, teacher and classroom marks one giant leap closer to Big School and that holy grail of being a grown-up.

In my own life, most of the great turning points happened at this time too. My first ever job – as a fashion designer at a studio in Liverpool – began on September 1, 1987. Fast-forward twenty years exactly and I started writing this column on the very same week. Even in my personal calendar there's always been a big ring around the same week of the same month. I met my future husband at this time and then we got married a year later on the first Saturday of September (coincidentally on the anniversary of the Second World War, but that's another story).

So, in many ways it seemed quite fitting and appropriate that we finally split up on September 1, 2003 and I began this ten year stretch as a single mother – the most pivotal turning point of them all and one which I thought I'd never get through in one piece.

Naturally, I've been wondering all week how to celebrate such an accumulation of anniversaries – the good, the bad and the ugly – all happening simultaneously. Ideally, if karma really does happen and isn't just an urban myth, I'll get a phone call tomorrow from Camelot HQ to tell me that my numbers all came up and this week's jackpot of a gazillion pounds is all mine. Then, of course, the celebrations will begin in spectacular fashion with an all-inclusive world cruise for all the friends and family who helped me through the last decade ... and a postcard to all the ones who didn't.

Then, afterwards when I'm back on terra firma with a mountain of empty champagne crates stacked high for the recycling lorry alongside the mega-yacht in my driveway, I'll throw the mother of all parties at which Nile Rogers and Daft Punk will perform, Pete Tong will be the DJ and Michel Roux Jr will do the catering. John Cooper-Clark will appear as a special surprise guest halfway through the evening to perform the poem he's written about me and then Russell Crowe will turn up, confess he reads my column every week, and that he's fallen in love with me and wants us to start going steady straight away.

Ok, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away here. But on the slight off-chance that I don't win the lottery and tomorrow is just another day, I'll still feel like celebrating.

One son is happily preparing for his second year at university. The other just got straight A's at GCSEs and is about to start at sixth form. Against all odds and a lot of adversity I appear to have passed my own ten year test as a single mum with flying colours and lived to tell the tale. Every week. In newsprint.

And, what is even more remarkable is that I still haven't been sacked or sued or even threatened with legal action. That, in itself, is a cause for celebration.

So let's crack open the Veuve Cliquot Champagne. Or, actually, on second thoughts, let's make that Lidl's Cava.

Belfast Telegraph


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