Matthew Munson: Back to routine and an exploration of history and fiction

Matthew and Bryan

Blink and you’ll miss it. That’s how the October half-term has felt this year. I can’t quite comprehend how it’s done and dusted; I keep thinking we’re at the end of the first week (Bryan’s school gives two weeks in October).

To be fair, we’ve managed to get away for four days, and that packed a lot in. We saw Bryan’s siblings overnight, which was fabulous, and then Bryan and I went up to London. It was lovely for Bryan to get some quality time with his siblings, and I really appreciated the opportunity to spend a few days with him seeing some sights. That was a real, genuine highlight of the half-term.

But reality now bites. We’ll be back into our usual routine on Monday – school for Bryan and work for me – which might come hard for the first day at least. But Bryan enjoys school; he loves learning and has made some good friends. I can’t fault it for Bryan; he thrives in that setting, and I’m a very proud dad.

I was okay at school. I went to Holy Cross in Broadstairs, which shut down a year after I left and was then made the temporary home of Hereson School for a few years. It was a Catholic school, although I don’t have a faith, and I had a small group of friends that I was glad to have. I was quite a shy teenager, so the fact I made any friends was perhaps a miracle. But I did, and I’m still in touch with one of those friends all these years later. He lives down in the south-west, so I don’t get to see him very often, but we actually got to meet up recently for a couple of hours, and it was lovely to sit and chat just like old times.

I walked away from school with some decent GCSEs, although my maths were terrible – I got an “E”! I ended up resitting it a year later during my Sixth Form years (which I did elsewhere) and scraped a “C”. I was clearly not going to be a mathematician – which was fine, because I didn’t want to be. Subjects like English and History were always my passion, and they’re areas I’ve always tried to share with Bryan.

During lockdown, I introduced Bryan to some different topics in History, and always stretched him with books that made us both think and that Bryan enjoyed. Capturing a child’s interest in reading always starts with stories that they enjoy – thankfully, there are a lot of intelligent, clever writers who write engaging fiction for young people. Rick Riordan wrote some brilliant stories that wove in tales from Roman and Greek religions, which gave us a really interesting historical angle to talk about in other lessons. Both of us also enjoyed the Harry Potter series, and I’d like to introduce him to the Artemis Fowl series if we get a chance.

I’m a huge fan of fiction. I absolutely adore Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series – fantasy comedy whilst also being deep and philosophical – and was genuinely upset when he died, even though I’d never met the man. He had a genuine talent and skill that I could only dream of achieving, and I absorbed everything he wrote. I actually first encountered his work when I was about 13, and looking for a present for a school friend (the same friend who I met up with recently, as it happens). I picked up one of Terry Pratchett’s books off a bookshelf and thought, “This sounds like his sort of thing”. But the problem was that I flicked through it before wrapping it up and found myself drawn to the story. I ended up having to get my friend another copy so I could keep the original for myself. Sorry, James.

But time moves inexorably onwards – oh, except for this weekend, now I think about it. I’m going to need to change all of our clocks back an hour; except for my digital watch, which I strongly believe is more complicated than quantum physics. I’ll be spending the next six months mentally taking an hour off, as I’ve never been able to change the damn thing.