Two old school pals of mine, twin lads Andrew and Robert, celebrated their birthdays yesterday. They were, therefore, the eldest in my year.
The threshold you cross between August and September if you have a child due has always fascinated me. Had these two esteemed lads popped into the world earlier by a day, or even a few hours or minutes, they would have started school three months earlier and, more to the point, finished school a whole year earlier.
There was an article on the BBC website on August 31st claiming that these days parents-to-be at this time of year want to hang on, if possible, until September before bearing their new child as it offers greater advantages in the new arrival's future education.
I suspect a generation and more ago, parents-to-be were hoping for an appearance in August just so the youngster would be out of their hair and in school, and later in work, much quicker...
Andrew and Robert would have gone to their local infant school in September 1977, along with all other kids in their village born in the autumn section of 1972. A child born almost exactly a year later would have not walked into the same school until after the Easter holidays the following year, and yet within 18 months they would have been sharing a class, learning the same things and deemed to be the same age and same year.
I was born in May, so I was one of the summer kids, albeit in an adjacent village, who registered for school for the first time after the 1978 Easter holidays. My summer lot were joined by the next batch in September 1978, who eventually ended up as the year below me at school. And so on. What I do know is that by September 1979, I was in the same class as the Andrews and Roberts of my school, despite spending eight months fewer than them in school.
What do the September-December kids do while they're waiting for the rest of us to catch up? Colouring in? Extra gym? My first full year at school involved lots of reading, some sticking together of cereal boxes with glue and lots of time in the sandpit, plus hymn singing. That's kind of it. Did the elder kids than me do an extra eight months of this?
Maybe there is an argument for being born in August after all. I'm assuming that, unlike the House of Lords, an accident of birth that makes you the eldest doesn't offer you special advantages here. When the May-August kids, including me, joined up with the veteran September-December kids (and the ones in between), everyone seemed pretty equal. That could mean that the extra months at school undertaken by the autumn-born children is a fantastic waste of time.
I have one other question, one which I'm sure must have been in Notes & Queries at some point. If Andrew and Robert had been born ten minutes apart but either side of midnight (let's say Andrew at 11.57pm on August 31st, Robert at 12.07am on September 1st) would they have gone to school separately? Would they have been twins divided by the state? Would they even have technically been twins?