Jen Hogan: Why this time of year specifically makes me feel unsettled

Not even a DeLorean with a working flux capacitor can take you back to those times you wish weren’t over

There’s something about this time of year that makes me feel a bit unsettled, and maybe even a bit sad. Not just because my brain is about to be melted trying to juggle work with the school holidays, you understand. And not that heavy melancholy of someone who has the weight of the world on their shoulders, and real problems to navigate. But an unsettling, inexplicable feeling similar to the one that happens when I listen to certain songs.

Songs such as Sting’s Fields of Gold, Bruno Mars’s Count on Me, Dido’s Here with Me, or any classical music at all, really. Memory ghosts, is what moments like these are sometimes described as. A strong reaction to a song, or a smell that takes you back in time. But while Dido’s song may hold a special place in my heart, the only connection I have with Sting, I think, is “I don’t drink coffee, I take tea, my dear.”

And besides, the music from the Permanent TSB advert with the woman out jogging only to spot her ideal home, provokes a similar emotional reaction in me. And I don’t even have my mortgage with them.

So, I’m not sure why it happens. I presumed I was just alone in this phenomenon. Until one day, out of the blue, one of the children asked me to turn off a TV channel because he just found the song playing a bit sad. Leaving me to wonder if some of us are just genetically predisposed to really feeling things.


A bit like when you’re in a shopping centre and you realise someone’s using the same bleach that they use in the maternity hospital you once went to, and you just can’t get out of there quickly enough.

Surely that’s not just me?

I remember reading one of those deep and meaningful philosophical quotes one time, designed to inspire and ensure you appreciate the moment you’re living in, but instead it managed to freak the bejaysus out of me. “The past exists only in your memory. The future hasn’t happened yet. All there is, is now,” it said. There was nothing surprising or even revelatory in the inspirational quote, but the reminder that not even a DeLorean with a working flux capacitor can take you back to those times you wish weren’t over, can still make you feel uneasy.

None of this, however, explains why this time of year specifically makes me feel unsettled. I love the summer, more than any other time of the year. I love the long evenings, the, sometimes, warmer days, the break from activity runs, and lunchbox and beaker hunts. And above all else – the freedom from homework.

I love owning our evenings for a time and making plans that only have to factor in work commitments rather than the hectic diaries of my children during term time. In fact, it’s not the summer that’s the problem, so much as the lead-in. The mini-endings and the permanent endings, as children finish up one school year, or else one school altogether.

But before all that happens, we’ll be catapulted into the next phase of the year. The uniforms will be in the shops and the back-to-school offers advertised, before the schools even close for the holidays. And it’s not just the lead-in to summer that’s the problem so much as the lead-out. There’ll be Halloween decorations for sale come August, and sure you may as well pick up some fairy lights for the tree, and advent calendars too with your back-to-school stationery, because the shops – which obviously never got the inspirational memo – would have you believe September is, more or less, Christmas.

Meaning it can feel the year is practically over just as we’ve left May behind. And just as you’re trying to get your head around those mini endings and permanent ones.

The one who’s leaving primary soon, isn’t in a hurry for summer. He’s loved his time at school, which is a great thing to be able to say. But change keeps coming. The summer holidays aren’t just about a break from school, the routine and the hectic aspects of term life. They’re the end of a year, in the middle of a year, and that’s the part that catches you off guard.

When you realise all will be different again, come September. But before then, there’s bound to be a rendition of Circle of Friends somewhere. A song I’ve heard so many times at this stage. And it will trigger all those feelings that Sting manages to, also.

Inspirational quotes might state the obvious. But there’s still great comfort in memories and the ability to visit times, places and people in your head – without (as they needed in Back to the Future) being plutonium dependent.