In September, memories and feelings of hope

Voula Mastori has been writing children’s books since 1974. She was a candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2008. «I had the good fortune to have a carefree early childhood in the provinces. The return to school every September was a brilliant ‘New Year’s Day’ with the aroma of a freshly ironed pinafore, sharpened pencil, soft eraser, wooden pencil box, chalk; a watered schoolyard the color of blue notebooks; the weight of my little bag, the rough texture of the much-used and so-familiar desk and the clang of the school bell. «In the third year of high school, all that was lost in a cell-like classroom in Athens, all except for a strangely insistent optimism that revived every September, a hope that this year would be better. But, each time, the majority of our teachers were just as indifferent or uninformed and the lessons boring, in the same cold, impersonal classrooms. And I had no pocket money to buy the sugary pastries in the canteen. «For the past 15 years, since my children have grown up and I have been able to accept invitations from schools, I have observed that the provinces, for the most part, retain the colors and aromas I loved so much as a child. «Athens schools have certainly improved since then but they could still do with more improvement, depending on the area. Strange as it may seem, every September that old childhood optimism insists on coming back and making me hope for a better year. «Even this year, despite the recession, the poor – the newly impoverished and the others – the scary new flu and the political situation – at home and abroad – once again I see the return to school as a new, hopeful beginning.»