I know that January 1 is the official start of the year, but I still have never gotten lost the sense that the year really begins the day after labour day. So to myy mind today -- August 31 -- is the real end of the year. Intuitively every part of me still feels the pattern of the long summer break coming (sometimes thankfully) to an end and everyone being filled with strength and excitement for the new starts that come with September.
Traditionally it was the beginning of the school year that drove that feeling -- I am still young enough that more than half my life was spent working on the schedule of various academic institutions (also an indicator that I spent too much time in school). This of course meant that a number of other critical life events were also tied to that routine. Most of my important moves (St. John's '68 BC '81. Ont '83, Nfld '84, Ont '86, BC '98) for this reason or closely related reasons took place in September. For the same reason it also seems as if I met most of my lifelong friends around September.
It was not just school though. When I first started practicing law in Toronto in the early 1990's the Court's still honoured the ancient tradition of the Long Vacation which marked the pattern of legal life as well. Trial courts did not sit in the summer and even in Weekly Court (Chambers Court in BC) lawyers were excused from wearing their gowns. I still recall the first major injunction I participated in (as an articling student) -- it was a fight between the posties and Canada Post and we acted for a police force caught in the middle -- where the hearing spanned over the Labour Day weekend. For the first few days Justice Montgomery -- a now retired Judge in Ontario who looked like he was meant to be commanding a tank brigade -- had presided in a series of casual summer suits (an essential in the heat of Toronto in a poorly air conditioned court house). On August 31 when he rose to head to the cottage his parting comment after three days of frustrating hearings was 'well, I will see you all back here in your gowns on Tuesday.' There was a strong sense in those words of 'and I look forward to all of you and your clients acting like grown-ups for a change.' The Long Vacation is long abolished now and the summer courts are not to be distinguished from any other court day.
In all this is a sad thing. The summer break -- even when it involved work at the office -- served a psychological purpose the benefits of which were seen in September. Tempers cooled. Positions were re-assessed. Loose ends were dealt with. Hot heads cooled down or moved on to other causes. When the courts resumed in September there was that same sense of starting fresh with nothing but opportunity ahead that made the start of the school year so exciting. All in all, while more work is done and the courts are more efficient now, I am not convinced that justice or the public are better served.
Anyway, here it is -- here's to the real end of the year and to yet more new beginnings.