Thursday, 5 March 2009

Responsible parenting

Last night was open evening at the boy's school. Parents and pupils of the Lower Fourth (public school talk I'm afraid, and sorry no idea what that is in the real world...he's half way through his third year). We were summoned as part of the process to choose GCSE's...although we've had the form for a couple of months now.

But it was a chance to listen to a very stiff master explain everything in the minutest detail. All the children (Children? most of them tower way over me) take 10 GCSEs. And not more. And they can only take the courses on offer. Evidently it's all about texturing. Which I've translated as this is the best way of ensuring the school achieves the best grades irrespective of what pupils and parents might want. Still no reason to be petty about it eh?

After the short speech, we all had the opportunity of visiting the sixth form common room where each subject had an exhibition stand. There was also wine and nibbles on offer to sustain us through the evening.

What I hadn't expected was that each teacher was desperately flogging their wares. I dread to think of the atmosphere in the staff room before and afterwards. Even the Reverend was pitching RE as the best foundation for a legal's all about morals you see. Not that I can see any relevance to the legal profession myself.

I should now point out that the boy had firmly decided his options a couple of months ago, so he decided to treat it as a social event. Not to be outdone, I thought I should too, so headed to the bar, where I spent the evening pouring a fine red wine (well the fees are high enough to pay for it) down my throat. I should now also point out that I'm not much of a drinker. So I was enjoying myself....and did manage to engage one or two of the teachers and plenty of other worried looking parents in animated conversation. Though never about geography or history or Latin, or anything else which vaguely resembled academia.

The boy came over and suggested I "chat up...erm I mean chat to" his German teacher. At this point I should also mention that she had once attended an Old Boys dinner, and two of us had mistaken her for a girl that had been at the school at the same time as us. She had been HOT STUFF. In our drunken stupor we failed to notice that she was in her twenties, a couple of decades off the age she would be if she really was HOT STUFF. So we had engaged in earnest chatting up mode, as if we were still 14. She humoured us and has continued to do so ever since. Foolishly I had told the boy this story. And I'm glad to say she continued to humour me last night.

So the evening passed in a jolly way. The boy claims that in true St Trinians fashion the headmaster (she doesn't use the term mistress)was sozzled too..I'm not so sure. But given my head this morning I'm probably not in a position to judge.

The boy escorted me home with me keeping in a pretty straightish line. I'm pretty sure I didn't disgrace myself. I think.

Anyway its a great school. Really.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


Picture added for The Dotterel

You may remember the enormous motorbike I bought earlier this year. It's big fast and orange. And made in Austria by KTM. Although one dear friend has renamed it the MLC. You may wish to work that out for yourself. Its 1000cc engine is a bit of a step up from the 125cc Vespa I've been riding around on for the last six or so years.

I like cars, and I like bikes, but I don't really know very much about them. What I do know is what I think of as the know, generally a car has it's engine at the front (although I do have one that's put the engine behind your head), a wheel at each corner and so on. Dashboards are fairly straightforward..big dial in the middle that tells you by how much you're breaking the speed limit, a needle that tells you how hot the engine is (why should I care about that) and another needle that lets you know if you'll be pushing your precious car to the garage.

I have occasionally ventured under the bonnet of my various cars...changing spark plugs on a Cortina who's engine bay was illuminated like Blackpool Pleasure Beach because one of them was cracked, filled up the radiator when an engine got thirsty and topping up the oil on an MG (errr well MG Metro anyway) which could barely reach the end of the road without needing another litre of the golden stuff. Imagine how it faired on regular trips to see my Scottish girlfriend when I was living in Coventry.

However, it seems that motorbikes may be a little different. The dashboard..sorry instrument panel is hi-tech digital. So I know precisely whether I'm doing 29 or 31 in the city. I was somewhat confused by the fuel guage...a series of bars, a bit like the bars on your mobile phone that tells you how strong the signal is. The strange thing is it obstinately stays somewhere between half and three quarters full. Even when the fuel warning light comes on. Once consulted, the manual revealed that this is not in fact the fuel guage, but is indeed the temperature guage. Which should stay somewhere in the middle.

I spotted that there's a translucent tank with minimum and maximum markings on. The water was slightly below the minimum mark. And as I know this is not the windscreen washer bottle, I thought I should top it up. It's attached to the radiator, so taking the cap off and pouring anti-freeze in seemed the right course to take. Wrong. The fluid just doesnt go down. I rang the garage, "Can I ask a stupid question?" "That's what we're here for" they say. Well OBVIOUSLY you have to unscrew and remove two side panels to get to the cap to refill the tank. And if you put water directly in the radiator you'll cause an airlock, my brother says. Doh!

The manual is not half as interesting as Che Guevara's diaries which I'm reading at the moment. And I've not even got to the bit about the chain yet. Perhaps I should have started with his motorcycles diaries, and not his exploits in Cuba...

Monday, 2 March 2009


We have a major crisis at home, which I think puts the banking crisis into perspective. I was surprised this morning that when I picked up the papers, it hadn't made the front page, pushing Gaza, the banks, Fred the Shred and Jade Goddie to their rightful place on page 7.

The boy has had a haircut and it's too short. Once upon a time, we used to go into the barbers and he'd ask to have a trim, about half an inch of the mop to drop on the hairdressers floor, so I took to standing behind and indicating the right length to make sure we got value for money.

However, that seemed to cause a degree of friction.

In fact more friction than the Shuttle faces when it returns to Cape Canaveral.

So I stopped doing it.

But this time, the barber took it on himslef to make the boy look smart. And indeed he does. But I think there are two issues, and I'm not sure which is the most important.

"Why didn't he do what I told him?" says the boy. Well don't ask were managing this project all by yourself. You need to take charge, exert your leadership skills.

And the boy is very proud of his even though it looks so much better under his army cadet cap (which he's very pleased about), he doesn't like it. And he'll have his leg pulled rotten when he goes through the school gate this morning.

And don't you dare say it'll grow back. BECAUSE THAT IS A RIDICULOUS THING TO SAY.

So if you could just organise some aid convoys to our house, that would be appreciated. Thank you very muchly.