Friday, 15 May 2009

Losing your cherry

I feel the need to point out that this wasn't me. Although my son is 14 and, as far as I know, still a virgin.

Man sought prostitute for son, 14

I am desperate to know the conversation that must've gone on earlier on that evening:

"Dad, dad, can I have a new pair of trainers?"
"Dad, dad, can I have a new bike?"
"Dad, dad, can I have a new Playstation?"
"Dad, dad, can I go and watch Man U play tomorrow?"
"Dad, dad, can I lose my virginity?"
"Sure, jump in the car"

Thursday, 14 May 2009

School report

Last week was parents' evening at the school, and a chance to review progress.

On the downside, I have to report there was no free-flowing wine as there has been at other recent school events. So I was sober as a judge. Also the german teacher I have a soft spot for was on stern form, so no chance to practice my charms. Such as they are.

An added complication was that instead of the teachers being crammed into the Great Hall, so it was pretty easy to march up and down the rows and spot the ones I was booked to see, they had spread themselves across three rooms in three different buildings, so getting from one to 'tother involved a mad sprint, and then careering around the room to find the particular teacher in question. Arriving sweaty and out of breath probably doesn't convey a parent in control of themsleves let alone their offsping. At least we were all in the same boat, apart from the smarty-pants parents who had arrived early and plotted their route with a Tom Tom. Bet their children are swots too.

You get 5 minutes a piece and not a second more, or else a long queue forms behind with much tutting, humphing and whispering. My conversations tend to be fairly brief, and this year I was pretty well prepared, so no need to linger longer.

Last year I was lulled into a false sense of security, and inflated ego, by my inital chats. The boy was a hard working angel and a credit to himself, his parent and the school. I got to the last teacher, and was off-balanced by "I'm so glad you've come to see me, I need to talk to you about your son." After a five minute roasting, I slunk away.

This year the expectation levels were set differently, to the extent that when the conversation started with "I'm glad you've come to see me...", I simply said, "Can I just cut across you. I'm aware of this, that and the other issues, is there anything I don't know about, or any guidance you can give me." Of course, it worked in reverse, and I was wrong-footed by the occassional. "Your son is gifted" or "He is my rock". Long discussions were had about exam results which had produced a mixed bag of 'expected' and 'disappointing'. The dedication to revision hadn't been all that it should have been, and coasting in some subjects where he has a natural talent was also apparent to one and all. In two subjects, weaker than expected results were down, mainly, to 'not reading the question'. I'm glad to say that the French mistress is charmed, which is a significant turn around from the early part of the year which had seen several frantic calls to and from the school. That's progress.

We were all agreed that a more focused and dedicated approach would deliver better next year. And hopefully the boy will work harder too.

And that will be important because he starts in earnest on GCSE studies (should I still be calling them 'O' levels?) after the imminent half-term holdiay. Oh, and of course, because I'd quite like to swagger around next year's parent's evening with my chest puffed out. Again.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Birthday wishes

Dear Grandma in Cyprus,

It was lovely to speak to you yesterday and wish you a happy birthday, even though I have to point out it's very expensive to call you. I must say, though, that it wasn't very nice of you to take the call whilst swimming in your pool, as I don't have that luxury, especially just before I have to face another day at the office. Nor was it very nice of you to point out that for the umpteenth year on the trot, I am late with sending you a birthday card; I have at least put it in the post this year, and I think that is real progress. And it was especially harsh to mention that my brother sent his card on time. Sibling rivalry is never a great thing, especially when he gets the better of me.

Whilst I'm writing there are a few other things that irk, so I'd like to get them off my chest. It was very cruel to ring back later in the day to see if I'd called you again. I suspect you did this just so you could mention you'd been out. No doubt to see some friends, go shopping or spend some time at the beach. Some of us have to work you know. You might say that you've worked hard all your life so deserve some leisure and relaxation now. But I don't see it like that as I've got a long way to go until I can do the same.

Also I'd rather you stopped talking about the weather when we speak on the phone. As you know full well, it's always wet, soggy and grey here, and I don't need to know that it's sunny blue skies there, with temperatures in the mid-twenties even in winter. I think you do it just to taunt me. Churlish is the word that comes to mind.

And I'm not sure why you think it reasonable to tell us about the work which is being done at your house, particularly mentioning how quickly it gets done and at such a low cost. As you know full well, over here we have to put up with shoddy work, at high prices and it takes an eternity to get sorted. I think you're just boasting.

We're looking forward to coming over to visit later this year, so I want to make it quite clear that I expect to be able to use your house as a hotel, and have cooked breakfast every morning on the terrace. If you could make sure you cook us both a full meal in the evening as well, that would be fine. I hope you don't mind picking our clothes off the floor again, and driving us to see all the interesting places across the island. In return, we might buy you an ice cream on one day.

All the best

Your grateful youngest son

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Black, blue and red all over

It's a thing with children...and I suspect boys especially, that they are prone to cuts, bruises, scrapes and aches.

Arriving home on Thursday I was greeted by a somewhat downtrodden and sullen lad. My quizical look was answered by the raising of arms to reveal some nasty scrapes on one arm, and evidently some pain in the other. He had decided to take his bike for a spin in the forest, and in one of his attempts to leap over a mound had gone head over heels and handlebars. Fortunately the gound was softish, and he always wears a helmet. Of course, some of this is my fault, for giving him the camera to video his exploits....sadly he didn't capture the crucial moment. I've always been concerned that solo-cycling is not a good idea, but I'm loathe to limit his enthusiasm and adventurous spirit. Life is not a rehersal is a phrase that's often bandied around in this house. Mind you it would be good to get to the intermission, and an encore would be even better.

Over excitement and and over abundance of enthusiasm have got him into scrapes before. At the olympic size swimming pool, the K2 in Crawley, with friends, he spent ages jumping off the top board doing somersaults and back and front flips, until he mis-judged the distance, coming down on his back with a noise that would wake the dead. I've never seen a water burn before. It's a sight to behold, and the pain was excruciating.

At a very young age, he came in through the front door, and saw me standing in the kitchen at the far end of the corridor. His pace was phenomenal, and it would have been better if he could have managed the corner, instead of running slap bang into the wall. Blood was everywhere, and there was a very quick trip to the Whittington Hospital A&E. The doctors thought his nose (such as small imps have) was probably broken, but there was nothing they could do; fortunately it healed well, without even a visit from social services.

In the first term at Bancroft's I was summoned to the school on more than one occassion due to bangs on the head which made it unwise for him to travel by public transport. And we have never quite got to the bottom of a pretty severe cut on the hand, that even two years later is still visible.

So all these things have caused some heartache, but I'd rather that than a child wrapped in cotton wool, too scared or dull to go and do anything adventurous. Indeed if it means his grown up years will be spent doing madcap adventures, that give me sleepless nights and anxious days, then I shall be a happy Dad.