Friday, November 21, 2008

My new career, stalker or eduwarrior?

So which is it to be? Last week I fell into the slough of despond or the trough of disillusionment, whatever... The reason for this despair is that I examined Danny Boy's school books. He has had several assessments in the last couple of weeks and appears to have gone backwards in every single subject. In History he has gone from a level 7 to a level 3 and, at the age of nearly 13, has spent about six weeks colouring in pictures of Henry VIII, devoting himself to shading yellow and green syphilitic ulcers on Henry's legs. WTF? His English book hasn't been marked by his teacher since the term began although he has, once again, designed a chocolate bar for the rest of the class to mark. Having been involved in Marketing and New Brand Development for 20 years I feel well placed to judge whether Shakespeare or I will leave the greater legacy to this country. So, I've decided that my new career is going to involve either stalking Ed Balls or stirring the masses to rebel against the dumbing down of education. I am on a mission.

The cavalry arrived on Tuesday, just in time for The Terminator's birthday. When I came home from work I could make out a dim halo of light shining on the driveway, yes it was Sean Sean the Leprechaun with a camping headlamp strapped to his forehead, finishing off The Guardian Sudoko in the car. El Vel was at his side, rubber gloves poking out of the suitcase, ready for action. As usual, to the utter bewilderment of Lurch, they brought their own towels and mugs as well as all of the half-finished food in their fridge. After five trips between the car and the house we managed to squeeze it all in.

I showed her DB's books and, as a former Deputy Head, she was appalled. I made a list of issues and phoned the Head of Year. She responded fantastically and is interviewing the Subject Heads and then Danny Boy, she and I will be meeting. Hope is glimmering, Danny Boy is scowling, I am crusading. The fridge is sparkling, the vegetable patch has been dug over and planted with purple sprouting broccoli and cabbages, and as I waved goodbye to my parents I felt that all was now right with the world. And relax...

Friday, November 14, 2008

They grow up so fast, don't they?

We spent half term with old friends in Hampshire. My friend from university married Lurch's school friend and they have two boys, exactly the same age as ours. It was lovely. On Halloween we went trick or treating, not that I really approve of that activity, but I relented. About 6 teenage girls came round to call for James, Danny Boy was all studied cool, simmering embarrassment and self consciousness but tailed along with the group. I noted that all of the girls were taller than me, and considerably thinner.

My friend and I took the two younger boys trick or treating. The last door they knocked on was that of a bent and twisted old man of about 98. The Terminator saw him approaching through the frosted glass front door and took his werewolf mask off. Eventually the door opened, The Terminator said 'don't worry, we'll go away' but the old man insisted on searching for something for them and, after 15 minutes he came back and gave the boys 5p to share. They said thank you very politely and my heart swelled with pride when TT explained he'd taken his mask off to avoid causing a fatal heart attack.

Back home to their cosy warm house. Matt's an architect and they've renovated some old stables. All of the children were playing in the garden and Lurch knocked up his speciality for us, Mojitos - topped with fresh mint. Delicious! Life was sweet until I heard the deafening tones of The Terminator from the garden 'You f***in' w***aah!' I inhaled the mojito suddenly, coughing and spluttering, aghast. I called them inside and asked TT what he thought he was doing shouting in someone else's garden, and him a guest to boot. 'Don't worry, Mum' he responded 'it's not real, we're playing Chavs and Robbers! It's so much fun swearing...'

Having put a stop to the game we returned home a couple of days afterwards. A week or so later a shifty looking Danny Boy sidled up to me. 'What's wrong?' I asked 'I've got something to tell you' he replied, looking pale and drawn and at the floor, 'I've been looking at porn on the internet'. This time it was a cup of tea that I ingested. We sat down to talk about it, I found it very, very difficult, I was cross but he had told me. He then explained that all of his friends were doing it and one boy, Robert, spent every Friday night with a couple of Jack Daniels and Cokes surfing the world wide web. He'd given Danny Boy the websites. 'Robert's mother is a teacher and Robert is telling lies' I explained to him. I also told him that porn wasn't real life and that psychiatrists offices were full of young men who were unable to have normal relationships after porn addiction. What else can you say?

I subsequently found out that one of his friends had actually downloaded two porn videos, paid for with his father's credit card. The parents had to send their son's birth certificate to the company to prove that he was 12. Naturally, every computer in the neighbourhood is now fitted with new software and we're trying to hold back that crashing tide...

Friday, November 07, 2008

As you sow...

Rat a tat tat! I woke up to the sound of the door knocker and peeked out of the bedroom window, the shiny red post van was parked in the drive, again. Parcels and packages have been flying in from all over the world; portuguese grammar books from specialist London bookshops, CDs from Portugal and DVDs from Brazil. 'It's for you' I told Lurch, but he had already bounded downstairs to answer the door and unwrap his latest order. The elementary evening course is getting out of hand. I am about to commit Lurchicide. 'How do you pronounce cidades dos homems?' he asked, studying a DVD with intensity. I told him. A small furrow wrinkled his earnest brow 'I don't think Felipa said it like that', he then gave me his version, delivered in a forceful, swishing nasal twang. 'Has Felipa asked you if you come from Minsk, Belarus? And don't ask me again if you think you know best already. I told you I haven't studied portuguese for 20 years...' 'Ok, ok, I was only checking' Lurch sighed.

I am interested but Lurch is incapable of half measures. To humour him I asked him about the other people on the course. 'It's an odd mix' he said 'half of them are single women about your age and oddly enough the others are fifty something men who are married to Brazilian women. Felipa keeps asking them why their wives aren't teaching them at home, I can't understand it, they just look at the floor and don't answer her'.
I can and I was off on one of my favourite rants: Modern Day Slavery. I see these Youth Stealers in Sainsburys, miserable, grey haired paunchy men, being followed by tiny beautiful Thai, Russian or Brazilian wives, staring dispiritedly at the shelves through the bars of their supermarket trolleys, loaded with beer and cleaning fluids. I cannot believe that the practice of buying a wife on the internet is legal. I usually give the men a hard stare to show my disapproval. Lurch says it is none of my business and I am in no position to judge, both parties deem it a fair exchange etc etc but it just does not feel right to me. So, from Ipanema to Ilkley Moor. I explained to Lurch that the reason the Brazilian brides did not talk to their husbands was because they already had to do unmentionable things with them and a conversation with the Youth Stealers may very well push them right over the edge.

However, I don't want to risk alienating my two male readers so I'll desist with the rant. We start the day with a quick recap of the night before's pronunciation exercise. Danny Boy and The Terminator stare at Lurch over breakfast, incomprehension and bewilderment etched on their sleep-rumpled faces. The volume and nasal twang seem deafening at this time of day. We go to work and then when we arrive home the DVD goes on - 'Cidades dos homems' as I mispronounced earlier - a gritty soap opera about teenagers set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, made ever more difficult to understand because Lurch repeats everything like an exotic parrot in need of a hearing aid. Then to bed where he rustles the papers of his homework, once again asking me how to pronounce things and subsequently correcting me. It can only be a matter of time before Felipa moves him up to the next level, probably at the request of the rest of the class.