Monday 29th June 2009

Added on 29 June 2009

A Dementor At My Table


School is winding down to its sorry end. A time of expectation and excitement, when children rejoice, international women frantically home bake, and men sit around discussing matters of great import. (There may have been a bit of gender stereotyping going on in that last sentence.) Every second day brings a school trip or an event or a performance or something. It’s the time of maximum parental stress, and it always coincides with One of Two’s birthday. We tried hard to persuade her not to have a birthday this year, but she refused to budge, insisting that she would, without any shadow of a doubt, be turning eleven this week whether we liked it or not. We switched the tack of the debate, and attempted to inform her that she wouldn’t be having a party.... but we lost that one as well. I’d currently be sitting here getting stressed about the party, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s not until Saturday and there are so many other things to get stressed about before then. 


Sensible parents in the international community have already whisked their kids out of school and headed home for the summer, but we remain, as ever, in the baking, muggy heat of an eastern European midsummer, to the bitter end. 


Two days from now Year 6 have a Victorian day. They study the Victorians for a few months, and at the end of this, they have a day when all the kids dress up like Victorians for school. One morning during this week three years ago, we noticed all the Year 6 kids pitching up in their Victorian gear and thought, Hmm, they must have a Victorian dress-up day in Year 6, that sounds incredibly stressful for the parents. Still, we’ve got three years to prepare for it, that should be enough time.


Three years has become two days in the blinking of an eye. Strangely I have often thought, during this three year interim period, we ought to give some thought to what we’re going to do for Victorian day. However, thinking about thinking about something, isn’t the same as doing it. And we so we come to the point, with a little over 46 hours until the time when One of Two will walk through the school gates, and I have no flippin’ idea what she’s going to wear. 


Our kids’ dressing-up box is Victoriana-lite. There is no branch of Victorian Clothes ‘R Us in Warsaw. My days of being able to hand stitch a Victorian dress in under 46 hours are long behind me. There’s one option left to me, which is to go to the back entrance of a theatre in town and hope that they let me in, speak English, and have an appropriate costume for a just-about-to-be-eleven-year-old. I’d sooner chew my leg off than walk unaided into that kind of situation, but this is the penance I must pay for having a cushy international bestselling-author type lifestyle, while TPCKAM sits in a boiling government office with no air conditioning. 


You’re thinking, I bet he wouldn’t actually rather chew his leg off, but you know, if I did, I’d still have the other one. I tried to have this conversation with One of Two last night, but she was as intransigent as she was over the birthday issue. She didn’t believe that I was ready to chew my leg off, and pointed out, that even if I did, in this instance, eat my leg for breakfast as part of a balanced and healthy diet that a man of my age requires in order to keep regular, I’d still have to hobble into the theatre in town and strike up negotiations about the stupid Victorian costume. 


Plan F is to send her up the chimney just before going to school.


Last week was the Key Stage 2 summer concert. This lasted most of the week. Or so it seemed. At some point the head of KS2 referred to the ghastly evening, and the parents all perked up and thought, wow, this man tells it how it is, but I think he was just talking about the fact that there was a thunderstorm going on outside. 


One lot of kids sang a song about breakfast that had so many verses it lasted three hours and seventeen minutes. Another lot performed every last sentence of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. During the course of the whole event fourteen people fell asleep, two of whom passed away peacefully, a crowd of youths were arrested for drug trafficking, five men in suits started up a new political party, and one woman conceived and then gave birth during the encore. 


I wonder if the Victorians felt obliged to go and watch their kids do stuff on stage, or did they just send them off to school with a flee in their ear and say see you in the holidays Fitzwallace, and don’t be early when you return, father and I might still be in India. Maybe that’s why the Victorians kept going to places like India and Papua New Guinea and Malawi. So that they didn’t have to watch the wretched school shows. 


Studies may well show that they did the bulk of their empire building during the last two weeks of each term. 


Later today we have a performance of Joseph And The Technicolour Dreamcoat, followed hot on its heals by a piano recital. If recital is the correct use of language for the one finger brigade interspersed with the occasional two handed child who’s had more than ten lessons. 


Whether there will be anything further to distract me from having Victorian Day Anxiety (VDA), it’s too early to say. Concerts and trips and non-uniform days are being thrown up on an almost daily basis, sometimes with virtually no notice. (Not that that makes any difference, seeing as three years’ notice hasn’t proved sufficient.) And once VDA is out of the way, I can move on to Birthday Party Anxiety (BPA) and the even more insidious Party Bag Anxiety (PBA), but not before I’ve dealt with Make Some Ethnic Scottish Food For The Last Day Of School Picnic Anxiety (MSESFFTLDOSPA) and Get A Card Made Up For The Kids To Give To Their Friends Who They’re Likely Never Going To See Again Anxiety (GACMUFTKTGTTFWTLNGTSAA). 


Those last two aren’t genuine medical conditions. I made them up. 


It’s going to be a long week. 


Barney Thomson Report


The gradual metamorphosis of the Barney Thomson series from low budget, independent, cult black comedy series, to behemothic, internationally recognised, blockbusting franchise, the Microsoft of crime series and the Starbucks of literature, continues apace. 


The red-penned copy edited draft of The Final Cut is back in my hands, and the manuscript is undergoing final preparations before publication. Or at least, it would be, if I didn’t have to spend the next 144 hours of my life charging around like a headless chicken trying not to get stressed about school stuff. 


Strange Case Update 


The gradual metamorphosis of Strange Case from low budget, independent, cult acoustic two-piece, to behemothic, internationally recognised, blockbusting franchise etc etc... Actually, this one doesn’t even continue apace. While fans of "the next Simon and Garfunkel" can take solace from the ever present MySpace page, Strange Case have been put on hold for a month or two while everyone moves house, changes jobs, has babies (not us...), sorts out schools, and tries to find a Victorian costume...


Hopefully the Strange Case cd will still see the light of day by the end of the summer.


Sandy Lyle Watch


(The continuing saga of the best golfer never to win three majors.)


The gradual metamorphosis of Sandy Lyle from behemothic, internationally recognised, blockbusting sporting megastar, the Microsoft of golf and the Starbucks of the fairways, to low budget, independent, cult golf guy playing the Old Man’s Tour is almost complete... 


These are also quiet days in crazy world of the Sandy Lyle Watch. Not sure what the big fella is up to at the moment. This past weekend, he eschewed the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open, the The DeVere Collection PGA Old Man's Championship and the BMW International Open. Will next be sighted, I believe, in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond a week on Thursday.


Strangely the Official World Golf Rankings have him back at 618 this week. A couple of weeks off will get you recognised by these people. 


Next week: 


A collection of parents from The British School Warsaw, attempt to colonise a small African republic in order to avoid the last few days of school.