Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A little bit tired

Is tiredness a universal of middle age? I think without caffeine I wouldn’t function very well. Its not that I don’t sleep, I’m actually a pretty good sleeper. Most nights I get 7-8 hours solid deep sleep. Insomnia doesn’t bother me other than the very odd night when something niggles at my mind.

So what is it? I’m not highly stressed, quite the opposite I’m really enjoying my new job. Good people, interesting problems, not too much politics. That can always change, but it means work stress is pretty minimal at the moment.

Life at home is good too. LL and I are getting along better than fine. It feels like a very loving supportive relationship. There’s no kid problems, in fact they seem to be happy and flourishing at school. In general I’d say my family and myself are all, well, happy.

So is it just middle age? That gradual deterioration of the body that leaves one a bit blah, a bit pained, a bit… tired? Again, its not that I’m unwell. Sure, I could loose a bit of weight and should find the time to exercise more. I eat healthily though, don’t drink too much, everything works as it should.

Is it just me? Come on you lot out there, does being middle aged just mean being that bit tired all the time, or is it just me?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Brain Talk

“Your brain is inside here daddy,” My little princess points to her head, “and its covered by a really hard case. It has to be hard because it looks all fluffy, and there’s a line down the middle and its all soft. It is a hard case isn’t it daddy cause I fell and hit my head this morning and I don’t want my brain hurt.” I assure her the bone around her brain is very hard. “And you’ve got nerds which run down your arms and legs and let your brain know if the heat pads in your fingers and toes are touching something hot.” The lecture about her brain and body goes on for some time, I’m entranced.

This while we’re waiting for a concert at the QE2 Hall. Some friends of ours had bought the tickets, but had caught the dreaded lurgy so we lucked out and got the tickets instead. The boys where sitting in front of a drummer working on their percussion. Looked like fun, but I was in class being taught all about my daughter’s body. I knew her teacher was good, but getting four year olds to understand reasonably complex anatomy is pretty impressive.

Shortly we go in. Pirate Pete frets and slumps in his chair. He’s learned from his mates that only “Pop” is cool, so this is, by definition, uncool. The other two just go with it. So do I. LL is an Opera lass, which I don’t mind in the least, but I got brought up on classical concerts, so it’s a real treat to go. The Philharmonic are all dressed up as clowns or animals to go along with the children’s performance, which is silly, but helps.

The music is excellent. My princess is particularly enthralled by the Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens. It doesn’t hurt that the Tuba player, with appropriate elephant mask, has snuck away from the stage and sits beside us to do his bit in the March of the Elephant (which should have been a double bass, but works really well with the brass). Even Pirate Pete perks up at Sousa’s Stars and Stripes.

It was a full hall, which is good, but the audience was pure white, and pretty clearly all middle class. Which is not good. Getting kids hooked on music is a must, but so long as classical is deemed a middle class domain, getting kids broadly hooked won’t happen. Which doesn’t mean it should be forced down people’s throats, but the joy of music is in the wide variety invented. If kids get stuck in one genre, their lives will be the poorer.

Still, I enjoyed it and so did the kids. So this family will be back.

Friday, October 26, 2007

House Proud

I have a definite love hate relationship with my house. There is so much to love. It’s a 1930 design, right on the cusp of the change between the Arts & Crafts, Art Deco and the more brutalist Modernist movement. It is, in a word, odd. So, in the interior we have wood everywhere. Wood floors, gorgeous Red Cedar curved wood plank doors, rustic wood surrounds on the fire places, wood wood wood. It is a warm, welcoming home.

Yet the design is clearly from an architect who’s playing with the new ideas, but kind of hasn’t “got it” yet. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I love it, but not everyone does. So, the basic design is for a Dutch Barn. Very tall, with a mansard roof line. Yet… Out of one side is this carbuncle of an extension. A huge curved wall with a flat roof on top. The windows are all tall metal frames, and there are lots and lots of them. The living room has a curved expanse of over 20 foot of window. The ceilings are not quite as tall as the Edwardians and Victorians built, but they are taller than later home generations. So, as well as all that wood, the house is flooded with light. All the rooms have big windows, and our master bedroom has the same long curved wall of light. When we first visited the house, on a cold cloudy winter day, the house had no lights on, and was still bright.

We’ve kept to the theme, building our conservatory with curved walls and big tall windows. Its easily the best room in the house, helped by underfloor heating. When we redid the kitchen we went for a modern take on Art Deco, which just works. The new extension will play with the themes more, lots of curved walls, tall ceilings and a flat roof. Perhaps a bigger flat roof than even le Corbusier would have approved of, but hey.

Thing is, its also a bit of a sick house. Oh the problems we have had. The house has a water curse. If something wet can go wrong, it will. We’ve had numerous leaks, plumbing floods, wet rot, you name it. Last weekend was spent on back breaking scraping and re-varnishing of an expanse of window cills where water had got under the varnish and peeled up. They are lovely gorgeous wood window cills, but blimey. This is the second time in living there we’ve had to do this particularly monstrous exercise.

This coming weekend I’ve got the lovely challenge of stripping and redoing a bunch of silicon caulking in the main bathroom. Silicon isn’t supposed to go mouldy. Ours does. I’ve got quite good at this particular chore. I could go professional I could. LL will be stripping down and re-oiling a few of the interior doors. Oil on wood is a lovely look, but it does take a bit of work to maintain.

The moral being, if you ever see that perfect house. The quirky one which is just you. The one which you can see all the possibilities with. Have a second think will you? Its bloody hard work.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Scary Tidings

I watched a not particularly fantastic documentary last night that still quite grabbed me. It was one of those train wreck shows looking at how one sink junior school was trying to lift literacy rates amongst the kids. What stopped me cold was one year four class they focused on where 8 out of 25 kids couldn't read. Even the bright girl at the top of the class was only capable of disney style picture books.

Now I know I've got a bright boy in a good school, but Pirate Pete is currently churning his way through Rowling, Tolkien and Lewis. He quite happily sits down to his history texts (currently his class is on the Saxons), and I've led him to a few of my more advanced history books.

I'm sure that little girl at the top of her class is as bright as my boy. She had very supportive parents, Nigerian, and they were happily filmed reading together. Kids are absolute sponges at this age. You can open their minds in all sorts of directions without pushing at all. What that was telling me was this poor girl was getting drop fed, when she was likely capable of so much more.

Don't even go to the poor kids who couldn't read. The school was comendably doing a hard push on literacy and they were using a synthetic phonics system. It was working, the programme covered a full class year, and by the end all but a small handful of kids had progressed to at least a basic level of literacy.

And yet... the documentary also exposed a highly stressed set of teachers. Some of the kids where horrible. I wouldbn't want to think how stressful it would be to have a roomful like that. How can you spend any time with the bright ones, when all of your focus is on basic discipline? Also, it was the poor performers getting all the focus. I don't want to sound like I'm complaining about that, they needed that hard push. Yet I can't help but question how it got that way?

These where eight year olds unable to read. Not just one or two, but a whole swathe of the class. First, where are the parents? Doing homework with your kids can be a pain, but its got its pleasures too. How can you not notice if they can read or not, and if you notice they can't, why aren't you doing something? Second, how have we let schools get into this state? I'm not blaming the teachers, you have to be dedicated to your job to work with kids on small pay. Yet, somehwere, in all the curiculum changes, in all the paperwork and targets, in the softly softly discipline culture, we've let the teachers down.

I certainly felt for the little boys (and they were all boys) who couldn't read. That's appalling. The one I really felt for was the bright young girl. She clearly had supportive parents who where involved in her schooling, but I suspect they don't know she's behind generally. She's just in a system that doesn't have any room to help her expand.

I know this wasn't a representative sample. Clearly the school was chosen because it was so far behind, and was doing an experimental push on literacy. Yet, the fact that even one school like that exists is such a condemnation of our society. Children are our most precious resource. If we don't nurture them well the fundamentals of our society and economy will fail.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Grandees of Rock

Funny the things that get picked up on and commented about. A throwaway comment about someone who might be remotely famous, and bing, comments! Never to be one to miss an opportunity for more comments, I shall, somewhat, oblige.

Its kind of hard to miss them around us. What is it about becoming famous that requires the expense of vast amounts of money for vast tracts of land? Old stately homes seem to get bought by either celebrities of some shape or form, or Russian oligarchs. We’ve got loads of them down our way, even a glamour model of rather prodigious proportions bought up a couple villages to the south. The boys even briefly went to school with the children of one 1980’s shooting star. He always did the annual teachers appreciation dinner, which was surprisingly well attended.

There is a code though, we’re not allowed to speak about them. You’re not even supposed to look if you walk past or see them down t’pub. I can’t say I’ve seen them loads, but you do see them. Well, most, there’s one particular ‘60s icon who I am reliably told lives a couple stone throws away, but is never ever seen.

We do get people who come looking for them. Those are the far more amusing stories. Walkers are the worst, they seem to think its fair game to tromp through whatever farmland or homes are in the way of their goal. One even knocked on the door, and got quite insistent that such and such was supposed to be close (which was true). It was an enjoyable ten minutes dissuading him of the fact, and sending him three villages East.

In the pubs in the best. One of the local landlords has even started taking pints back from people who quiz him. They don’t stop there though. One amusing evening I was sitting with friends and overheard a heart felt entreaty to find out if one rock god ever came in. The fact that he was sitting with a few friends over by the fire seemed to be completely overlooked.

I suppose that’s why they move out. We like our privacy in the rural burbs. Doesn’t mean its unfriendly, far from it. So long as you actually live there, it’s a very comfortable welcoming place. Just don’t come down for a pint and expect everyone to spill the latest gossip, that is exclusively reserved for residents.

Oh, and the incident at the ancient pile? Said Rock God was remarkably well behaved. No raucous drink or drugs, he drank sparkling mineral water all evening. Very gracious guy though, really worked the room like a proper host should. I even got to tag along as he took a few in to a highly secure room to see his guitar collection. That was cool. No, said Rock God is a pillar of the community. Not so one of the parish councillors and some nameless accountant’s wife who were (so it is said) caught doing the jiggy in a downstairs broom cupboard.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Progressive Dining

Sorry, travelling last week, so blogging suffered. Had a good weekend though. One of the social pinacles of our village calendar happened over the weekend, the progressive diner. I'd never encountered this before moving to rural England, but its rather fun. Organised with military precision, you don't quite know what's going to happen prior to the night.

We didn't host this year, our turn to take it easy. Our instructions arrived in the post the week before. Show up at 7pm exactly at such and such for a starter. We did, to find a house full of women. A few husbands had dropped out to watch the rugby. Bad form that, the event is done to raise money for the church, and even if you dont get your money back, your host is donating the food and probably bought too much.

Any how, we had a lovely couple of drinks and a starter of local smoked trout (very nice too). At the appointed time an envelope was opened and we each received instructions of where to go next. The point is to mix everyone up, so you spend each course with a different group of people.

Off we went again to our next house. The hosts where joly but a bit sad. One of their great danes had just passed away the day before after ten years. Still, it was if anything, any even more enjoyable crowd than the first course. The food was good too, a very nice paela with some fine rioja.

Again at the appointed time an envelope was ripped open and we found out where to head for pudding. The final course is always together, and usually is hosted at one of the local great piles (which is fun). This year though, someone thought it would be 'great fun' to hold it at the church.

Now, I love our church. With an origional Norman chapel, and various additions, fires and bombings its a place of great beauty. My father loved to visit as he said it was one of those precious places where you can quietly talk to God in true peace.

As it doesnt have any attached hall, and its a bit cold, its not quite the place for a raucus pudding gathering...

Besides I quite enjoy getting a nose about some of the local manoirs. Two years ago one of the local rock grandees had us in, which was fun for reasons I shant go into.

Still a good time was had. Its a great event, really mixes things up. We're a village of contrasts with both exessively well off and rural poor. The church stands in the middle of it, and this is a night when it all really doesnt matter.

Next year we'll host again. Which is both fun and hectic as you're still expected to have your other courses elsewhere. Worth it though.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Morning Constitutional

I flatter myself that as a reasonably intelligent and educated individual I have an informed political opinion. I follow the moves and shifts on the political scene, and in a small way even take part. Yet this current confusion on the EU constitution, sorry, treaty, leaves me cold and confused.

Is it a treaty or constitution seems to be the overriding issue. We don’t get past that to really get to the heart of the matter. What are the changes to European and National institutions? Where does ultimate authority lay? Does the EU Parliament really matter and does local politics cease to be able to do anything? Its almost impossible to get into it, the murk and obfuscation leave it difficult for even the more ardent political followers like me to make sense of it.

It struck me, not for the first time, that the real issue is just that. The American constitution is straight forward, a few pages that lay out fundamental principles that make it easy to know what it is to be American. Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, the Pursuit of Happiness, big ideas that are easily identifiable. The Canadian constitution, written only 20 odd years ago, is similar. Its about 20 pages, but again, lays out big ideas, and very Canadian ones I might add.

Yet what is it to be European? The last formal constitution was thousands of pages long. This “treaty” is a similar length. Its overriding purpose seems to be to remove national veto because there are too many countries. Is that what it is to be European? To loose National Authority to some vague appointed body? There is a charter of human rights, but it is bizarre in its structure, defining in detail such microcosms of the right of an individual who is employed. Is that what it is to be European, to have a right to work?

Don’t get me wrong, I ardently believe in the principles for which the Common Market was originally founded. By encouraging trade, and setting basic standards of competition, you reduce if not eliminate the risk of war. That is something whole and worthwhile. Its true, we’ve had what is perhaps the longest period of peace in Western Europe that has ever existed. Yet you can do that without having a European Parliament, without an Appointed Commission making fundamental decisions on life. Something has gone wrong with the core idea. I don’t believe we need a European State, yet that is what we are inevitably heading towards.

I guess I’m just going to have to print that damn thing off and read it. Getting the real truth out of the politicians just isn’t going to happen. Yet I can’t help wish that we just pulled back and debated the fundamentals. What is it we are trying to achieve. Peace through commerce is not a bad thing. You can hang your hat on it. Without that or another idea of what is trying to be achieved, we’re doomed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Comfort Food

The definition of comfort food is generally that which you were brought up on. Mum’s cooking essentially. Thing is I’ve learned all sorts of comfort food along the way. Tastes and textures that I love that instantly become something that helps you relax and feel safe and secure and at home.

I picked up a bunch from LL. Some which have really settled in my stomach. One is Smocked Haddock and Baked Custard (recipe here). It even sounds like a comfort food. I loved smoked fish to begin with, and by baking a custard around it, the custard takes on the smoky fish flavour. Its easily the best part of the dish. Service it with some new potatoes, and as I did Saturday, with fresh carrots and chard from the garden. Simple pleasure.

Oddly Pirate Pete has taken a disliking to baked custard. Odd because he quite likes sweet custard sauce on his pudding. Go figure, but he’ll come around some day. The other two love it, and its one of LL’s all time favourite dishes.

It took me a long time to perfect how to cook a custard. Once solved, its simplicity itself, but it is one of those dishes that if you get one little thing wrong, all you end up with is a gloopy mess. When right though! My, soft melt on your tongue loveliness.

So what constitutes comfort food in your household?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Shanghai Blues

Back in jolly old blighty again. It was a good trip, a good set of meetings, fantabulous food, nice hotels, and I’m absolutely shattered. I was asked how I cope so well with the jetlag. Its known as pure unadulterated will power. I tend to sleep not very much, maybe getting four hours a night, and I just plough through. Sleeping in meetings is rude, so I pinch my hand or ear, take deep breaths, and make sure I ask lots of questions to keep my mind engaged and awake. If I slip up for a second, I fall asleep.

That is until I’m back at the hotel and its time to sleep, in which case my body has usually decided to stay awake. Such is life of the jet setting executive.

So, Shanghai. I walked out of the office at one point, and just started to smile. It smells like Vancouver. Funny how those things can hit you sometimes. For you poor benighted souls who have never been to Vancouver, the population is over 40% Asian. Shanghai just smells like part of home.

The city has changed hugely since I was last there. Where before there were often winding streets there are often now multi lane straight as an arrow elevated motorways. There are still estates of identical multi story apartment blocks. Yet before they were all uniform Stalinist concrete. Now some are actually quite interesting architecture.

The city has also grown a lot taller. The skyscrapers are everywhere, and there’s still a lot more being built. Thankfully the bunt has been retained, but there’s been a lot of the rest flattened. Most of the city is brand spanking new, and I mean new.

Like the new Beijing, the new Shanghai could be dropped into many other nations and you couldn’t tell the difference. Other, of course, that lots of neon or better yet digital screen hordings in Chinese.

The people are the most interesting. They are starting to understand customer service, and maybe even politeness. Much encouraged by the government. Hilariously, on the flight from Beijing, there was a cartoon to encourage politeness. I’ve never seen anything like it. The bit on not picking your nose was good, but there was this piece where a woman is waiting for the lavatory, and after much banging on the door, and a man walks out with brown smears on the wall and paper strewn about. I don’t want to think what sort of politeness they were encouraging there.

10 years ago I was lucky to have someone have an order taken, let alone get looked at when a plate was dropped in front of me. Now they even smile! English is a bit more common, and I had some great conversations. There is a real fear about international opinion of China after all the nonsense with lead paint and tainted drugs. The local papers where full of it too. That is a big change, the Chinese used to just not care about outside opinions.

Had some interesting conversations between local Chinese and Taiwanese. Both are of the opinion the two countries will eventually merge in some shape or form. The shape or form was hotly debated. Interestingly Taiwan has pretty well gutted its local industry to shift it to cheaper locations in China. Now they own and manage where before they built. Fascinating.

I can’t help but contrast with India. I’m an Indian fan, love a country that’s pulling itself up by its bootstraps, democratic and arguing with itself every step of the way. I am not a China fan in the same way. I am both enticed and scared in equal measure. The Indians want their bit, China wants to win. Its not a bad trait, I rather strongly believe in winning. Yet, not at any cost. That, perhaps, is what scares me.

I’ll be back though, Asia is knocking at the door. We ignore it at our peril. Far better to work with it, and help guide as a friend.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Peking Duck

So your humble correspondant is reporting from China this week. I'm in Beijing for another night, then fly down to Shanghai. I've been here before, but not for about 12 years.

Beijing is transformed. Other than the signage it could be a Western city. They've done a huge amount to clean it up as well. The major roadsides are all planted up, the roads kept clean, and the bicycles (previously ubiquitous) are disappearing (replaced by shiny new cars of every shape and description.

Other than the signage, it could be in the US or Europe. The whole place has such a differnt feel. Before there was still that Communistic oppression with identical grey concrete office blocks everywhere.

The best thing though is the food. Growing up in Vancouver, Chinese quisine was part of my early life. Not only at friends place, but my Mum used a Wok regularly. Its part of the life, integrated like Indian in the UK. Here though, its like what I remember growing up, flavourful and fresh. I just haven't found really good Chinese food in London. I've had a few spectacular meals. Even a breakfast of Dim Sum is superb.

The contrast with Delhi is very interesting. That is a city still growing in its wealth. The poverty and prosperity is sitting side by side. I know there is still poverty in China, and suspect it is just well hidden away from Beijing and Shanghai, but what I see here is very impressive. Globalisation has its problems, but can bringing prosperity to so many really be a bad thing? We just have to find a way to do it that doesn't ruin us ecologically.

Finally what's interesting are the social conversations. There is whistful incredulity that I have three kids. The goverment here can fine you up to £30,000 for having a second child, more for the third, don't even think of a fourth. Then the aspirations, I'm with a lot of Taiwanese here. They don't think much of the elder population (ie their generation), but think the youngsters really do know how to work hard and effectively. They all want to get on, to prove themselves. ITs quite endearing. Yes, there is also a want for things. Humanity is humanity.

So, all in a very intersting visit. More to follow, so perhaps a bit more insight, but its good to be here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The other half

Its not really half, more like the other couple percent. Its funny, I don't think of myself much as being the other half. I'm just me, grew up with not very much at all. Vicars don't get paid much, and our family lived in perpetual budget land. Not that I ever felt deprived, far from it. Now though, we are... ehem, comfortable.

Sometimes though it gets slammed home. Saturday night was one of those nights. It was a "parents" evening for all the kids in Ali Baba's class. LL had met a few of the other mum's, but I was completely in the dark. Ali had just joined the school this term, so it was a completely new set of parents.

Now when I was a kid, this sort of thing was usually a pot luck at someone's house. This too was at someone's house, but it sure wasn't a potluck. With regemental precision we were preorganised to provide nice shiny cheques. The food was catered, and very good it was too. The bar was potluck though!

What got me though as I wandered talking to this or that parent, was who I was talking to. Putting the class war aside, very few of these people had been born to money or privaledge, but there was a lot in the room. As you do the chit chat, talking about which boy you where a parent of (oddly, pretty well everyone knew each other's kids by name (well, maybe not that off, its a class of 15)), where you lived, what you did.

So, as I chatted, I met two legal managing partners, the head of the local LEA (who sends his kids to private school, just what does that tell you), a CFO of a branded company pretty well everyone would recognise, the head of cultural change at another well known company, a couple of entrepreneurs with their own firms. Really quite the list, and I should stress that was both the women and the men.

I just came away from the night a bit weirded out. Its not a bad thing, such a congregation of talent meant for some pretty fascinating conversation. It just hit home that how I live isn't quite how most live. I still don't know how that hits me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Widdle Wolfie Cubs

Well, we’re on a Pirate Pete theme this week. Last night I took him to his first Cub Scouts session. Not too surprisingly he really liked it, and is very keen to carry on. It wasn’t the most exciting of nights, they played a couple games, then did a really good map exercise. The boys where put into pairs and given a local ordinance survey map. They had to find their own homes, locate the scout hut, then freehand draw a map showing the route from their houses to the hut and include major features like woods, lakes, streams and pubs (hey, we really do live in the country).

Quite by chance PP got paired up with the only other boy from his school. They got stuck right in, no prompting, and drew a bloody good map. It struck me that the schooling was maybe showing through again. This isn’t about class, its about the discipline and focus they had learned. Not many of the other pairs put the same time and effort in.

In the car back I was told in no uncertain terms that he wanted to go back. His new friend had been telling him about the camping and hiking and he was dead keen. Didn’t matter that I’d been telling him the same things about Cubs, his mate said it was good, therefore it was good. You got to love boys.

Any way, it made me very glad. I loved Cubs and Scouts. I have many fond memories of the camping trips and jamborees. I hope it will be the same for him. It will also get him out of the rarefied atmosphere of his school. A bit of mixing up with some boys from the local council estate in a good organised place like Cubs is a very good thing.

I’m so glad Scouts is surviving in our day and age. From all accounts its more than surviving, its growing. This pack takes on kids from three villages, and was a good size. The morals may be a bit old fashioned, but that’s not a bad thing in my eyes. Teaching boys to do good deeds, to respect themselves and each other, to learn about the outdoors, its all as it should be. So here’s to the Scouts, a movement that society needs. Long may it continue.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Continued Pride

So my boy did fine last night. Got up, did his two minute piece flawlessly. Did a little boy and sat down. His first public performance just spot on. I was a very proud daddy.

For not the first time I wondered how could you make sure all children had this sort of education? The school is well known musically. If you enjoy choral music, its entirely possible you’ve heard the boys of the school sing. They can, and have, made me cry. 75% of the boys in the school either sing or practice a musical instrument or both.

A lot of that is down to a superb head music teacher. He also has a full time assistant, just as talented, access to a few of the other teachers who also enjoy music, and a large crowd of part time instructors. That helps. Yet a lot rests on him, he is naturally enthusiastic. For instance during the concert last night he was all smiles, helped them get set up, accompanied many, heaped praise on each boy after, and generally looked like he was enjoying himself immensely.

That matters. It telegraphed through into the boys themselves, who encouraged each other, patted each other on the back and heaped on their own praise to their neighbours as they sat down after their little bit. I really liked seeing that, it means music isn’t seen as odd or put down.

Almost 30 boys played last night, and this is the first of four “informal” concerts last night. Any boy can ask to play, they’re allowed to choose what they play. We had everything from the Star Wars theme to a Mozart Andante. From plunked keys to a few real protégés. It only took an hour, and I really enjoyed myself.

Thing is, the school isn’t only good at music. Excellence has a way of breeding excellence. Many of the school sports teams do well, last year they had two year groups in national football finals, the senior rugby team won the county finals, and they had medals from national swimming meets. The walls are dotted with surprisingly good art (there is two full time art teachers, plus they have an artist in residence per year). Then, for what its worth, the school is always well up in the test result school league tables.

The result is I’ve got a little boy who’s very happy (most important) and who’s potentials are being pushed in many directions. He’ll have to make his own life eventually, but we’ll have given him a good start. A part of me hates that I’m buying him that privilege. His education should be the standard every child gets. Unfortunately, having visited the local state schools, I know he wouldn’t get close to the same experience.

The sad fact is though we pay slightly more, the amount the state spends on each child isn’t that much different. The money just gets lost in a monolithic multi level bureaucracy. One less administrator in the centre means one more music teacher in a school. Some things have got to change. I’d love to see every child have the chance at the big smile my boy had last night standing there getting clapped.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Pride in little things

There are so many different types of pride. Pride in ones ancestry, in one’s country or city. Pride in your house or your own accomplishments. What has surprised me most about being a father is pride in my children. I can feel the most overwhelming sense of their accomplishment of the smallest silliest things. Those first steps stand out, and I remember little things like the first time a spoon was put in a mouth with no help. Of often wondered what twist of genetics brought that on. I suppose its part of the paternal make up, those feelings of pleasure in your youngsters encourage you to encourage them.

Lately Pirate Pete has given me a lot to be proud of. Again, we’re not talking earth shattering things, but its such a wonderful thing to see him learn and succeed. He’s always been keen on football, but because it wasn’t something I grew up with I’m not the best of soccer dads. I’m useless kicking the ball about, though we still do it.

Just this week he got promoted from the ‘C’ squad to the ‘B’s. He’s done it on his own (well, perhaps with a little help from his coaches). My boy was so chuffed about it, though it was interesting he told me, but didn’t mention it to his mother. A guy thing I guess. Somehow I’m going to have to find time to make one of his matches. Its just great to see him enjoying it.

Then there’s his sax. Its funny, he has a bit of a love hate relationship with his instrument. I can tell he loves playing, and even now he goes off on little riffs. There’s a jazz man lurking in his little frame. Boy though, do I sometimes have to nag to get him to practice! We do it together though. Its one of our things. He’s coming along very nicely.

The reason for this post though, is tonight is his first concert. He’s been working on a short jazz piece. Its quite an advanced piece, no simple lyrical melody. I’m going of course, cancelled a meeting so I could leave early to be there. I’m so curious to see how he’ll do. He’s like me in not showing his nerves much, so I suspect he’ll just get up and do it, but I know some nerves are there. When done, I shall be standing and clapping the loudest. Won’t be able to help myself really.