Justin Bieber, Mr Gove, Toys and Anger Management Problems
Sophie’s back. Once again, sorry you haven’t heard from me for so long but I’ve been so busy with Twitter and Facebook (that’s not true – I just like winding Grandad up) and doing my Christmas shopping. Still, that’s enough about Grandad for a while – let’s talk about ME!
I went round to see my best friend Petronella the other week. Found her on the doorstep, crying her heart out. Did my best to cheer her up. Y’know, told her her problems couldn’t be as bad as mine – she didn’t have to put up with her Grandad all the time. That only seemed to set off even more.
Then I remembered. Her Grandad died last month. ‘It’s alright, Pet,’ I said (I often lapse into a sort of Geordie accent when I shorten her name)
However, when the tears subsided, I learnt this was not about Grandad. it was about the Beaver (this is what I call Justin Bieber – for some reason it makes Grandad giggle, he mutters something about Naked Gun 2 ½ and Priscilla Presley’s ‘beaver’). ‘What’s Justin done to hurt you, Pet?’ I asked – though I guessed what it was. Then it all came rushing out: how he’d been caught sneaking out of a brothel and to make matters worse, a Brazilian brothel (hey, nice alliteration). Aren’t there any good English or American brothels I thought. Why does he have to go all that way? Actually, er… what is a brothel?
I asked Grandad. He said it was a type of shoe. People in his day used to talk about brothel-creepers. Shoes worn by Teddy Boys, he said. They must have been emotionally retarded young men, I thought. To still be so attached to their Teddies. I told Grandad they should grow up. Then I remembered the Mirror headline was ‘BROTHEL CREEPER’. ‘What’s wrong with the Beaver wearing retro shoes?’ I asked . He explained Justin had been ‘consorting’ with ‘ladies of the night’.
Hmmm … I thought. Don’t ask. Don’t worry, folks. Petronella soon brought me up to speed on that. Her Daddy’s an aristocrat: yes, a real-life drug baron. And had been a friend of Paul Raymond. The things Pet told me about Paul Raymond made my hairs curl – more than they already do, I mean. Everyone says I look like Shirley Temple (see my photo at the top of 1st blog).
I’m afraid my sympathy for Petronella was limited. Although Justin succeeded in worming his way back into my affections after the disastrous gig earlier this year when Mummy and I had to wait AGES for him to appear on stage, he’s been a naughty boy lately! For a start, there was that urinating in a mop bucket of a New York restaurant. ‘Maybe the waiters had been peeing in his soup’, Grandad suggested. Then there was abandoning that poor monkey in Germany. ‘He should be put down – not the monkey, Beaver’, said Grandad. I can never be sure whether he’s being serious.
Grandad’s been more than usually grumpy and miserable lately. He wrote a piece of Swiftean satire, a letter to the Times about the Mekon (his name for Mr Gove) and his latest ‘half-baked’ idea. Grandad was very upset when the letter wasn’t printed. My withering sarcasm wasted, he moaned. Later, he discovered he’d sent it to feedback@the Times instead of letters@the Times. So to cheer him up – and extract a fiver from him I said he could post it on my blog. You should have seen his little face light up. If you’re not interested in Govey or education, just switch off for a few minutes.
It seems the Mekon wants to introduce SATs and testing for 4 and 5 yr-olds as well as ‘cracking down’ on ‘cheating in primary tests’. Presumably primary school teachers are not to be trusted with invigilating kids in their school. Instead senior school teachers will be employed to monitor those primary schools that act as ‘feeder’ schools for the Big Skools. ‘We all know senior teachers never cheat by helping their pupils (thus bigging-up their results and performance tables) don’t we?’ said Grandad. Once again, I’m not sure he was being serious.
Here’s the letter:
3 cheers for Mr Gove. It’s time we got tough on these primary school kids (‘Senior school teachers may check on cheating in primary tests’ Times 11/11). Can I suggest invigilators/guards with machine guns patrolling every aisle in exam rooms, and a battery of overhead cameras focussed on each child? In addition, perhaps GCHQ could act as consultants in maintaining the secrecy of SAT test papers, and G4S supervise the transportation of those papers? High time we cracked down on little cheats, and jailed offenders – along with teachers found guilty of aiding and abetting them.
Well, at least it was short.
Even Daddy agrees with Grandad about Mr Gove. I think I’ve already told you, Daddy’s a TV producer. A ‘loony leftie’, Grandad’s brother Chris calls him. Great Uncle Chris believes everyone who works in the BBC is a ‘loony leftie’. And Grandad is a ‘loony leftie’ ‘cos he worked in Higher Education. But G.U. (Great Uncle) Chris was inclined to side with Daddy and Gramps because the CBI chief had criticised Gove’s school reforms for focussing too much on exam results and producing ‘robots’ who lacked a ’rounded education’.
‘What’s a rounded education, Grandad’, I asked.
‘Well, Sophie, according to this report in the Times yesterday – 20 November – it means placing “more emphasis on character-building to foster qualities such as determination, and emotional intelligence”. They’re focussing too much on academic results, it says here, shifting focus and resources within schools away from sport, performing arts, trips and clubs.’
Poor G.U. Chris was conflicted. It all sounded a bit arty-farty, wishy-washy, namby-pamby, liberal do-goodery to him. And yet… as a businessman he felt bound to support the CBI.
It’s almost Christmas so it’s time to think about toys. That’s what Mummy said. Hang on, I thought, my suspicions immediately aroused. Mummy raising the subject? Something doesn’t seem right. And then she played me a clip from ‘You and Yours’, a radio4 programme that was on last week. Soon as I started listening, I knew what her game was. Saturation advertising was designed to create false ‘wants’. Big deal – even kids know that. Or do they? Suddenly I wasn’t quite so sure. And parents were somehow made to feel their love for their kids could be measured by the amount of money they spent on toys.
The result? A mountain of plastic, battery-operated toys that engage children for 5 minutes. And younger children end up playing with the packaging rather than the plastic rubbish they’d been given. Someone emailed to say their kids got the most excitement from a cardboard box which they cut holes in, decorated with marker pens, and turned into a castle, spaceship etc. The greatest gift was something that excited the child’s imagination.
By this time, I’m feeling distinctly nervous. A cardboard box? Is that what Sebastian and I can expect in a few weeks time? However, when Oliver James, this child trick-cyclist, was asked what the solution was, I began to perk up (apparently things might not be so bad in this brave, new world as I thought). You simply had to ask the child what they really, really wanted (sounds good to me). It might be very expensive like a bicycle or some ballet lessons but then you got the parents and/or relatives to club together to buy it. This would give far more lasting pleasure than the plastic, battery-operated rubbish that was almost instantly abandoned.
I still fancy all those pink, glittery, girly things they advertise on kids TV programmes but maybe….
Grandad’s comment was typically grumpy: ‘I’ve said all this in my book, Sophie’ (Grandad’s Tips for Bringing up Kids – £4.99 available from selected bookshops, or http://www.positiveparenting.co.uk, or as a Kindle ebook:£3.49) ‘And I’ve said most of the things in Prof Tanya Byron’s double spread in the Times last Saturday (16 Nov): Tutor, clubs, piano lessons: are you pushing your child too hard. But I’m not a well-known paediatrician, with fancy letters after my name. No, I’m just an ordinary bloke who’s…’ By now, I could see Grandad had gone into Rhod Gilbert mode. He was foaming at the mouth, and I was afraid I’d have to have a word with Mummy about getting him committed. And when I said to him ‘Calm down, dear,’ he really lost it big-time. Serious anger management problems.
So that’s it, folks. I know you pine for my reflections on life and stuff and I will try to blog more. But it might have to wait until Grandad comes out of that home.