Sophie’s been overwhelmed by all the pleas for the next episode of her blog (well, OK, pleas from Petronella and my ‘Auntie’ Hilda who lives next door) and so – despite my busy Xmas schedule of shopping… and more shopping – I’ve bowed to the pressure and Here We Are. Exciting isn’t it?! Or as Gordon Ramsey’s daughter would say: A-MAZ-ING or maybe: INCREDIBLE!!
Now although Grandad has taught me to appreciate the virtues of Palma ham, I wondered what it was about Palma ham that defies credibility for Gordon and his sprog. Like every other TV celebrity chef, he seems to get so excited about this or that culinary creation I almost expect him to start peeing himself on the spot.
The PISA league tables
Last week I got SO bored. Mummy, Daddy, and Grandad never stopped talking about PISA league tables. Now Sophie didn’t even know Pisa had a football team in the Serie A league. Honest, I didn’t. I knew they had a leaning tower which they were constantly trying to prop up and (according to Grandad) a magnificent cathedral.
But Daddy explained it was to do with EDUCATION and a table of how well schools in lots of different countries perform in reading, maths and science. Apparently we didn’t do very well: ‘firmly lodged mid-table – or lower’ according to Daddy. ‘Symptomatic of the decline in standards and values of our schools,’ he continued, warming to his subject. ‘It’s all down to these namby-pamby, wishy-washy, arty-farty, left-wing trendies running the education system and the BBC. They couldn’t organise a p*** up in a brewery!’ [Mummy told me to put in those asterisks]
I could have sworn Grandad whispered ‘poppycock’ or something under his breath, but then he seemed to agree with Daddy. ‘You know, you’re absolutely right. Which countries were top of the table? China, South Korea, and Singapore. People are saying we’ve got to pull up our socks so we can bend up at the same level as those countries. But why be satisfied with that? We don’t want to be at the SAME level. We want to be MUCH BETTER than them. The Koreans only used to be famous for copying our products. And what has Singapore given to the world apart from noodles?’
‘Easier said than done,’ said Daddy. ‘Just how do you propose to bring about this miraculous transformation?
‘Simple’. It was then I spotted the twinkle in Grandad’s eye and that little smile at the corners of his mouth. Sure signs he probably means the opposite of what he says. I could see Daddy was delighted Grandad was agreeing with him.
‘You saw that TV documentary last night,’ said Gramps. ‘Korean children only attend school for 13 hours a day. Luxury! In my day, they sent you down t’ pit at 7 years-old and you worked a 20 hour day. We don’t want to send our kids to skool for 13 hrs a day – we send them there for 18 hours. That still leaves 6 hours for them to play and sleep, and do the housework, so Mum can get some rest.’ He winked at me.
‘Oh, Daddy,’ I said. ‘Surely, even you could see that coming!’
Grandad wasn’t finished. ‘And Korean children have the highest rates of suicide in the world, are the least happy at school. Brilliant. We kill 2 birds with one stone, as it were. Not only do we come top of the PISA tables, we keep down the population figures.’
‘What we don’t want to do,’ he continued, ‘is follow the example of Finland. Finland who came… what was it? Oh, yes, 4th in the tables, just behind those Chinese and Korean child slaves. The Fins positively encourage laziness and indolence in their young. They don’t begin formal schooling to age 7, they’ve the least selective, most comprehensive education system. They take no exams before they are 18 years-old, they’ve no schools inspectors, and their national curriculum is confined to broad outlines. Clearly all those mad Fins are bent on going to Hell in a handcart as fast as they can’.
Something told me Grandad didn’t really mean any of this! Once again, Daddy had walked obligingly into Grandad’s trap.
‘Thank you Sophie.’ Grandad made an elaborate bow to me.
Maybe NOW I thought we can get onto something interesting … like Justin Bieber, or the Saatchi children’s pocket money (more about this later). But NO – Grandad was on a roll and determined to bore us witless.
‘Now let’s take the Swedes,’ he continued [no, not the Swedes, I mentally pleaded]. ‘They have sensible sweaters, eat meals of smorgasbord and soused herring that no-one in their right mind would want, and drive cars so safe you’re guaranteed to fall asleep at the wheel.
Sorry,’ he said. ‘I came over all Jeremy Clarkson there’ – and with that he shuddered, and made the sign of the cross. ‘So it’s the Swedes’ example we want to follow. Now Govey likes Free Schools and that’s what they’ve introduced. Only trouble is: ever since the Swedes did that their educational tresults have gone down and down.’
Suddenly there was silence. At last. Grandad had wound down and it wasn’t long before he was asleep.
Alas, it didn’t stay that way for long. He awoke – and was off on a rant about this article he’d read in the Sunday Times by Nicola Horlicks which he claimed said exactly the same as he had in his book Grandad’s Tips for Bringing up Kids. Apparently parents were spending too much money on mountains of presents for their kids at Christmas time – money which was wasted because the kids quickly tired of playing with plastic battery-operated toys or digital devices. And these kinds of presents kept them indoors rather than running around outside.
I took an instant dislike to Nicola Horlicks. You see, there’s this battery-operated, talking Barbie doll I’ve got my eye on. And I certainly don’t want to be running around in the park catching all kinds of horrible diseases of all those working class kids I’ve seen playing there, do I?
Mind you … they DO seem to have lots of fun. And their Mummies and Daddies (‘and Grandads,’ murmured Grandad) do too.
Kitchen Goddess Nutella’s favourite Rum n’ Coke recipes
These’s been a lot of talk in the newspapers and on TV lately about Nutella, this celebrity TV chef – ‘Good enough to eat!’ called out Daddy. ‘I’m on team Nutella!’ he shouted, jumping up and down and licking his fingers in what Grandad described as a ‘lascivious’ way.
‘You would,’commented Mummy sourly. I don’t know why – or why she had such a sour look on her face. ‘It’s a shame you just take her cookery book to bed with you – to… read rather than actually cook any of the recipes from it. In the kitchen – that place you’d need a sat-nav to find!’
‘I don’t care what you say,’ replied Daddy. ‘I’m still on Team Nutella.’
‘Well, you shared her predilection for High-Tella’s coke cookies as a student. Just a shame you never looked at me that way when we shared a joint,’ snarled Mummy.
What were they talking about? Poor Sophie was getting very confused. Why was Mummy getting upset about coke cookies? I love Coke and I love cookies. I must ask for this recipe, I thought. And why was Mummy obviously getting upset about sharing a joint with Daddy. She often shares a joint with all of us – Sophie, little brother Sebastian, and even Daddy – when we have dinner. Does Nutella have a SPECIAL recipe for her joints?
‘What do you think Grandad?’ I could see he looked conflicted. He loves anything to do with food but I don’t think he quite approves of The Culinary Goddess. He’s the only reason we call her Nutella. Everyone else calls her Nigella. ‘Cos Nutella was a rich and sticky food – like what she is,’ said Grandad.
Grandad told me all about this court case. He’d said it was a waste of money because the Wicked Sisters would never be found guilty. It would be just one person’s word against another’s. ‘In fact,’ said Grandad, ‘a starring role for the Wicked Sisters was quite appropriate. The whole thing’s rather like a Christmas panto.’
‘And everyone , said Mummy, ‘including the PM and your Daddy – sprang to Nutella’s defence because she looked as fragrant as Lady Archer when she got Jeffrey off the hook with his “prossy”.’
These grown-ups were at it again. Jeffrey (whoever he was?) had a ‘prossy’. Mummy must have meant ‘pussy’. I expect this man Jeffrey loved ‘pussies’. Most of us do, don’t we?
When I spoke to Petronella about it later she was very nasty about the Goddess. ‘Do you know what I heard, Sophie. I heard the mean old cow only gave her kids £80 pocket money a day. I ask you: what self-respecting child can get by on that sort of allowance. My Mummy and Daddy will probably try to reduce my pocket money now!’
And with that, she began to cry. I put a consoling arm around her. I didn’t tell her when I got home I’d be negotiating an 800% increse in pocket money.
Well, that’s all folks. Like Daddy I’m worn out with all these Xmas preparations. He’s snoozing in his favourite armchair.
‘He’s had all those Christmas cards to write, presents to shop for, then wrap, mince pies to make, clothes to wash and iron for ‘the big day’, food to prepare, tidying up, dusting and hoovering. Not forgetting the office parties he couldn’t escape from, the dilemma of being unexpectedly caught under the mistletoe. It’s enough to tire anyone out.’
I think Mummy was being sarcastic.
Happy Christmas everyone – and especially Grandad … even if he’s often a boring old fart.