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Wednesday, 16 July 2008

eye of newt

“Couldn’t you make me sound caring?” my mother said.
Ever a slave to the truth, I was bound to pause.
“Well, there is the stuff about the hamster,” I said, floundering, as if in an interview when asked to discuss my achievements and finding that particular folder marked empty. “And the bird.”
The pause sounded sad this time.
“It just doesn’t sound quite enough,” she said.
“I’ll see what I can do,” I said, dizzy with the unaccustomed sensation of being granted the upper hand. as rare for me as an unsupervised go on the TV remote control.
I put down the phone (firm but fair) leaving my poor mother to totter to her kitchen and mash her destroyed gnashers on an omelette. For the last 30 years she has battled with her teeth. A serious design flaw, we have decided, that bridging bit between body and inside. And now her sine qua non is root canal. If she’s not going to the dentist forking out £200 a time, she has just been or is going tomorrow. There are operations and in between there are check ups where her regular dentist peers and winces and pats her shoulder. Big money exchanges hands: one way as usual. Leaving my mother the choice of soup, yoghurt or soup. Or yoghurt. Or if she’s feeling defiant, an omelette.
But she’s very caring. Very very caring.
Have I said that she is very caring?
And while I’m in penance land, I should point out that the Daisy Loves a Chicken type of books my brother was buying for his 7 year old are to help her in her third language, English. She’s doing Sartre in the original back home in Paris, and saves her native Dante for bedtime. Who can deny her kung fu unicorns in the face of that expertise? Not even me, though God knows it hurts to say so.
Meanwhile, when not momentarily alert to my duty of playing fair by my family, I have been busy multi-tasking. Not a concept I embrace naturally, finding deadly onerous the notion of chewing gum AND walking simultaneously. Heaven forbid.
No, my multi-tasking is of the maternal kind where I don’t actually have to do anything but react.

At one polar end is T11, newly endowed recipient of about 85 Grade 5s at SATS and fine Bottom of this parish who has just acted his mismatched little socks off in the school version of Midsummer’s Night Dream. An abridgement fashioned predominantly around the mechanicals thereby rendering his part the most important.
Oh yes.
And all those lines! None of which you can fudge (being the real thing, not kiddyfied), nor sort of make up on the hoof, not with all the “ousel cock so black of hue” and “O dainty duck, O dear, thy mantle good ..” and “stolen hence” etc. No, he had to learn them all. And did. And made them charming. Jack Sparrow does Bottom.
Now, normally, I am not one to enjoy Species Child Actor, finding it a stiff and stilted little breed in urgent need of a slap and, normally, moreover, I am a fierce judge of my own children, wishing to protect them from a wider criticism by being the first to notice it myself. But, as Bottom, dear T11 found his zenith.
"Of course," my mother said, "He's far too pretty to play Bottom."
I contemplated in peeved silence how the role of Titania should indeed have been his, flowing robes and lots of lace, rather than ass's ears and a colander on his head.
We went in with scant expectation – and who would have thought it, a Shakespearean comedy which was actually highly amusing? The audience chortled and clapped and I was all but mobbed at the end by admiring parents.
Friends, I wafted, Cloud 9 was mine and on this happy day, my inner Mrs Clooney rose magnificently to the challenge as I kindly nodded modest acceptance of his fine turn. (Incidentally, quite why the mothers of stars don’t have more of an on-going role escapes me. Surely people are more than interested in hearing what Johnny Depp’s mother might have to say on any given subject? I certainly have respect for the fine woman given now that we have more in common.) while gracious enough to boom, very Margot Ledbetter, how Simply Marvellous all the children had been. Smiles all round. I fumbled discretely for a pen ready to favour one or two grateful random souls with an autograph, should they be so lucky. Goodness I could warm to some Lady Mayoress type role. I am wasted on housework.

In the corner, something sawed away at my contentment. F9, indulging in his very own Gene Kelly: his penguin umbrella not being employed as Fit for Purpose but trespassing into dangerous weapon land as careless of its spokes he spun beneath its private glow oblivious to all around him.
My antennae bristled as shades of glory passeth onto the fog of despair. We scooped up the miscreant before true damage was done, and went home, only very slightly cross.

Today at breakfast, F9 growled, “Oi ‘ate B9.”
As do we all, I thought, a stranger to the idea of loving all children as mine own, particularly with regard to the odious B9.
“What’s happened now?” I asked, shrill, buttering the muffin with a little more desperation, the knife clutched tight (“Is this a dagger that I see before me…).
“He said to all the boys at lunchtime to put up their hands if they hated me. They all did. Apart from A9 and J9.”

Reader, hell hath no fury like a mother scorned, my blood boiled as pain and fury surged my arteries. Long have we suffered at the hands of this troll-like runt, this hateful little toad, this herder of pathetic sheep, larding our days with discontent. A brutal creature is he, hewn from sub-standard stone and laced with aggressive swagger. His nostrils flare disdainful, a Flashman for our days in idle search of a Tom Brown to plague. His Tom Brown, my F9, resists, but still B9 does not tire of his torment.
It does not help that his mother virtually lives at the school, forever "helping"and Queen of the PTA. They are the stuff of nightmares. The child sees himself as inviolable.
“He’s not,” the headmaster was quick to say.
For F9 to tell me about it meant that it hurt. He is a brave little soul, not easy, but brave. I said that, too.

Nothing comes of nothing, so I approached the headmaster at the gates.
“Still glowing with pride?” he asked.
“Yes, no, well, didn’t they all do marrrrvellously,” I heard Mrs Clooney purr, slipping easily into favoured character, touched by T11’s success. Then, frailty took hold of the vocals, part harridan, part insipid soul on the brink of tears, a lean and hungry look for justice on me. I burbled out the new discontent.
He looked concerned and promised to investigate. I think he thinks that he is a detective.

On my way from school I was accosted by J9’s mother. Worse was in store: she filled in more details of yesterday’s “incident” giving the brutal tale more flesh, none of it nice and most of it below the belt.
“I hope you don’t think I’m tittle-tattling,” she said, her tongue sliding out between her teeth.
I called back into school and blurted out the whole sorry story, apologetic but fretful. There was an onslaught of Inappropriates and Unacceptables and Procedures. Something is rotten in the state of the system but he still says, he’ll see what he can do.

Wish me luck. I’m about to sally forth for the update.
And tonight, my carrot of reward luring me through to sanity: one last bask at Bottom, where Mrs Clooney will film the entire MND, the final performance. Leaving me something to drool over when age has withered me. When I have but dim memories of painful times featuring penguin umbrellas, when the name B has lost its power to hurt, when I am old and grey and signifying nothing.


Elizabethd said...

I do hope the school gets this sorted out very quickly. There is nothing nastier than emotional bullying, for that is what it is.

Cait O'Connor said...

Oh I'm so glad my children's school days are long gone! It's bad enough hearing of goings on at my 2 gdds' primary.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Heck Milla. This is like history repeating itself. I went through the "bullying" saga at the beginning of this year then wrote about it. Then got sacked from helping at school, followed by being ostracised by most of the other parents and some of the staff. And believe it or not, one of the children involved in the incidents is a child of a governor. Completely untouchable.

My sympathies.

CJ xx

Blossomcottage said...

My son was bullied at school 15 years ago, my husband marched in a took him away, its the best thing we ever did for him, he went to a new school where they would not tolerate any kind of bullying. I cannot believe that things are still the same.
I will be thinking of you, and I cross that I am not right at the top of your list where I should be, must do better next time.

KittyB said...

T11 is a noble little chap - how lovely to be a proud mummy ('H is a very intelligent young man', on his report this year, my oh my). Poor old F9 - I hope you can get to the root of this one, I would have thought he would be a popular sort, he has a certain charisma and charm...
And thanks for your chicken curry remark which made me chortle, I have heard that dog curry ain't bad either. Fo' sure.

LittleBrownDog said...

I can see you have a Bottom to be proud of (and not many of us can say the same). Must be lovely to see your child doing so well - all we got was "just above national expectations blah, blah, blah". But I know he's special. That Benjamin, however, sounds like a nasty piece of work, and if your headmaster has anything about him he'll get that nastiness nipped in the bud, mother queen of the PTA or no. Your school must have a bullying policy, and if I were you I'd make sure it was followed to the letter. (If that doesn't do the trick, I might be inclined to creep up behind the offending child, grab him roughly and suddenly by the collar and breathe, "I'll be watching you, sonny" menacingly into his ear.) Seriously, though, I do hope you get it sorted out soon.

And by the way, though one day you may be old and even perhaps grey, you will never signify nothing.


Frances said...

Milla, your writing is brilliant.

Best congrats to the fabulous Bottom who lives at your house!

And as for the bullying, I know that you will sort it out. Bet there are lots of other parents who have the same situation, but have not got your wit, courage and might not ever thank you, after you have gotten the school to sort it all out.

(You know which book I have just finished, and it does have a happy-ish ending of one boy's year under fire.)


bodran... said...

That was mad you even had me laughing at the seriuos bits sorry.
Damn sodding bullies Nells much better now that shes moved but the bullying moved on to emails! good luck x

Angel said...

My anger at the bullying part somewhat stifled my usual guffawing at your prose.

There is truly nothing worse. I abhor it. Know you'll get it sorted.

So good to catch up on your fab blogs...just the tonic before the boys break up for hols and I don't get chance

Take care and have good 6 weeks.

FairSailor said...

Another very entertaining blog, Milla. Had me laughing and cursing at the same time. In all seriousness, I do hope the bullying is sorted out, pronto.

Preseli Mags said...

Lovely to hear how proud you are of your Bottom.

May a plague of pustules descend on B9.

Off now to boggle at the idea that Johnny Depp actually has a mother. xxPM

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Well done on the play - how brilliant is that.

Now about this berludy bully - wanna borrow my chainsaw . . .

And sympathy to your Mum - re the teeth.

Potty Mummy said...

God Milla - I bet you want to smack the hell out of that nasty little blighter. (Why aren't parents allowed to do that to children who persecute their offspring, by the way? No, don't tell me. I do know...)

Ernest de Cugnac said...

Lovely piece, as per, Milla. Couldn't work out if the Benjie episode was an instance of nastiness which sadly abounds in childhood or chronic torment. No one enjoys the former, but you can survive it. The latter does need sorting.

Sorrow said...

love them hate them
make them do the dishes...
hope all is well in your part of Denmark...

Faith said...

Very well done to your son. Acting is a gift, and learning Shakespeare is not easy. Bottom is a top role!

My advice on the bullying, if you are not doing it already, is to keep a log of it. I did that when my youngest was bullied. It helps to show the school what is going on on a day to day basis, and shows you are monitoring it. I don't think we will ever get rid of bullies in schools, mores the pity.

Sass E-mum said...

Great to hear of his MND success.

The bullying thing is horrible though. Good job you are hearing about it though - and that you feel you can raise it directly with the school.

Recently I've come across some 4/5 year old girls who have been unfriendly towards Peaches (barely two and very smiley). Makes me think these other little girls will grow into nasty witches. Or are they just flexing their independence and personal space... has anyone out there actually tackled any nasty/unfriendly/bullying behaviour from their own child??

blogthatmama said...

The B-word is probably, in fact, almost definitely, jealous of the fact that he wasn't Bottom of the class, in the finest thespian sense. You have to remember that jealousy is often the driver. The Terminator has been besieged for 3 years by a monobrowed neanderthal and I'm a school governor and still can't stop him 'not allowing people to be friends with TT'. TT is learning to cope with it without fighting for the first time, not pleasant but will stand him in good stead. Good luck! Blogthatmamax

Fennie said...

As you were telling this sad and happy tale I noticed you kept (unconsciously?) but also beautifully into the Shakespearean rhythmn. I noticed:

'as careless of its spokes he spun
beneath its private glow
oblivious to all around....'

and the wonderful, thrice wonderful

'His notrils flare disdainful
A Flashman of his days......'

No doubt you will tell us the sequel. But do I understand that your mother Italian? Good luck to all.

Maggie May said...

Oh dear, bullying........ Not nice!
Hope you get it sorted. The mothers can be so clicky too!
Can remember many times being really hurt when one of my two were bullied at school. Nothing hurts a mother more!

DJ Kirkby said...

This post made me think *urk*! Bullying, scary stuff. I have blogged about you on my Lazy Sunday post. xo

Exmoorjane said...

Pastard little oik.....and the rest of them......nasty nasty.
Huge well done to T11 - wonder if he'll remember those lines all his life...I still have vague chunks of Shakespeare that come out when I'm drunk.
Ah, ousel - anglo-saxon for bird....my mate had a cat called Ousel once.

Pipany said...

Oh it hurts doesn't it? I was the subject of bullying all my school years and couldn't wait to leave. Hope it gets sorted Milla and thank goodness the holidays are nearly here (did I say that?!!!) xx

LittleBrownDog said...

Just popped back to see if any repercussions re the Benjamin episode. Hope all is well. xx

PS Shouldn't have blabbed about that cut-price wine - now it seems everybody's caught on and there was none in Tetbury yesterday when I popped in to stock up. Had to make do with some very inferior Pinot Grigio. Hmmph!

Blossomcottage said...

I am here to tell you that I have tagged you!! Little Veg Patch tagged me and now its your turn!
Instructions on my Blog.

Mud in the City said...

Wanted to let you know that there is an award on my blog for you! I see someone else has already given it to you - but can one ever have *too* many??

CAMILLA said...

Dear Milla,

Still cannot believe there is bullying going on in schools but it is happening unfortunately. My son was bullied at school when he was 5 years, nothing was being done about it until I marched up to school gates one day, foot tapping and in chainsaw mood and confronted the parent of the horrid said child, then had a word with headmaster, and little old me of the ever so calm one usually, anyway, seemed to have done the trick, no more bullying.

My grandson was bullied a few years ago at his school, not the lovely one in our village, another school, after repeated requests by my daughter that bully be expelled from school nothing happened, so my daughter sent grandson to the school in our village where he settled in very well.

Hope all has got sorted out for your son now Milla, do hope so.