Archive for November, 2015

Chocolate party


Eliza had agonised over how to celebrate her 12th birthday. She couldn’t figure out how to balance her new school friends with her old. The solution came with a joint party with a new school friend and a sleepover with her best friend.

The joint party, in a local church hall, featured Oliver the chocolatier teaching ten attentive girls how to make truffles and other chocolate goodies. The group sat for an hour, chatting quietly and engrossed in the activity. When it was finished they picked from a buffet eating a fraction of the quantity of pizza our kids eat (and so a fraction of the pizza bought for the occasion). After tea they arranged their own games. Both sets of parents observed, praised, offered food but had very little to do with a group of self-possessed youngsters.


Robin was in a bad mood leading up to Eliza’s party. He had wanted to watch either the City match or El Classico, but both clashed with the chocolate party. Worse was to come when I offered Gabe the chance to go to the City match with friends, without extending the offer to Robin. City were one down before we left home. Robin was unimpressed and lapsed into exaggerated Manchester footy-speak as we listened to his team go further behind in the car on the way to the party.


Monday nights, Gabe spends an hour with a German tutor. Prevented by school from studying more than one modern language, L & I arranged private tuition (the school has agreed to enter him in the exam) to enable Gabe to work towards a GCSE in German. He seems to enjoy the 1-1 lessons in our kitchen and, each week, L supplements this by working with him on vocabulary.



Broken toe


Before school one morning, Robin attempted a Rabona kick of a small, polystyrene ball next to his bed. He misjudged and the outside of his right foot kicked the sharp corner of his bed. Badly bruised around his little toe and too sore to walk on I drove him to school, following some NHS direct advice on treatment of fractured toes. 

The last 10 days have been a trial of his patience. Staying in his classroom at break, missing out on football practice (although both matches have been cancelled), straining for other exercise but pulled back by a sore toe and a patch of discoloured skin on his foot. We’ve done workouts together, played twisty-twosty. When I took him ten-pin bowling with a friend, he slid and spun on the slick floor, burning off stocks of energy – but avoided dropping a ball on his foot. He wants to know when he can restart football, but he’s the one who will know when his foot is better. 

L asked him after school on the day of his injury if it had hurt and if he had cried. “Yes,” he confirmed it had hurt. “No” he hadn’t cried. Why not? Because he wanted to be brave like Daddy. 

Eliza and Gabe

Eliza and Gabe walk to school together – unwillingly on his part. They meet his friends at the end of our road and I imagine her buzzing around, trilling at them, who try to ignore, but getting annoyed. She reports they only talk about football and how tall they are. Gabe, so often late to leave, now uses her not being ready as an excuse to go without her. She’s often brushing her hair, humming to herself, when he shouts from downstairs that he’s leaving. We’ve had to institute an 8am deadline, before which he can’t leave without her, after which he doesn’t have to wait. Yesterday, I watched them head down the road: Gabe striding in front eyes forward, Eliza five metres behind, putting her bag on her back, trying to catch up. 



L, Gabe & went to the cinema on Saturday night. It is an old picture house recently re-opened after refurbishment, featuring crushed velvet upholstered seats, sofas and bar refreshments. The film was Macbeth, Gabe’s GCSE Shakespeare text. During the film, he whispered from time-to-time with L. At the end he was effusive – highlighting the delivery of Macbeth’s soliloquies, changes in location of scenes compared to the play, scenes cut from the film version, as well as maintaining with L an intellectually impressive discussion of the film’s broader meaning. 


Three years ago, we had to manage a situation at a sleep-over where Gabe’s friends were going to be playing the 16 rated video game, Call of Duty. It’s a problem that has recurred as most of his friends are allowed to play that and similar games, while L and I have not dropped our opposition. Now Robin, two years younger than Gabe when we first faced this issue, reports that the boys at an afternoon party he attended were playing Call of Duty. He avoided it, he explained to me, giving the sense that he understood it was not something he should be seeing. 


For all Eliza’s impressive academic record and progress, her lack of general knowledge is exposed by the wider curriculum of secondary school. For RE she had to learn for six major religions, the founder, the holy book, what adherents are called and the name of the place they worship. Had Eliza had some inter-faith responsibility, she could cause great offence, mixing up Sikhism with Judaism and Buddhism.