Another Blog In The Wall

On Tuesday, I attended Parents’ Evening at our boys’ school.

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Now, you might think this is not a particularly big deal (and certainly nothing worthy of a blog entry), since dozens of parents were there, and no doubt many of you with children have attended parents’ evenings yourselves in the past – if not already this academic year – so my ‘achievement’ is certainly nothing special.

However, please bear in mind the following:

  1. My wife was away on a school trip for the first part of the week (she is a teacher herself), so I was attending parents’ evening alone for the first time;
  2. Because my wife has been a teacher for many, many years (while still looking as young as the day I married her*), she usually does all the talking at parents’ evening, since she knows what to ask – and, more importantly, what not to ask;

which leads me to….

  1. I am often uncomfortable in situations where it would be wholly inappropriate to default to my defence mechanism of trying to be funny, so I will usually panic… and then default to my defence mechanism of trying to be funny.

*well recovered, that man.

My naivety when it came to attending parents’ evening alone was apparent well before the event itself, as I received an e-mail a couple of weeks ago confirming the online booking system was open, and since my wife had warned me to reserve the appointments quickly before all the best slots went, I went immediately to the site to ensure I had my pick. After all, the earliest I could get to school would be 5.30pm, and the last appointments were around 6.15pm, so with two sets of teachers to meet, I had little room to manoeuvre.

Fortunately, there were plenty of slots within my window of availability, so I initially selected 5.45pm to speak with Isaac’s teacher, and 5.55pm for Ollie’s. I then panicked, however, that this would cause issues with collecting Ollie from football training (which was due to finish at 6pm), so I cancelled those and moved everything slightly earlier to 5.40pm and 5.50pm.

Such is my indecisiveness, however, and the fact that I was under strict instructions not to fuck this up,  I decided that the earlier appointments probably made little difference, and perhaps it might be best if Ollie missed football training this week. I could then take both boys with me, and Ollie could (hopefully) make sure Isaac behaved while I was meeting their teachers. I therefore cancelled the re-arranged appointments, and re-re-arranged them back to 5.45pm and 5.55pm.

Naturally, I then doubted this decision, and having questioned why I would leave the appointments so late, particularly now that football training was no longer a factor, and I could potentially be home in time for Eggheads, I re-re-re-arranged the appointments back to 5.40pm and 5.50pm.

It was only when I logged in to my e-mail account later that day, I realised I had received messages every time I had changed my mind, so my inbox looked like this:

19/09/2019      13:15     Parents Evening – Appointments Booked

19/09/2019    13:16   Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled

19/09/2019      13:16      Parents Evening – Appointments Booked

19/09/2019   13:17    Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled (again)

19/09/2019    13:17     Parents Evening – Appointments Booked. You sure this time?

19/09/2019   13:17   Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled (What the fuck is the matter with you?)

19/09/2019     13:18    Parents Evening – Appointments Booked. Cancel them again, and we’ll block you from our system, you indecisive prick.

Ok, the latter e-mails didn’t exactly say that, but I had to pray the system was fully-automated, and the school would not discover how much I had messed around and changed my mind, because the office staff would then surely mark me down as some kind of moron for future administrative challenges.

The main thing was, the appointments were reserved, as I proudly informed my wife over dinner that evening (omitting to mention the many e-mail exchanges I had triggered via the online system). My bravado was, however, short-lived.

“What times did you go for?”

“5.40 for Isaac, and 5.50 for Ollie.”

“What?! Why have you only left five minutes between them?”

“Because I don’t want to be hanging around, and can be home by 6pm.”

“Why do you need to be home by 6pm?”

[whispers] “Eggheads.”

“What?”

“I thought Ollie might go to training, so I’d need to pick him up.”

“No, you’ll never get there in time, because the teachers are always running late, so now not only will you have to tell Ollie he can’t go to training, but you’ll miss the second appointment because you’ll still be waiting for Isaac’s teacher, and that means you’ll then have to wait until the end of the night to see Ollie’s teachers.”

“Sorry.”

“Idiot.”

Once my wife had calmed down (which was a full week later), I asked her for some pointers on the questions I should ask while at the appointments, because I had only managed the following list:

Questions To Ask At Parents’ Evening

Isaac

  1. Is he this much of a prick at school?
  2. Has he hit anyone?
  3. Could you have a word with the catering staff, and tell them to stop giving him ketchup, baked beans, or tomato soup, as it’s costing us a fucking fortune in white polo shirts?

Ollie

  1. Does he ever shut up?
  2. He claims he hasn’t been in trouble for talking since he started back in September, and I’ve warned him that, if he has lied to me, and has been in detention just once, I’m going to properly bollock him. So?
  3. Could we possibly speed this up? Eggheads starts at 6.

 

Needless to say, my wife was less than impressed with the list I had prepared, so she gave me a few genuine issues we wanted addressing; and, as I walked to the school on Tuesday evening, I received the same piece of advice from her via WhatsApp that I give to both boys daily when I drop them off at their respective classrooms:

Don’t fuck this up

As I arrived through the gates, and collected Isaac from his after-school club (Ollie had gone to football training in the end, since the mum of one of his teammates had kindly offered to give him a lift both ways), I realised I had a few minutes until my first appointment in the ‘Infant Hall’, so we went to his classroom to have a look through his books (which the children always display, for parents to check what they have been working on).

Having made encouraging comments about how much his handwriting was progressing, and how wonderful the portrait of his friend was (I’m not sure which kid the portrait was of, but if it was a genuine likeness, the poor boy has not been blessed with good-looks), there was just enough time for him to show me where he sits on the carpet each day – and for me to feign interest in front of the puzzled parents around us – before it was time to return to the Hall for my appointment. I was, after all, determined to finish speaking to his teacher on time, in order to make the second meeting with Ollie’s teachers by 5.50pm, so I could boast to my wife later in the evening when she got back from her trip.

Sadly, as I played the future conversation with my wife over and over in my head (and each time it concluded with her apologising and admitting I had been right to book the slots I had – then offering ‘sexy time’ by way of apology), I neglected one crucial point:

I have never been right in our fifteen years of marriage

So, when Isaac’s teacher finished her current appointment at precisely 5.40pm, and I strode over to her table with all the arrogance and confidence of a man who was about to win his first ever marital dispute, I was shocked to notice a couple sit down before me. I then had to walk back to the ‘general seating’ in the middle of the hall, like a man who had just been rejected by a lady in a bar (a walk which, in my younger years before meeting my wife, I was all-too-familiar with).

Parents Eve

Generic photo from Google

Not only that, but the rejection was repeated every few minutes, as one set of parents would leave, and I would rise from my seat, only to notice someone else sit down first. Needless to say, this meant the clock reached 5.50pm, and I was now late for my second appointment with Ollie’s teachers, so when I spotted a brief gap between parents who all had appointments before mine, I quickly explained to Isaac’s teacher that I would need to go to the Junior Hall and come back later. After all, I didn’t want to leave and then have her wondering where I was.

Thankfully, Ollie’s two teachers were on time, and I listened to what a superstar he is for a few minutes, fully aware that this was probably lulling me into a false sense of security before meeting Isaac’s teacher. I had booked the appointments in this order for a reason, as I wanted the bad news first. Sure, Ollie still chatters too much, but that’s only because he appears to be under the gross misunderstanding that his verbal diarrhoea is of universal interest, and his teachers have now learned to ‘tune him out like white noise’, so the feedback was generally very good.

One down, one to go.

It wasn’t long after I returned to the Infant Hall before it was my turn to meet Isaac’s teacher, and, fortunately, his feral behaviour at home still hasn’t made its way into the classroom. In short, he is apparently a joy to teach, and is actually quite shy and reserved in class (I did ask whether she’d mixed her notes up, and we were discussing the wrong child).

As with the first meeting, I chatted, made appropriate eye contact, smiled / looked interested at the right times, and, most pleasing of all, didn’t make any stupid jokes (to my knowledge). Both boys were performing well at school, and I was performing well at parents’ evening. The male contingent of our family was smashing it.

So, as the second appointment started to wind down, I allowed my mind to wander back to thoughts of bragging to my wife about how I had coped perfectly well without her. I was so close to not fucking this up, and could almost smell the sweet scent of victory.

It was only then, as I thanked Isaac’s teacher and stood up to leave, I noticed the hole in the crotch of my trousers.

Image result for face palm gif

So very close.

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Always The Underblogs

Last weekend, I became a Footy Dad.

By that, I mean I became one of those fathers who spends his Saturday/Sunday mornings in all kinds of weather (and it was most certainly raining at the time), watching his child play for a local football team.

I’m not entirely sure whether ‘Footy Dad’ is the correct term, as I’ve only been to one match so far, and none of the other parents have explained what we should refer to ourselves as yet (I felt silly asking, and it didn’t seem important at the time); but I suppose the best way to explain it is this: I became the male British equivalent of a ‘Soccer Mom’ – only ‘Footy Dad’ sounds less sexy.

Anyway, if we thought Isaac’s first day at school could have gone better, that was nothing compared to poor Ollie’s debut in the Mid-Cheshire Youth Football League (although at least Ollie didn’t cling to me and refuse to go onto the pitch).

Ollie only joined the Sandbach United Under-9’s ‘Kites’ team a couple of weeks ago, and had been to just two training sessions prior to the start of the season (the latter of which was only the night before).

As such, he didn’t really know most of his teammates before the first match on Saturday, and – more importantly – the manager wasn’t sure where best to play him. Ollie is adamant he is a striker, but what nine-year-old doesn’t think they should be the one scoring all the goals? It’s extremely rare to find a young aspiring footballer who is desperate to play at left-back.

Thankfully, the training session a few weeks ago, and then the ‘pre-season friendly’ last Friday night, had both seemed to go relatively well, so the manager was optimistic of at least giving The Kites’ first competitive opponents a decent test.  Unfortunately, however, this optimism was short-lived.

When we arrived, there was a bit of time before kick-off for me to take some pictures of Ollie in his new kit – which, whilst the Kites’ away strip this season (the home kit hasn’t arrived yet, apparently), is still alarmingly reminiscent of Burnley’s colours, and to a Stockport County fan this is horrifying (long story short: they cheated at Wembley in 1994, were promoted at County’s expense, and I haven’t forgiven them since). Still, despite the disgusting colour scheme, Ollie looked very grown up and smart, and I managed a few photos dotted around what is a very impressive set up at Sandbach United.

As the 10.30am kick-off time arrived, Ollie and the rest of his new team mates were called over by the manager, who quickly ran through their starting formation – and even though I was some distance away by the side of the pitch, it was quickly apparent that Ollie would be starting as a lone striker up front. I was now beaming with pride, and just praying he could score at least one goal.

The fact that Ollie didn’t know the names of his teammates turned out not to be a problem, because it transpired almost all of the squad were called either Lucas or Jacob; so, by shouting one of those names, he at least stood a good chance of attracting someone’s attention.

The referee then indicated that one boy from each team should come over to determine who would kick off, and Ollie (being the nearest Kites player to the centre spot) readily volunteered.

To my amusement, kick-off was not decided by the usual coin toss (as is customary), but instead by an impromptu game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’. I assume this is standard throughout the league, rather than at the whim of this referee in particular; but should tomorrow’s kick-off be determined by a quick ‘thumb war’, or even ‘musical statues’, I will be just as equally delighted.

Continuing my proud father moment, Ollie’s rock destroyed his opponent’s puny scissors, and it was all I could do to restrain myself at the side of the pitch. I had to remind myself that, much as I was desperate to yell “Ha! In your face, dickhead!” at the opposing player, he was only eight years old, and presumably one or more of his legal guardians would be nearby.

Ollie then kicked off (rather prematurely, in all honesty, as the referee had not yet blown his whistle – but seeing as we later went to watch Stockport County that afternoon, and even they managed to screw up kick off, I subsequently apologised to Ollie for laughing at his eagerness).

Almost immediately, it became clear that Ollie’s team were likely to be outclassed, as their opponents passed the ball around well, and won every tackle. Unsurprisingly, therefore, it wasn’t long before they went ahead. Ollie, meanwhile, looked utterly lost up front, but equally didn’t get involved enough to try and win the ball. I pointed this out to one of the mums who we know, but we both agreed that it was their first match, and Ollie was just settling in.

Unfortunately, not all of the adults on the touchline were as patient/considerate as us, and one grandfather in particular (I assume he was a grandfather, as he looked to be of retirement age, but he also appeared to be from one of those families where even the middle-aged members are on borrowed time) became very vocal towards the players, singling Ollie out in particular:

“Who’s that kid there? He’s just standing there doing nothing!”

I wanted to respond with: “That’s actually my son. He’s eight years old, this is his first match, and, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s pissing it down. How about you cut him some fucking slack, you horrible, odious, mouth-breathing swamp donkey?”; but, as ever in this sort of situation, I had to quickly assess my chances of ending up in hospital, and decided that this chap – whilst potentially elderly – probably didn’t lose all his teeth eating toffees.

Even though I later regretted not defending my son, I made a mental note to instead blog about this piece of shit the following Friday (today) and wish upon him a plague of every venereal disease known to man (plus, if possible, some not yet known to man). The fact that his penis was almost certainly black and shrivelled already, made little difference to me, and I was comforted by my mental act of revenge.

I then became slightly side-tracked, by trying to remember how to spell gonorrhoea (even now, having spell-checked it, that still doesn’t look right to me), and by the time I regained my focus on the match, Ollie’s team were 4-0 down.

Now, if I thought the unusual kick-off routine was a bit different, another rule I was unaware of until last weekend was that, should a team find themselves 4-0 down, they are allowed to bring an extra player onto the pitch. So, just when I thought Ollie may be substituted for someone better, his team ended up with an extra man on the field.

Unfortunately, this made no difference whatsoever, as they just as quickly found themselves 8-0 down, meaning their only remaining player could also enter the pitch. To further compound the problem, their opponents were now able to rotate their players to give some of them a rest, whereas The Kites had to keep all of their players on until the end of the match (or at least until they reduced the goal deficit, but this seemed unlikely). Unsurprisingly, they quickly became knackered – and soaked.

This didn’t help the mood of the group next to me, and one father in particular who – whilst at least directing vitriol towards his own son rather than mine – took matters a little too far (following a badly timed slide tackle) by shouting ‘Stay on your fucking feet!’. Classy.

Anyway, much as I would love for this story to end in triumph, with Ollie’s team overcoming adversity to snatch victory with the last kick of the game (preferably with Ollie scoring the winner, so that I could run the length of the pitch waving my shirt around my head); sadly it was not to be, and I lost count of the score when it got to 15-0.

I was, however, immensely proud of Ollie – and the rest of his team for that matter – since at no point did his head drop, and more importantly, he didn’t cry (which, if I’m honest, I fully expected him to).

In fact, he seems relatively upbeat about tomorrow’s match (God love his optimism) and has spent the last few days working out ‘tactics’ on FIFA 18. Unfortunately, this has involved him playing as Burnley (so that the kit looks realistic), but at least he has changed all the players’ names to match those of his teammates.

“Lucas, passes to Lucas, back to Jacob, who picks out Lucas, Jacob shoots….”

See, don’t they look similar?

Wish us luck for tomorrow, and thanks for reading x

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