Blog To School

Last Tuesday, our boys returned to school – Ollie into Year 5 (which, for anyone unfamiliar with the English education system, is the penultimate year before leaving for Secondary School), and Isaac into Year 1 (which, for anyone unfamiliar with the English education system, is the point at which you no longer give a shit).

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Look, when your kids start primary school in the ‘reception’ class, even the battle-hardened among us, who have been there before with elder siblings, have a few concerns (even if, unlike the first time around, we care considerably less); but by Year 1, most parents have lost interest altogether. So long as your child doesn’t set fire to anything, attack anyone, or use one of ‘Daddy’s Angry Words’ when addressing a teacher, there’s very little else which can go wrong.

Then again, most parents don’t have an Isaac.

As you may have gathered over the last few years of my blog, Isaac is not like ‘normal’ children. Admittedly, I would argue there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ child, and any so-called expert who says otherwise is a moron, but even allowing for some variation between kids, Isaac is uniquely odd. It’s one of the reasons we love him so.

As an example, Ollie recently tried to trick Isaac with the old ‘What do cows drink?’ conundrum (where the recipient is supposed to be fooled into answering ‘milk’ rather than ‘water’), but Isaac – having paused only briefly – shouted ‘Sausages!’

See what I mean?

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Anyway, while we therefore had a few concerns about Isaac returning to school last week, the good news (for me) was that my wife will be doing the morning drop off on Mondays and Tuesdays this year, so the responsibility of escorting our youngest – and most untamed – child to his new teacher, was entirely hers.

As a side point, every single one of the teachers I have met at our boys’ school is delightful (which is, in itself, rather worrying, as I don’t think I could handle thirty little children every day without drinking heavily and calling at least one or two a ‘fucking dickhead’ every once in a while), and I always feel bad when a new teacher suddenly finds themselves responsible for either Ollie’s nerdiness, or Isaac’s brutal savagery.

I have genuinely contemplated leaving notes in the boys’ bags at the start of each academic year, along the lines of ‘Look, we’ve tried to be good parents, but somewhere along the line we clearly screwed up, and this is what we’re left with – sorry’ but my wife won’t let me. Besides, despite his demonic tendencies at home, Isaac appears to be the model pupil at school, so they never believe us when we say we have previously considered performing an exorcism.

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Anyway, as my wife was responsible for the first school run on Tuesday, I gleefully trotted off to work nice and early, and made a mental note to check my phone shortly after 9am, just to make sure the rest of the family had survived the ordeal. Sure enough, when I checked at 9:05am, my wife had messaged to say both boys were safely within their respective classrooms – although it was Ollie who had surprisingly created the bigger issue, by insisting on taking in a large stack of ‘contracts’ he had drawn up for the football team he has created for his year group.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, it is perfectly clear to all but Ollie that no one gives a shit about his stupid football team, but rather obliviously he has still recruited most of his year to take part – even allocating some of the non-footballers among his peers  either coaching or physio roles, and rather chauvinistically setting up a ‘ladies’ team for the girls (even though I could name quite a few who are better footballers than him).

Oh, and if this wasn’t nerdy enough, he also took his Rubik’s cube into school, too. Honestly, when I was at school, I was studious, skinny, wore big glasses, and seemed to have based my hair style on that of my mother, and even I would have picked on Ollie.

Still, he’ll realise in later life that geeks have better job prospects and attract nicer partners, so I’m sure it’ll work out for him in the long run.

Even better than the first drop-off going well, Isaac apparently came skipping out of class at the end of the day, saying he had enjoyed a ‘super, super time!’ (which was uncharacteristically camp for Isaac), and describing his new teacher, who we shall call ‘Miss X’, as a mixture between Miss Lovely from Horrid Henry, and Miss Honey from Matilda. Even if you are not familiar with either character, you can gauge their personality from the names they have been given. In short, Isaac seemed besotted with his new teacher.

(NB: Just to be clear, I am only referring to his new teacher as ‘Miss X’, because it would be inappropriate to use her real name. Her surname does not begin with X, and to my knowledge she is neither a Bond-villain, nor a dominatrix).

Anyway, much as I was relieved that the boys had enjoyed a good first day, I was still acutely aware that it was my turn to do the school run the following morning, and any success from the day before could easily be undone after a few minutes of Daddy being in charge.

As a result, I made a point of getting the boys ready for school extra early (pretending we had to leave the house in ‘FIVE MINUTES!’, when actually we had a comfortable fifteen before needing to depart), and we found ourselves in the ‘junior’ playground in good time – even accounting for the fact Isaac insisted on riding his new bike all the way, and the fact that Ollie was trying to prove he is grown-up enough to walk to school by himself, while simultaneously trying to cross the road in front of a car.

So far, so good.

Then, things took a bit of an awkward turn.

Having safely dropped Ollie off in the junior playground (and, when I say ‘dropped off’, I mean ‘shouted at to explain that I was leaving, and he should under no circumstances see that as a green light to start behaving like a twat’), Isaac and I headed around the school building to the infant playground, and stood outside his new classroom.

It was at this point that I started to ask Isaac about his new teacher, as she is not someone my wife and I have had previous dealings with (she has never taught Ollie), and with a name like ‘Miss X’, I was intrigued to meet her (no, wait, that’s not her real name).

More importantly, I needed to speak to her about the reading book Isaac had been given to start the year, as he was finding it quite tough. Ok, he’s not an enthusiastic reader at the best of times, but you find me one five-year-old who can happily flick their way through Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (joke – it was actually The Canterbury Tales).

As we stood outside his classroom, next to a couple of mums who were chatting away to our right, I asked Isaac whether he wanted me to speak to Miss X about his book, or whether he would rather do it. Being naturally quite timid at school (in direct contrast to the Tasmanian Devil of hatred and violence he is at home), he asked if I would speak to her.

It was at this point I noticed the time was already 8:55am, which is when the children are usually taken into class, and since there was no sign of Miss X, I looked at Isaac and quipped, “well, if your teacher ever turns up, I’ll happily speak to her.” I may have also tutted while looking at my watch.

To my horror, one of the two ‘mums’ to our right then approached me and introduced herself. “Hello, I’m Miss X, can I help at all?”

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Damn it.

Yes, I had been so preoccupied with ensuring our two boys made a good impression at the start of their new academic year, I had completely ignored the fact it was far more likely to be me who made a mess of things.

Fortunately, I think Miss X only overheard part of what I was saying about Isaac’s book, because if she did catch my harsh comment about her tardiness so early into the school year (which was particularly uncalled for, bearing in mind she was already outside her classroom well before I had arrived), then she did not let on. And, if she chose to ignore my rudeness and not react, then she is even lovelier than Isaac described.

After we had resolved the issue with the book, and she had moved towards the classroom door to start ushering children in, I quickly asked Isaac why he hadn’t warned me that was his teacher stood next to us.

“I thought you knew.”

“How would I know? I’ve never met her before!”

“Oh, yeah. Oops.”

I swear he did it deliberately….

 

Thanks for reading x

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Blog Boy School

On Tuesday, Isaac started primary school – and, as expected, it could have gone better.

Don’t get me wrong, it could have easily gone much worse (this is Isaac); but compared to some of the little angels at the school gate, who behaved impeccably for their parents – practically skipping into the reception classroom – ours still claimed a podium finish in the ‘sulky little twat’ event.

Admittedly, it’s not like his refusal to accept school came as a shock, since there were plenty of warnings:

  1. He was the same when he went to pre-school (and even, on a few occasions, at nursery – which he loved);
  2. Ollie was the same, when he started reception four years ago. In fact, he not only screamed when my wife dropped him off each morning, he refused to take part in P.E. for months (even, on one occasion, running away and hiding under a desk in an empty classroom). To this day, he still refuses to take his socks off when doing any kind of sport, lest his classmates catch a glimpse of his perfectly ordinary feet;
  3. I was also the same at his age, when I went to primary school (a point my mother has raised on more than one occasion since Tuesday); and, until DNA tests prove otherwise, I assume that Isaac’s genetic make-up is roughly 50% mine.

So, on the basis the male side of our family is comprised solely of wimps, who don’t deal well with change, we really had no reason to believe Isaac would take the transition into primary school education with anything other than a massive fucking tantrum.

Still, ridiculous as it may sound, my wife and I still clung on to the slight possibility he might just ‘pull it out of the bag’ at the last minute.  Of course, the only thing he actually pulled out of the bag at the last minute was his P.E. kit, which was then launched across the room with a banshee-like scream, but this was the least of our worries.

You see, all parents have concerns before their child starts school; but whereas some might panic that their son or daughter will struggle to make friends, or may even get bullied, my three main worries were as follows:

1. Toiletting

The stubborn little bastard won’t go to the toilet. At all.

It’s not that he doesn’t need to go, more that he cannot bare the thought of anyone knowing he is having a wee (including, sometimes, his own parents). He would far sooner give himself stomach ache (and Christ knows what other medical issues), by storing it up all day until home time, than just go to the toilet like any normal child would.

Thankfully, my wife also appears to be part-camel, and he has inherited his strong bladder from her (another Daddy-DNA bullet dodged, since I have the bladder of a particularly-incontinent tea-drinking pensioner), so at least there is only a limited risk of wetting himself.

2. Writing

He writes backwards. This is entirely because he is left-handed, and it is apparently quite normal with left-handed children, but his letters are sometimes so obscure, I did have a niggling concern that his teachers might assume he is a Russian spy;

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That’s his name at the top

3. His hair

I wrote in a recent blog entry about his long hair (https://middlerageddad.com/2018/06/01/blogs-and-girls/), and how much he adores it, but he has recently started worrying about being picked on because of it – and even, the day before starting school, confessed that he was scared the other children might think he is a girl.

Aside from this breaking my heart a little, it also gave me the rather unnatural concern that he may try to prove he is a boy by getting his willy out for all to see. It was a fleeting worry – since he won’t even announce going to the toilet in front of others – but it was a worry nonetheless.

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I also have the rather selfish concern that, for three days a week, I will be doing the morning school run, and I was meant to spend the summer practising doing pony-tails, pig-tails, French plaits etc., but time ran away with me.

What I had not anticipated for his first day, was that it would take nearly an hour of screaming and kicking to even get his underpants on (I should stress that the screaming and kicking was all him), and at one point the thrashing became so violent, I contemplated phoning our local priest.

In the end, my wife patiently went through every pair he owns (and he seemingly has hundreds), in an attempt to calm him down, and somehow succeeded just in time for us to leave the house.

Ok, he refused to wear the school jumper, and would only put on the embroidered polo-shirt if he was allowed to wear a dinosaur t-shirt underneath (which was, incidentally, highly visible), but we chose to pick our battles, and the very fact we got him out of the door with any clothes on at all was frankly a miracle. We even managed a couple of obligatory ‘first day’ photos in the garden, which up until this year have only featured Ollie.

When we got to the playground, I have to admit I could see why it might be daunting for Isaac – or any child – to enter that environment for the first time.

The intake at our school is sixty children, and all of them had at least one, if not both parents with them for their first day; so there were upwards of two-hundred bodies swarming around the classroom door (and that’s not including the children and parents of the neighbouring classrooms, which comprise the ‘Infants’ half of the school).

To pass the time before the bell (and subsequent scene I was expecting Isaac to make), I looked around at all the other parents, to see if I could determine which had experienced the ‘first day’ before with older siblings, and which were newbies. The difference was very obvious.

For example, the newbies often looked more nervous than their children, and some were already emotional at the thought of their little baby going off on their own. Many were uttering the usual phrases, like ‘where has the time gone?’ and ‘it’ll seem so quiet at home now’, between tearful sniffs (hey, I’m not judging, I cried like a little girl at Long Lost Family the other week).

In contrast, the seasoned parents like us (and we only have two kids; some of these idiots with three or more really need to show some self-control), had adopted the same universal expression – which was a mixture of sympathy for the newbies (‘I remember when we were like that’) and sheer fucking glee that the latest/last of our offspring was finally someone else’s responsibility for a large chunk of each weekday.

The difference between the two types of parent was even more obvious when the bell finally went, and the reception teachers came out to collect their new recruits for the academic year.

All the newbie parents squeezed their little darlings tightly one final time, wished them a wonderful first day, and sobbed as they watched them disappear through the door. They then hung around outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of their son or daughter smiling and having fun already, as a form of comfort for their childless journey home.

Some even made a point of talking to the teachers, to try and cram all of their child’s little foibles into one barrage of verbal diarrhoea – as if the teachers haven’t already dealt with every kind of weird child many times before (apart from, perhaps, Isaac). It was as though these parents simply couldn’t bear to leave the playground.

Then, there was the rest of us. The battle-hardened parents with older siblings, who had given up caring some time ago. As one, we simply ushered (in some cases, pushed) our kids towards the teachers, offered a half-hearted ‘you’ll be fine’; ‘have fun’; or ‘don’t fuck this up’ (to our children, not the teachers); then turned and ran with unbridled joy and freedom.

None of us looked back, and we certainly didn’t hang around (in case our particular child did try to escape). Most importantly, we didn’t even make eye-contact with any of the teachers, let alone talk to one of them, in case it slowed down our escape.

Even if we had spoken, it would only have been along the lines of:

“He’s your responsibility now, so you fucking deal with him! You’re only in teaching for the holidays anyway, admit it, so you’re going to damn well earn them this year. Try not to let him break you by 3.15pm on the first day!”

(Then turn and run away, cackling gleefully).

In our case, Isaac immediately clung to us when he noticed other children going through the gate, and had to be physically detached by his favourite teaching assistant from pre-school, who we shall call Mr Shaw (because, well, that’s his name). I doubt Mr Shaw will ever read this, but we owe him our thanks; because he came over, gave Isaac a hug, and then quickly carried him through the gate before he had chance to react.

Thankfully, it transpires the limited amount of concern we had dedicated to Isaac’s first day (compared to when Ollie started, and I couldn’t concentrate at work through worry), was completely unwarranted; because – by all accounts – it had gone about as well as we could have hoped.

As I said at the outset, it was by no means perfect, because he apparently hardly spoke all day, and didn’t seem to make any new friends; but at least we didn’t get a phone call around lunch time asking us to collect him and never bring him back.

When it comes to school collection time, particularly in those first few weeks, you dread being the parent who the teachers come over to for a ‘chat’; because as soon as that happens you know it’s your child who has created an issue. It’s like a walk of shame, only it’s the teacher doing the walking.

In contrast, there is no greater feeling of relief, than when the teacher heads towards you, only to detour or walk past at the last minute. It’s the playground equivalent of your airport transfer bus arriving at a shitty hotel when abroad, then discovering it’s for someone else.

Isaac even seemed relatively enthusiastic about returning the next day (which was something of a relief, because I was due to do the school run on my own) – that is, so long as he could have new shoes for the second day (and every subsequent day thereafter).

See, I told you he’s odd.

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Mr. Blog

Earlier this week, my Facebook page reached 500 likes, and I’m rather chuffed (or at least I was, until I realised a friend of my wife has over 25,000 Twitter followers…)

As my readership continues to grow at an alarming speed (alarming only in its sluggishness), I feel the need to recap slightly for those just joining us.

I am 38 years old, and a father of two boys (although I panicked recently at a comedy club, when asked by the comedian how old my children are, and having answered to the room that they are eight and four, he then asked me if I have one of each – to which my mind went blank, and I answered ‘yes’, assuming he meant one child aged eight, and one aged four).

I am married (sorry ladies – or gents who are that way inclined) and my wife is a teacher, which means she will be skipping around the house this evening, because her school is breaking up today until September, and the quota of obnoxious children she must deal with on a daily basis will drop considerably – from a couple of thousand, to just our two little shits.

For those of you not in education, let me assure you that, when a teacher protests – as is so often the case – that they earn this six-week summer break (longer in some cases), they really fucking earn it. This goes for all teachers (apart from maybe P.E. teachers, who, from recollection, largely do bugger all).

When I look at our two boys, and some of the other miscreants in the playground each morning, I can only sympathise with primary school teachers, and offer them my sincere gratitude for giving the rest of us a break each day. They deserve every single second of this summer holiday (together with a lovely present from all the children in their class – and, if you happen to be organising this for your child’s teacher, my suggestion would be all the alcohol you can feasibly carry, and a cushion to scream into, ready for September. Failing that, cold hard cash). Primary school teachers are saints.

In contrast, my wife teaches at an all-boys secondary school, but she – along with her colleagues – deserve just as much admiration and respect (apart from the P.E. department). Ok, they may not face the same imminent danger of being pissed or shit on that their primary school counterparts risk each day; but by secondary school this has been replaced by the very real possibility of being beaten up by an irate pupil instead.

Along with doctors, nurses, our armed forces, and the guy whose job it is to fit indicators to BMW cars (poor, pointless bastard), teachers deserve our utmost admiration for the often thankless work that they do.

I, on the other hand, work as a personal injury solicitor, and in contrast we are almost universally disliked. In fact, as far as Joe Public is concerned, we are only slightly higher up the popularity ladder than politicians, tax inspectors and traffic wardens. And people seem to listen to Joe Public (even though he strikes me as a bit of a prick at times).

Look, being a personal injury solicitor is not what I set out to do for a living, and I’m not particularly proud of it, but I worked damn hard to secure my law degree (and qualifications thereafter), and it pays the bills – so, for now, it is my life.  If I could change my occupation, I would, but I do (generally) like my colleagues, and we personal injury lawyers are not all ambulance-chasing predators like the press would have you believe. Just wait until you actually need one of us (and I pray you never do) before making your mind up.

Anyway, it will come as no shock that, if I had my way, I would write for a living. I love nothing more than making people laugh, and since I don’t have the confidence (or the material) to go into stand-up comedy, this right here is my passion. Posting on my blog every Friday, and uploading quirky little bits and pieces to my Facebook page in between, really gets me through the week. Nothing makes me happier than finding something amusing, then discovering lots of you do as well.

You may think that, with ‘only’ 500 followers after a few years of writing, I am largely wasting my time – and you would probably be right – but truth be told, I was just as happy writing my blog when I had a fraction of that number (although, having said that, if my readership did suddenly multiply overnight to tens of thousands, I wouldn’t complain).

Unfortunately, only those bloggers who amass a serious following can hope to make a living out of it, and with two young kids to feed and clothe, and a wife with a shoe-addiction to cater for, I cannot afford any career changes just yet.

Besides, whilst I have only really practised Personal Injury litigation since qualifying as a Solicitor, at least it’s not dull. Ok, corporate law at a city firm is where the big money is, but it strikes me as incredibly dull, and at least – to a certain extent – working as a PI lawyer does offer some comedic potential.

It’s not that I would ever laugh at a client’s injury (well, not often), but sometimes, every once in a while, you encounter a real character. Someone, almost so obscure or ludicrous in their personality, mannerisms or actions, that they might as well be one of the Mr Men.

In fact, if we ignore the obvious personal injury associations with the likes of Mr Bump and Mr Clumsy, then I can more or less give you a real life example from my sixteen years in the job, for most of the others (whilst preserving client confidentiality, obviously). I’ll just select a few though…

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Some would argue that all personal injury claimants are greedy, but the law is designed to recompense those who have been genuinely injured as a result of negligence, to restore them to the position they should have been in, had the injury never occurred.

However, one client, many years ago, phoned me having received the medical report which detailed his minor back injury (of six months’ duration), to explain that he had watched a documentary on injury litigation in the United States, and had valued his own case at £1.5m. I had to let him down gently (by asking him to write out £1,500,000 on a piece of paper, and then start removing zeros until he reached £1,500).

Also known as: Mr Unrealistic Expectations

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Ok, it’s a different interpretation of the word ‘wrong’, but I once had a client phone me and throughout the call he sounded distracted and his voiced strained. After a full ten minutes of discussing his case, I then heard a flushing sound, and he asked me to hang on a second while he ‘wiped’. Now, that’s just plain wrong (bear in mind he phoned me).

I didn’t stay on the line long enough to discover whether he was also Mr Messy.

Also known as: Mr Inappropriate

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The client who complained, after just four weeks, that his case was ‘dragging on’.

Also known as: Mr Impatient Prick

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Not everyone knows the phonetic alphabet, and some of the ‘alternatives’ I hear are often comedic, but one particular client, whilst trying to spell his own surname, suffered a bout of impromptu Tourette’s: “S for…..erm…. shit…. sorry that’s all I could think of. T for…. damn…. erm….. twat? So sorry about this. My mind has gone blank….” I stopped him when he got to ‘C’.

Also known as: Mr Sweary Pants

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I was once approached outside the office by a creepy looking man, in a long black trench coat, who asked if I could arrange a restraining order for him. Apparently, my negative response did not dissaude him, and he went on to explain he was a satanist, and wanted a restraining order against ‘all Christians’. Seriously.

When I explained that I am in fact a personal injury solicitor, he then questioned whether that meant I had lots of photographs of really nasty injuries – and mutilations – in my office, before letting out a groan like he was aroused.

Also known as: Mr Fucking Creepy

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How about the elderly gentleman, who, when asked for photographs of the pothole which caused his accident (to see if we could accept his case), chose to also send me rather graphic shots of his mangled penis?

When asked for an explanation (bearing in mind I had spoken to him just once), he told me that, at the time of his fall, he had gone to collect the morning newspaper in just a dressing gown, and when he tripped it had flown open. For a few, glorious seconds, he had soared through the air (very much like a flying squirrel, I should imagine), before crash landing, his shrivelled old man junk making sweet love to the pavement as he skidded to a stop.

Also known as: Mr Geriatric Exhibitionist

Mr Happy

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I am yet to discover a client who fits this one.

Oh, and before I go, let’s not forget the females…

Little Miss Naughty

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I once had a client who wanted to pursue a claim against the care home where she worked, but not only was liability for her accident denied, her personnel file revealed an unexpected twist. Seemingly, the care home in question had one particular resident who was notorious for asking female members of staff to – for want of a better phrase – pleasure him.

Naturally, most had politely declined – except for my client, who was caught mid-act, and promptly dismissed by her employers on the spot (before becoming, very swiftly, an ex-client).

Also known as: Little Miss Woodpecker

And that’s just a small selection of the people I encounter on a daily basis, so I think I have earned a bloody holiday too.

Fortunately, we’re going away next week, so there won’t be a blog entry next Friday, but – fear not – I’ll be back the week after.

Unlike all those sodding teachers.

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