Posts tagged with "hertford"
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 3:39:52 PM
As is traditional, I begin this post with an apology for being incommunicado of late. The problem is that I tend to be more inclined to post when I want to let off steam or have a moan about how my life has been going, and of late things have been going reasonably well. Touch wood.
So, here are some …
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
Number one son has passed his driving test. This was not much of a surprise as he was already a better driver than me prior to his test (not setting the bar particularly high, there, it must be said) and so long as he did not get into a teenage panic during his test, I was confident he would pass.
I am sure he thinks it has revolutionised his life but I reckon it has revolutionised mine more. Having come very late to this driving lark – I passed my test about three years ago – it has been my lot to be chief taxi driver in the Fiendish household as I have decades of driving to catch up on. As a result, I typically did about 100 miles each week-end, driving number one and two sons to and from Enfield, where we used to live.
Naturally, being on call as a chauffeur entailed staying sober, but this was no real hardship as I don’t drink very often at home. It also entailed staying up till about 2am waiting for a phone call from one or other of my two eldest sons.
All that is a thing of the past as number one son has taken over Enfield duties. If I catch him on a good day (sober and awake) I can even call him for a lift from the station.
Number two son has a girlfriend. I am sure he has had relationships before but this is the first one he has felt confident enough to bring home. Very nice she is too, if unbelievably short. Given that the Fiendish clan is not blessed in the height department it would not bode well on the grandchildren front if number two son were to marry her and father her children.
Of more immediate concern is that she does not come from Enfield. This is a serious blow to number two son’s cherished belief that all the people worth knowing in the world come from Enfield.
True, number two son has not gone so far as to start socialising in Hertford, where we now live, though he has deigned to go to school in the town. However, it is a case of one step at a time; he’s made it as far north as Waltham Cross, and maybe his next girlfriend will be from Broxbourne or somewhere even more adjacent to Hertford.
As for number three son, things are not so great for him. For nigh on a decade now he has had problems with aching limbs which has affected his attendance at school. As a result Mrs. Fiendish and I were taken to court for (and I paraphrase) aiding and abetting truancy. As well as the prospect of a £1,000 fine (each) we were also facing the prospect of a criminal record, which almost certainly have cost Mrs. Fiendish her job and led to a catastrophic collapse in our standard of living.
Long story short, our attorney ran rings round the local council’s legal journeyman and effectively got the case sent to arbitration – where it should have gone to in the first place, if only on the grounds that number three son's relationship with his Head of Year had broken down.
He would do anything to avoid signing the late book when he turned up late because to do so would run the risk of ritual public humiliation from his Head of Year. Hence his apparent poor attendance record, which did not tally with our perception of his school attendance at all.
To be fair to the school, the court case did seem to hammer home to number three son the importance of playing by the school’s rules and he has been a lot more conscientious lately (to coin a phrase) about signing in, plus the school has agreed to reschedule his lessons so that he effectively starts at 10:00am rather than 9:00am.
Net result, his official attendance has risen to about 96%, which the school seemed happy with but I was aghast at. If memory serves, I had fewer than five days off school in 14 years.
Anyway, the local education authority has called the attack dogs off. The school put a lot of effort into persuading number three son to stick with the school in the Sixth Form (must be some sort of government cash incentive for warm bodies [or ‘perennially cold bodies’ in number three son’s case]), on the grounds that they ‘understand his medical condition’ (even though they denied it existed).
Number three son has opted to stay with the school in the Sixth Form, a decision I doubt he would have made a yer ago. The school reckons he'll get 9 GCSE passes - not bad for a lad who has apparentlly missed one in two lessons in the last two years.
Number three son recently had an exhaustive and exhausting battery of tests at Great Ormond Street. We are still awaiting the results.
Monday, June 15, 2009 5:26:38 PM
It was my birthday on Saturday and I celebrated by drinking alcohol during almost every hour of daylight over the week-end in the company of friends. I am now feeling understandably knackered, but chilled.
Tonight it will be early to bed with a cup of warm cocoa.
Bizarrely, I woke up hangover free on both Sunday and morning. I say bizarrely, because these days I usually have a bit of a fuzzy head if I have two swift pints after work, whereas 8 pints and a couple of belts of whisky spread over a 12 hour period seems to be the sort of pace that my body metabolism can cope with.
Getting a group of old friends together should, in theory, be a lot harder these days as people move further and further away. Either my friends are really sad types who so rarely get invited out they are prepared to travel long distances for an afternoon of talking bollocks and raising the right arm or, my preferred interpretation, they are loyal types who highly value my friendship.
Referring to the AA, I see that one couple drove 85 miles from Spalding in Lincolnshire to spend five hours at the gathering, another drove 205 miles from Liverpool to spend the entire week-end at my gaff (without once bad-mouthing Manchester United so far as I recall, which must be some kind of record) while a third drove 120 miles from Nottingham to play board games on Sunday afternoon and evening.
Others braved public transport to reach quaint Hertford
and I can only hope that they also made it safely back home. Some of them, particularly those travelling back to equally quaint Kingston upon Thames
, are probably still in transit.
I think if you trawl back far enough (about two years) through my blog you will find some fairly equivocal comments from me about Hertford but I am slowly coming to appreciate the place. Interesting buildings, lots of decent pubs, at least two breweries, a castle, a theatre, a cracking tea room offering 14 different types of tea, a fair amount of live music on offer and more hairdressers and nail bars than seems economically viable.
Then again, I am getting old.
Monday, January 29, 2007 5:45:58 PM
It was about 2 months after we had moved my Dad into a care home in Enfield to be nearer us that we decided we wanted to leave Enfield. Ah well, forward planning has never been my forte. Obviously, number 2 son being expelled from school had a lot to do with the decision. In an ideal world we’d have yanked him out of his school before he got expelled and transferred him to another school, except that thanks to chronic overcrowding in schools in Enfield, there are no free places available. I can’t say we were surprised when it emerged that the government had underestimated the population of Enfield by 30,000; nor were we surprised when Enfield council claimed that the figure was larger than 30,000. What with the overcrowding, the swarms of police on the street, the remodelling of the shopping centre, the exit from the M25 being closed for almost two years and that bloody stalker who lived round the corner from me, it was time to move.
It's all Ken Livingstone's fault
Which is not to say that Enfield is a total hell-hole. There are some very nice parts, and the bit we lived in was pleasant, but we felt the atmosphere had changed in recent years. Mrs. Fiendish’s theory is that Ken Livngstone’s decision to make bus travel free to everybody under sixteen years of age, whilst admirable as a way of imbuing the next generation with the public transport habit, made it easy for unsociable elements to travel from their normal stomping grounds to shit on somebody else’s doorstep. As I typed that, I realised how horribly NIMBY it sounds; “Yes, I’m all for social mobility, Letitia, but I always thought I would be the one moving on to better places, not gangs of yobs coming to Enfield Cineworld to harvest mobile phones from the indiegenous pre-pubescent population.”
As it happens, my own kids routinely used to take advantage of free bus travel, trekking all the way to Camden market to get aerosol cans of paint and then, no doubt, discharging said paint on somebody else’s doorstep (Barnet man: “It’s those bloody yobs from Enfield again, I tell you.”) It’s quite scary when you ring them up as their curfew time approaches and ask where they are and back comes the reply “Ealing” or some God-forsaken place.
Having gone through the enormous hassle of selling my Dad’s house earlier in 2006, I can’t say I was enthused by the prospect of moving house, but we bit the bullet and started looking for places to live. In the main, we checked out St. Albans, Ware and Hertford. St. Albans was very nice but presented difficulties for our progeny who maintained that they would never ever ever ever make new friends and would be constantly travelling back to Enfield to stand on street corners and participate in gobbing contests. Hertford and Ware, however, are just a dozen or so miles up the A10 from Enfield; Hertford even has two rail lines both of which run through Enfield (or near enough).
I want a new new house
Mrs. Fiendish had had enough of tarting up houses and wanted to move into a new house where everything worked. This presented a difficulty, as there are not that many new houses in and around Hertford. In order to get a new build, you have to move a bit further out into something which I understand is known as “the country”. This, we decided, would be too much of a culture shock for our street-rat sons, and we were resigned to settling for an older house when we spotted a house for sale that was only 4 years old. It was right at the top end of our budget range but had been reduced in price for a quick sale.
We arranged a viewing and, unusually, took the boys with us. This we did because my brother was visiting with his two sons and we wanted to go out for Sunday lunch to bid farewell to his eldest son who was scheduled to leave the next day to spend a year in Australia. So, we dined in Hertford and after the meal was over we visited the house and, despite themselves, the boys took a shine to it. First, it was new. Second, all the bed-rooms were double-sized. Third, it had a double-garage which we speculated could become a den for the lads when they had their friends round (so much for buying a house that did not require anything doing to it). Fourth, it was a town house, which made it easy for people to get a bit of privacy – not easy in our old open plan house.
The people selling this 4-bedroom townhouse were about 30, I would guess, with only one child, and a dog. I could not for the life of me work out why they needed such a big house or, for that matter, how they could afford it. He was a manager of a car radio shop in Ponders End (a suburb of Enfield) and she, so far as I could tell, was a lady of leisure.
The bloke seemed very chatty, a bit spivvy and indiscreet (“You say you are from Enfield? I am not surprised you are moving; I work in Enfield, and it is a shit-hole”) and we later found out that, at 3pm in the afternoon, he was still pissed from the night before when his neighbours had thrown him a birthday party.
My other car's a Porsche
Mrs. Fiendish asked him if it was possible to fit 3 cars on the forecourt and he replied that it definitely was “Because last year I had a Porsche as a little runabout and we used to park all three cards in front of the garage.” I can’t say I was warming to the bloke but I liked the house a lot, as did Mrs. Fiendish and, with some reservations, the little Fiends.
So, we returned home and put in an offer. We liked the house so much, we didn’t even offer the standard £5k below the asking price. A couple of days later we got a phone call from the owner (let’s call him Darrrell, because that’s what his amazingly appropriate name is – and, yes, he did move to Essex). Would we mind popping up one evening for a chat about our offer?
This was decidedly unconventional and I began to suspect that as he had dropped the price of the house below a critical stamp duty threshold, he was going to suggest that we make an ex-gratia payment to secure the house. All night long I sat there with my stern face on as he and Mrs. Fiendish chatted away until it slowly dawned on me that he wasn’t after a bung at all and that when he said he wanted a chat in order to gauge how serious we were about the offer, he was being sincere. It was then that he made a startling pledge, of the sort that Pete Birks is inclined to make during a board game (“I’m gonna do you a favour here”) except that it genuinely did seem to be a good deal for us, unlike some of Pete’s favours.
Darrell’s situation was that he had put a deposit on a new house that had just been recently completed. He needed to move in to that house by the end of November, otherwise he would not be able to take advantage of the constructor’s offer to pay his stamp duty; furthermore, there was a risk that someone else could come along and buy it if they had the cash available. So, whilst he would have liked to have accepted our offer, he explained that he could not do so, as we had not sold our own house. He did, however, pledge that should he receive an acceptable offer from someone else he would hold off for two weeks from accepting it in order to give us a fortnight in which to sell our house.
Seems like I had misjudged the guy. Far from being spivvy, he seemed a man of honour. Though, as we were to find out, a pragmatic man of honour.
This just in: Estate agents are crap
So, we went away, cut the asking price on our house, bought a new stair carpet, tarted the place up a bit, all to no avail. A few weeks went by and we got a phone call from Darrell. “How’s it going then?” he asked. We mentioned all the efforts we were making to sell the house but confessed that a sale was not imminent. “Do you think you will get an offer before the two weeks is up?” he asked.
“What two weeks?”
This confused Darrell. “Didn’t the estate agent get in touch with you and tell you we had an offer on the house last week?”
Obviously not. So, Darrell – bless him – gave us another two weeks to sell the house. Unfortunately, we had no joy, and so he accepted the other offer.
Just after the nick of time, Mrs. Fiendish had the brilliant idea of putting some fencing along the wall that separated our house from next door’s dilapidated death trap of a garage. We knew from the number of questions we had received from viewers along the lines of “Is that your garage next door?” that this crumbling eyesore looked like it belonged to our house, and so it probably was not creating a very good first impression. The first week-end after we put the fence up, we received three offers for the house. OK, they were all well below the asking price but one was from a chain-free buyer, so we accepted that offer and returned to house hunting with renewed vigour.
As luck had it, another newish house on the same estate as Darrell’s house came up for sale. We went to visit it. A number of things put us off, not least the attitude of the seller, who gave every impression that she was heartily pissed off with the whole house-selling process. “We’re moving out at the end of this month. My husband’s got a job in South Africa – he’s already over there …” (no wonder she was pissed off) “so feel free to wander around while I sit here on the sofa and have a glass of wine.”
The house was £25,000 more expensive than Darrell’s and whereas Dazza’s back windows had a nice view of some woods, this house’s back view was of other people’s washing lines. It just didn’t feel as big, either, despite being more or less the same design as Darrell’s house.
We came out of that viewing feeling depressed. “I really want that other house,” said Mrs. Fiendish. “Shall we go round there now and tell him we’ve got a buyer? Maybe offer him more than the other buyer is offering?” she asked. Why, that’s gazumping! A disgraceful and dishonourable practice.
On the other hand, with Christmas approaching and the housing market as flat as the proverbial road-kill hedgehog, we were looking at another 3 months of life in Enfield. Neither of us thought that would be beneficial to number 2 son.
So, we did it.
This just in: Estate agents are crap
Not right there and then. We went home, slept on it, and then contacted the estate agent to ask them to inform Darrell we now had a buyer and would he consider selling to us. Disappointingly, the estate agent informed us a little while later that Darrell was proceeding with the sale to the other buyer. About two days later Darrell rang to see how our sale was progressing, which naturally confused us. Seems like the estate agent had cocked it up again, and Darrell was interested in our offer, not least because his buyer was dragging her feet; his deadline for moving into his new house was approaching fast. “She’s had three weeks to get a surveyor over here to get a survey done and she still ain’t done it. To be honest, she’s pissing me off.”
A glimmer of an opening. Mrs. Fiendish had an idea which she discussed with me. It involved punting £700 (the cost of a survey) on changing Darrell’s mind.
We called back Darrell. “We can have a surveyor round there next Monday, and we’ll pay you your original asking price” (which was £5,000 higher than his other offer.
We could tell Darrell was itching to accept but he was, you remember, an honourable man, and said he’d like to think about it. We still went ahead with the survey and after it was completed, we didn’t exactly wave freshly printed fivers under his nose, but we did contact him to see whether he had made a decision. After about three days of vacillating and hyperventilating he said he’d give the other buyer two days to get in touch with him (she was not returning his calls) and if she didn’t do so, he’d accept our offer.
Two days passed, the other buyer carried on doing a fantastic impersonation of Greta Garbo, and the house was ours!
Get in there, my sons
Now all we had to do was get the mortgage sorted out, sort out the legal stuff and exchange contracts within 3 weeks to protect Darrell’s investment on his new house. Three weeks! Not even Anneka Rice could have helped us hit that deadline and it turned out even tougher than that; after Darrell had read the small print on his house purchase, it turns out that he needed to move in by the deadline, not just exchange contracts. The poor guy was apoplectic with stress but we made sure we communicated regularly with him to keep him in the picture.
Inevitably we missed the deadline, after which Darrell’s stress levels dropped off. We managed to move in before Christmas, having employed some wonderfully relaxed (read: slow) removal men. You know that advert for Lilt, where the gag is that Caribbean people start acting like hurrying-scurrying Anglo-Saxons? Well, if Red Bull ever need a marketing campaign for the Caribbean, they could feature our removal company in it. We were supposed to be out of our house by 11:00am; we finally left at 6:00pm, and when the guv’nor turned up to collect the money we weren’t entirely surprised that he was Jamaican.
The aforementioned stalker (see paragraph one) has mentioned that he is still waiting to see pictures of the house; his stalking abilities must be slipping, as by now I’d have expected him to have done his own home video of the place and cracked my network encryption key to boot, but suffice to say that as soon as I find out where we packed the digital camera I will take some photos and you can all start wondering what all the fuss was about.
I have previously threatened to keep track of things I like and dislike about having moved to Hertford, so here goes
1a. Things I like about having moved: The plumbing. What a pleasure to not have to wait 40 seconds for hot water to emerge from the hot tap, and what a joy it is not to need the hands of a safe-cracker to get the shower temperature right.
1b. Things I don't like about having moved: The bloody buses. Timetables and routes seem to be virtually random. Take the 395, for instance, which runs one route on a school day and another on a non-school day. After 8pm the route runs up the hill at the bottom of the road, but prior to that it goes to Ware. All the buses are request stops (a good idea) but none of them have arrival indicators on them (a bad idea).
Friday, January 19, 2007 6:42:16 PM
When I moved in to the house in Hertford I considered appending to each blog update a featurew called "things I like about the new house". Thus far, the best thing about it is the fact that when I turn on the hot tap, hot water comes out; in the Enfield abode you had to run the tap for about 45 seconds before the hot water made its way through. Now I have got used to the place a bit and got over the novelty of a plumbing system in a British building that seems to work reasonably well, I am more inclined to do a feature called "things I dislike about the new house". These relate almost entirely to the location, to whit, outside London and bleeding miles from the nearest station.
I was manfully accepting the fact that I need to catch a bus to the station. I was grumbling only occasionally about the fact that local buses seem to run only every half hour or so until the shops shut, after which you are lucky if they run once an hour (not massively convenient for those of us who get home from work in London after 7pm, but no one
seems to catch a bus when they come out of Hertford North station). All that was before the mini-tornado that hit yesterday and put most of the mainline rail services in London out of action.
One of the benefits of living in Enfield was that, should push come to shove, I could get home by bus. I could get most of the way home by tube. Hell, I could probably walk it were I pissed enough. Not so, Hertford.
When I heard about the trains being up the creek, I logged on to the excellent Transport for London journey planner and plotted my journey home. The options were:
- Northern Line to Hendon. National Express bus to Hatfield. Bus to Hertford
- Metropolitan Line to somewhere called Croxley Green. Bus to Hatfield. Bus to Hertford.
- Silverlink mainline train to Tring. I stopped reading after that.
Left to my own devices, I would have got several buses to Waltham Cross and caught a 311 to Hertford; it might have been longer but at least it would have taken me to places with which I was familiar. Where the hell is Croxley Green?
So, I took the Hendon option and staggered around looking for the right bus stop. There are a hell of a lot of bus stops near Hendon Central station. Eventually I found the right bus stop and began examining the timetable when a person with a disturbing visual similarity to Pete Birks said, with an accent that also had a disturbing similarity to Peter Birks, "That's a complete work of fiction." I knew it wasn't Pete Birks because he would have added "mate" on the end of the statement in a mockney accent.
As it happens, I wasn't looking at the times of the bus, just making sure it was going to Hatfield. However, the ice had been broken and, as we Brits do in times of hardship, conversation ensued. I thought I was hard done by, getting stranded in Hendon, but the person who was not Pete Birks had spent the day travelling down from Hitchin to Waterloo, only to find out that the Eurotunnel trains were not working, thus condemning him to missing his meeting (a good thing) and spending the rest of the day struggling to get home (a bad thing).
Apparently express buses were stopping at this stop, but the last two had been full up, which suggested that the best way of getting home was to travel back into London to Victoria in order to have a fighting (literally, I expect) chance of getting a seat. The next bus had just the one seat available, but being British and therefore unable to decide who was entitled to said seat without risk of causing offence, we (well, three of us) decided to share a cab to Hatfield instead.
I rang up Mrs. Fiendish to test out the possibility of a lift home from Hatfield and she warned that the roads around Hertford had been absolutely choc-a-bloc earlier that day and a joruney that normally takes 15 minutes had taken her over an hour. See Hertford? This would not be such a problem if you had (and used) a decent bus service!
Anyway, as luck would have it my cab arrived but two minutes after Mrs. Fiendish at the Hatfield Galleria and I got home safely. Along the way I learned how number one son had arrived home to find the locks on the front door changed and nobody home. We'd had to change the lock when the barrel on the old lock broke. Number one decided to enter the house through the garage - the only problem with this being that the door from the garage to the house was locked. His response to this was to kick the door down. He later claimed that he was desperate for a "pony" but it is more likely that as he had just spent twenty quid on two new tropical fish he was anxious to get them in his tank before they died. Of course, now he is going to have to pay over £100 (estimate) to get the door fixed. It's an expensive way to "spend a penny".
Wednesday, January 17, 2007 11:59:29 AM
2006 - A year to forget
So long, then, 2006. And good bloody riddance. It’s possible that I have had more miserable years, but I doubt it. The worrying thing is that there is a suspicion of “it all starts going a bit pear-shaped from here on in” about it, which is related to being middle-aged (there, I’ve said it). Death, dementia, disease, delinquency, redundancy and incontinence are the things to look forward to now, with this doom-laden diet only being leavened by good company, material wealth and the prospect of one of my children becoming a TV star, albeit on Crimewatch.
Lest I begin to sound like Kevin Warne, let me say that it is not all bad. I remain married to the fantastic Mrs. Fiendish, I still have a boring but tolerable job and I appear to be in reasonable health, cholesterol level notwithstanding. Most of my travails stem from a pincer movement on my stress levels by my father and my children.
Father and son
The year started with the realisation that my Dad’s mental health had deteriorated to the point where our default explanation “he’s in the early stages of dementia” was beginning to sound like an exercise in denial rather than a valid assessment of his mental faculties. Sure, he could find his way round to our house and back home again (virtually every day!) by bus, but he was beginning to do weird things and his repertoire of conversational subjects had diminished to single figures.
My brother and sister live out in the sticks so, as the nearest child, the burden of care fell largely on me. Without the stentorian assistance of Mrs. Fiendish I would have completely stressed out over the situation but somehow we managed to get power of attorney, oversee the sale of his house and put him in a care home up the road from us in Enfield. He’d still be there now, only he was being sexually harassed by a fellow inmate who was in her seventies. It sounds laughable, but it was clear that my Dad was not enjoying the situation and was increasingly spending more time in his room to avoid this woman. Given that my Dad was paying a premium for the “social activities” on offer in this care home there did not seem much point in continuing to pay a fortune to the care home when he was not taking full advantage of the facilities, so we moved him out of the care home with a view to putting him in care in a home near where my sister lives.
Least, that was what I thought the plan was. My sister, who works as a carer in retirement homes, had the notion that she would see if she and her husband could look after Dad in their house out in the sticks, even though Dad – in his more lucid moments – had expressed a strong preference for continuing to live in a town environment. Anyway, three or four months of looking after my Dad have worn her to a frazzle and it’s now got to the point where I am more worried about her than I am my Dad. Without wishing to sound callous, my Dad is now pretty much a lost cause. Not only has the short term memory and the bladder control gone, but he is getting the violent mood swings too; the other day he punched a 90 year-old woman on the chin at a Day Centre after she poured water on his head. This time next year I am expecting him to barely know who I am. So, the top priority for January 2007 is to get him in a care home, though now he is showing signs of violent behaviour, that won’t be cheap.
The kids are all right (not)
I think it is fair to say that whilst Mrs. Fiendish and I were focussed on sorting out my Dad, we took our eye off the ball a bit with regards to our parenting responsibilities. Number one son needed a lot of support and encouragement (i.e. a kick up the arse) to get through the last year of his GCSE’s, and we weren’t always around to give it to him. When he started talking about leaving school at 16 and joining the army as they would pay him wages while he studied for his “A” levels, we mounted a rescue campaign, with the result that he passed all 8 of his GCSE subjects. Imbued with a bit more belief in his academic abilities, he has since decided to forego spending time in Afghanistan and is taking “A” level Business Studies instead.
I have a very middle class attitude towards the army which basically goes along the lines that it is all right for thickies, and it can be good for bright kids who never got a fair shake at a decent school, but it is no place for bright kids from middle class backgrounds. Plus I don’t like the idea of my son’s job description including the words “killing people”. Evidently there are some smart cookies in the army, however, for the lure of “being paid to study” is hard for many 16 year old boys to resist, especially in this age of student loans. Number one son has always been one for instant gratification: give him the choice of total lifetime earnings of £500,000, starting with £200 a week now, and total lifetime earnings of £2,000,000, starting with £400 a week in two years time, and he’d forego the extra £1.5m to get his hands on the £200 a week now.
School's Out - forever?
When all is said and done, though number one son may be a high maintenance, lazy, whingeing git – like his father, but with better dress sense – he remains essentially an obedient and conformist son, as is often the case with the eldest child, apparently. I don’t think anyone would call number 2 son conformist. Most of the time he is as sweet as pie, but when he comes across a pointless rule, mindlessly enforced in an authoritarian manner, he rebels, forcefully. To give a trivial example. At school, depending on whether you are doing gym or field activities, you either wear white shorts (for gym) or black (for outside). Were number one son to turn up with the wrong colour shorts, he’d shrug off the bollocking from the PE master and keep his head down. Number two son would argue “what difference does it make what bloody colour the shorts are?”. Woe betide any teacher who thinks “because I say so” or “those are the rules” is going to satisfy number two son as an acceptable answer; that just puts his back up even more.
In retrospect, sending him to an all-boys traditional (400 year old) state school might not have been the smartest move we made. I say “we”, but it was largely my choice. With its emphasis on music and sport, plus its excellent “league table” position, it looked a good choice for our sporty, musical, eldest son, but when it came to choosing a school for his two younger brothers we took the easy route of sending them to the same school as their elder brother. That goes down as one of the dumbest decisions I have made in the last 20 years.
If we had not been so preoccupied with looking after my Dad then we might have pulled him out of the school before things came to a head back in May, but we botched it totally, things went into a rapid downward spiral and so number two son was permanently excluded. Now, the law states that if I don’t provide schooling for my child, I can be prosecuted, but it seems it is perfectly OK for the education authorities to take their sweet time about finding a new school for number 2 son. It’s now been 8 months, and they have still not found him a school place, so we did what any middle-class family would do in this situation: we upped sticks and moved. Ordinarily when one moves outside of London, one can expect to get a similar sized house for less money; not so when one moves from Enfield to Hertford. We’d just got the mortgage paid off and were looking forward to a bit more flexibility in terms of the option to “downshift” when the requirement to move somewhere a bit less urban meant we are now saddled with a mortgage of £150,000. Surely it would have been cheaper to send number 2 son to public school?
He Fought The Law (and the Law Won)
Except it wasn’t just for the schooling that we moved. In 2006, number 2 son made two appearances in the magistrates’ court for criminal damage. Our friends have been very sympathetic and suggested he must have got in with bad company and that it is all down to peer pressure, but it is entirely probable that number two son is the bad company other parents warn their kids about. Still, it won’t do any harm moving him to a new town and making a fresh start. For one thing, Hertford does not appear to have scores of community policemen patrolling the streets each night, so if he continues in his stupid criminal activities, at least he will be less likely to get caught.
Paint It Black
The woman at the Youth Offenders Panel seems to think this might all be a cry for attention, and maybe she is right, but number 2 son doesn’t seem to think so. Then again, he hates all that psychological stuff anyway, which is a bit of a blow because his mother is a qualified psychologist. Mrs. Fiendish seems to think every problem must have a solution, and in number 2 son’s case she thinks there must be some magical approach we can take to cure him of his criminal tendencies. I broke a few laws in my youth, and I take the view that maybe he is just getting his kicks through being a bad boy, and there’s not much his parents can do about it, save the usual stuff about setting parameters and moral guidelines.
On the other hand, maybe the Youth Offenders woman has a point. In the new home we are experimenting with having a family meal every evening, where we sit round the table and bicker, just like families do on TV shows and in films. I don’t know if it is having an effect on the kids, but I am certainly enjoying it. We've also bought numnber 2 son some paints and canvases and introduced him to the novel concept of painting on something that isn't made of brick or concrete, and he's already done one (very good) painting since Christmas. For a child with no real household hobby (other than staying in bed until 3pm) this is a bit of a breakthrough. Maybe he'll grow out of the "graffing" habit and realise that a criminal activity where you leave your signature at the scene of the crime is a daft pursuit.
High School Confidential
And number 3 son? Touch wood, he’s turning out OK, but he’s only just hit puberty, so who knows what will happen when the hormones kick in?
Today he has just started at his new school. So far as we can tell, it is the best school in the area in terms of academic achievement, and I think he will do all right there, as he is generally a compliant type who likes to fit in. I am not sure if this is the right school for the free-thinking number 2 son, however, and from the induction interview we had for number 3 son it is pretty clear the school don’t think number 2 son wil fit either – though what they were doing discussing number 2 son when we were supposed to be there to discuss number 3, I don’t know. Their whole attitude was a bit arrogant, to be honest. Their first question to number 3 son was “why do you want to join our school?”
The honest answer was “because this is the school I have been allocated by the local education authority” but clearly he was expected to say what a wonderful institution it is, and how he was looking forward to learning to play the nose flute or find a cure for herpes.
What really got my back up was when they asked him what he did of an evening or week-end. Not unreasonably he replied that he goes to the park most evenings to play football, and at the week-ends he likes to go to the cinema. The teacher in charge of integration said, “Well, you won’t be doing any of that when you come to our school.”
Who the fuck is he to tell my kid how to spend his leisure time out of school? If the intention was to highlight the vast array of after-school activities on offer at the school or to emphasise the importance of homework, then he made a pretty cack-handed job of it.
Mrs. Fiendish said that had I been a cat, the fur on my back would have been standing on end at this point. However, I bit my lip. No point getting off on the wrong foot, and it does look like an excellent school. Going to the right school, or living in the right area can make such a difference. My junior school years were mainly spent in Ilford, a very “townie” environment. I suppose I was a bit of a tearaway with no real interest in school, but it seemed pretty normal to me - Nasser Hussein went to my junior school and looked what a violent thug he turned out to be! When I moved to Hornchurch – now a chav haven but in those days a town with pretensions of being a village – I got in with a smarter crowd; passing the 11+ probably helped. I retained a few rough edges – still have many of them, I expect, though I have managed to give up the shoplifting, the smoking and the spitting – but a good school knocked me in to decent shape. Or so I think; I’m seeing four of my old class-mates tonight, perhaps I’ll ask them if my presence in the group damanged their reputation! Anyway, the new school and new area, plus a few lifestyle changes on the part of Mrs. Fiendish and myself, are our great hope for 2007. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Meanwhile, let me wish you a belated happy new year.