Monday, 13 October 2008


The six year old bounced into the car last Friday when I picked her up from school.
“I’m saying Psalm 65 at the Harvest Festival” , she said, her face beaming with pride.
“Are you darling? Lovely. Do you have anything in your book bag to practise?”, I asked, driving gingerly down a very, narrow country road teeming with tiny school-children who zig-zagged in front of my car, book bags swinging, taking their time, oblivious to the fact that there was a backlog of cars behind me. Beeping my horn hesitantly, a little boy jumped out of his skin and into a hedgerow of stinging nettles, where he lay, wailing. His mother, using one hand to drag him out and the other to flick me a V sign, also mouthed a peel of foul profanities. ‘Charming’, I thought, ‘There really is no hope for our young’.
Determined that my youngest children would not grow up to be revolting and ill-mannered and expect me to stick up for them when arsing around in front of motor vehicles, I walked into the house resolute that there was no time like the present, and so, where Jamie Oliver quite rightly feels we should ‘pass on’ our skills in cooking, equally I believe we should, if we have them, pass on our high expectations, values and morals.
My idea for a renewed set of standards and principles was, as I’d imagined it would be, met with a collective groan from my children.
“...and we will all sit together at dinner and take it in turns to relate the events of our day and we will listen intently to that person, converse and comment appropriately; we will not get up from the table until everyone has finished eating, nor will we in fact commence chewing until we are all seated. I am fed up with arriving to the table minutes after everyone else, having provided a lovely dinner, only to find most of you have finished”.
“But I have much physics homework to do”, protested Pia, “besides in Norway...”
“Ah but when in Rome”, I quipped . Pia was horrified. Throwing her hands up to her face, her mouth wide open in shock, her expression looked familiar. Hubby laughing, recognised it too, “With that look on your face you resemble a painting by that erstwhile Norwegian, Edvard Munch.”
“Pia love”, I said tenderly, “We are only teasing you and I very much admire your dedication to your studies”. I said this last bit rather pointedly and my son shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “But”, I continued, “We are all going to make more of an effort with our manners and general regard for one another and, if that means sitting a little longer over dinner, then so be it”.
“But mummy”, said the Red-Head looking genuinely aggrieved, “When my tummy is full of my food I need to go for a poo. Straight away”. My son snorted, my 13 year old giggled, my husband laughed, Pia hid in her hoodie and my six year old just repeated the word poo endlessly. The Red-Head looked very pleased with herself and I sighed; quite obviously my ‘new rules’ were going to take a while to be adhered to.
“Yes, well”, I said, attempting severity of tone, “Let’s start as we mean to go on. Please clear the table fill the dishwasher and decide, kindly amongst yourselves, whose turn it is to wipe down the table”.
Scraping their chairs away from the table, the teenagers dolefully carried plates and cutlery into the kitchen. By the time they had reached the dishwasher however, the bickering was in full swing.
“Yeah well I emptied it last night”.
“So? Can’t you do it again?”
“I’m just putting my plate in there. You can do the rest”.
“I’m not touching the dishcloth, it stinks”,
“Yeah? Not as much as you”. And so on and so on. I was in two minds to follow them and scream but, it being a Friday night, I honestly didn’t have the fight in me, instead I Googled Psalm 65. It was quite a complicated piece and I was impressed that the 6 year old’s teacher thought her reading was up to it. ‘Still’ I thought, ‘Best to practice it’. I printed it out and went in search of my daughter who was quite happily watching a DVD. Hairspray. Hardly suitable for a little girl, but both she and her even younger sister were prancing around to the songs, quite oblivious to the meaning.
“Sweet-heart, come and practise Psalm 65”, I held out my hand.
“But mummy I can say Psalm 65. It’s easy”.
“Well good for you! But are you sure you wouldn’t like a few goes?” She danced over, looked at the paper and looked up at me quizzically, “There is a lot of it”.
“Well they’ve probably annotated your version at school. I won’t confuse you then” and I left them to it.
On the Monday afternoon, Dad and the Red-Head accompanied me to the church to watch the school’s harvest festival. By way of a big surprise, Hubby was waiting for me in the nave.
“Got the afternoon off”, he whispered, “Couldn’t miss her starring role”. We took our positions in the pews as the different classes filed in.
After a couple of hymns and a welcome it was the turn of class 2. Her family waited with bated breath as our star took a step forward in the chancel. My parting shot that morning had been “Take your time and enunciate clearly”.
She saw my face eager with expectation, cleared her throat and then, very clearly announced, “Psalm 65”. Then she stepped back. We all waited. But that was it. A short drama was then performed. Hubby and Dad, sitting either side of me nudged me simultaneously. I shrugged, offering only, “Well then, she really did just have to say, Psalm 65”.


Mary Alice said...

That is so cute! Did she enunciate clearly? I agree that a family meal is very important. I have to work on continuing our family meal tradition, even though the guys aren't here with us, we should still do it up properly.

Alice Band said...

My plan isn't going very well! I can't stand people getting up from the table until everyone has finished but it is falling on deaf ears, especially our 'student' who jumps up immediately to kiss her new English boyfriend who is waiting for her in the basement! I think I'll have to invite him for dinner too. Six kids though - gee..

Eloise said...

Love the Psalm 65 story!

Stick to your guns on the family dinner, Alice. We go through the same thing at our house, but it's one of the few times that we all have to stop at the same time for a little bit. Sitting down at the table together does lend itself to opportunities for conversation more than merely passing in the halls.

Sally said...

That's so funny! Brilliant post! We try to do meals properly too.... but it's a dying breed. BTW.... you still haven't read my last one.... or the one the time before last. And where;s that email!!! Not that I'm moaning or anything xx

Sally said...

I mean the one called Good Turn. I know that you've read Penseive.... (Still not moaning...)x

Anonymous said...

We do the family dinner table thing here, too. It starts well, but devolves into multiple conversations shooting across the table, and I'm so ADD I can't follow them at all!
The harder work, for us, is making everyone LEAVE the table, STOP conversing, and START the homework! It is a never-ending battle.

Sally said...

We may all be performing.....

Sally said...

But if you want to know how.... you'll have to read my blog! Also... have you changed your email btw? I sent you an eamil a while back too.... How was Bristol?