Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Exam season has hit. It is very trying and the divide between the girls and the boys has never been more apparent. My daughter, in the middle of her GCSEs has to be dragged away from her studies to eat and breathe. When I picked her up from her maths exam on Monday she was in floods of tears.
“What’s the matter darling?”, I asked, alarmed. This is a child who has had 99% correct answers in all her practise tests and who was, very oddly, looking forward to her exam.
“It was really, really hard”, she sniffled, “It’s knocked my confidence.”
“Sweetheart, couldn’t you do any of it?” I felt very sympathetic, remembering my own maths ‘O’ level exam which took me precisely ten minutes: Three to write my name in my best handwriting and another seven jotting a letter to the examiner apologising for my ineptitude.
“Of course I could. What do you take me for?” she answered crossly. I was driving through Plymouth at this particular juncture, not the most stress-free of situations presently, and so I felt it best to drop the subject and make soothing noises instead.
“I’ll pass” she added, “But unless I get an A* I won’t feel as though I have and my teacher will be very disappointed in me”. Blimey she doesn’t half exert pressure upon herself. Contrast to my son, who far from worrying about getting an A* will be delighted to have found that he’s made it to the hall. I have seen little evidence of burning the midnight oil unless his ‘A’ levels are not, as I thought, in English, History and Politics but are actually in Facebook, YouTube and the bass guitar. If that is so, then his results will be fruitful. The other two young men also seem to have a rather laissez-faire attitude to their studies and do not at any point seem to share my daughter’s zeal and graft. One of them in fact dragged himself from his pit and was out of the door in less than five seconds. No breakfast, no coffee, no hair brushing. I was therefore not all that surprised when he returned an hour later looking rather sheepish.
“You ok?”, I asked
“Um, the exam is this afternoon”. I threw my hands up in despair but at least he’d got it that way around and not missed it. “Let me make you a sandwich”, was all I said.
And so whilst I know, generally speaking, the whereabouts of my eldest offspring and Lost Boys, the youngest two, who, having just learnt to ride their bicycles, have become feral. Various children are ringing the doorbell asking for them to come and play and various children are to be found in my kitchen drinking gallons of squash, hot and bothered by the aforementioned play. Part of me feels that I mustn’t complain; I’d rather them be friends with the kids in the park than hanker over a virtual, make-believe friendship with Hannah bloody Montana but they do seem to be becoming rather streetwise though and the language of the older boys in the park is rather too Anglo-Saxon for the tender ears of two little girls.
The other evening was such a case in point, having languished in bed all day with an appalling migraine that saw me physically sick, I was doing my utmost to recover in time for a Commander’s Wife Official engagement – namely a Mess dinner. I’d thrown some sausages in the oven and then gone in search of them and found them, in the park, long hair flying madly, ill-matching outfits on, bruises up their legs like extras from ER, sitting in a circle trading contraband chewing-gum for God only knows what. Well ok, not exactly contraband but not available in this country either, so I suppose it must have seemed illicit to them. Mindy my American friend had sent a package containing scores of weird and wonderful flavours of chewing-gum. Mint chocolate chip ice-cream to name but one. I broke the syndicate up and dragged them indoors. Various other stragglers arrived to the table and I went upstairs to get ready.
I was not my perky self all evening. I could never be a teetotaller. It’s very dull – all that lovely wine I passed up as I really didn’t want to mortify Hubby by throwing up as he made his speech, but a migraine is a killer, its grip leaves you in a malaise for hours, so I nibbled at my dinner, loyally laughed in all the right places during Hubby’s speech and resolutely adhered to my tumbler of water. The Queen would be proud that, even green at the gills, I did manage a sip of port to toast her with and to wish her husband a happy 90th birthday.
When we withdrew to the dance-floor, it is I who generally suffers from NSDI (non specific dance injury) as I hurl myself around with gay abandon but, this evening would have resulted in a very different hurling had I even attempted a mild jiggle.
“How are your son’s ‘A’ levels going?” asked a woman whose son I know is destined for great things.
“Oh, you know”, I replied breezily.
“They’ve got history tomorrow haven’t they? Mine has been fretting and swotting about it all week. No doubt yours has too?”
“No doubt”, I answered, grimly.
Beside me, shaking a mean hoof was Hubby. I tugged at his sleeve.
“We have to go”, I shouted over The Smiths, “Our son and heir, I have been reliably informed, has an exam in a few hours. I need to make sure he’s in bed.”
At this point another dancer, who had obviously not had a migraine that day but you could bet your bottom dollar would have in the morning, was turning rather green. It was definitely time to leave, but not without thinking, “There by the grace of God go I”.

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