Home School – Day Twenty-Four

It is as if Zeus himself has unleashed a thunderbolt upon us. I creak out of bed and realise that as well as the sun gloriously shining, today is (for now) the final day of lockdown home schooling. 

I say that with leaden caveat. Scottish parents have been informed for almost a year by our Dear Leader that we are the scum of the earth and spend far too long chinwagging at the school gates, mercilessly breathing germs upon one another; ultimately killing our grannies. 

On the day immediately prior to Christmas break (which has persisted ever since) Cerberus’ class was dismissed along with one other entire year group due to the need to self-isolate. I laughed at the time, noting the idiocy of this manoeuvre, given all the children in his school are at the lowest end of the Covid-19 risk spectrum. Yet I have grim forebodings in relation to that now and for an indefinite period going forward. 

With classrooms of twenty children or thereabouts, and prolific testing capacity, it stands to reason that even with schools being open the kids will be lucky if they attend for up to 50% of any given year. 

It’s unsustainable, and I await with keen self-interest to see who baulks first. Will it be the teachers, furiously rewriting schedules and lessons from face to face via online and back again? Will parents revolt, tying themselves to school gates demanding an education for their sprogs? Perhaps we will all just capitulate and spend the rest of our lives in fear of the text message telling us not to bother sending the kids to school for another ten days. 

I like to think that eventually all those behaving as wet blankets will wake from their torpor and decide enough is enough. We might even elect politicians who want us to work and pay taxes. 

On this, our last (for now) day of home schooling, we clock in with teacher Mrs E and rattle through math. Nothing else holds interest for Cerberus at the moment. What he lacks in social skills he makes up for in numeracy. I am beginning to have faith if he doesn’t spend his life arranging Dewey numbers in a library he might be a software or app wizard. 

Other than the use of them, I know bugger all about computers, but I have it on good authority there is still a lot of money to be made. You need only look at the half-wits presiding in Silicon Valley like modern day Pharaohs, with their devoted slaves churning out kitten stories, day after day, to realise ethics, brains or principles matter little. We live in the era of baseless success. 

At least Edison and Darwin retained capacity for thinking as they revolutionised our world. The heroes of today require little capacity for thought. We are less well off for it. Others however, like my son, and perhaps yours, may benefit from such a void. If he emerges a computer genius, he can play ping-pong with the rest of them at Google, whilst the cash flows on in from us mugs. 

Medusa has had a raw deal since Noel. As the youngest she is more amenable to negative influences, but as a general good-egg is starved of attention. Her greatest failing is her complete capacity to entertain herself. For hours she can forage for food, arrange toys, watch Frozen, even send herself to sleep. Far too often this innate ability to survive without interference has led to her being ignored. 

Her brother Cerberus has since birth demanded attention every waking minute of the day. As an elfin human specimen he screamed relentlessly and slept for no more than two consecutive hours, as if on repeat, day and night. As a toddler he refused to sleep in a separate bed. And now as a young biped he has the capacity to cause an aneurysm in anyone spending more than two hours in his company. 

It’s not that I don’t love him; far from it. There’s something about your own offspring that even, I suspect, as you were crippled by a colossal heart attack caused by the strain they’ve applied to your aorta, you’d still be terrifically sad at the thought of never seeing them again. 

The old adage about absence making one fond must have been evidence-based. There is nothing which demonstrates it more than these last two months of enforced ‘family time’.

In spring and summer 2020 we were in a similar situation. Mrs M and I took turns each month for which of us would sleep in the spare room and therefore be undisturbed by Cerberus’ nightly 3am awakening and ensuing disruption.

We obviously didn’t do separation often enough as we we have child number three scheduled to arrive by Easter. Lesson learned. 

For now, however, home school is closed. I tell myself I and we will be more proactive in facilitating future interactive learning for Cerberus and Medusa, but who am I kidding. Like everyone else we are just managing to stay afloat. We’ve been long in the water but are yet to freeze to death. That may come if this goes on.

Home School – Day Twenty-Three

My day began with the postman bringing me a pipe. Not, unlike a surprising number of village residents (we discovered this during last year’s Thursday clap), of the bag variety; rather the traditional smoking version. During lockdown cigarette ingestion has swollen to unsustainable levels. In spring and summer 2020, add vats of gin, whisky and wine to that mix. 

Mrs M and I learnt the lesson from the alcohol consumption. It’s too expensive and too exhausting when you’re compelled seven days a week to get up at 6am whilst working at all hours. The smoking, or rather my smoking, escalated dramatically to balance things out.  

Formerly my working habits involved looking put together, travelling constantly between home and London, occasionally elsewhere, and spending long hours in sweaty offices or scampering between the Central and Piccadilly Lines.  Smoking and drinking was carried out in binge fashion, late at night, and I always remembered to brush my teeth. 

Home working and home schooling has put paid to that. It has not, surprisingly, led to a bucolic existence where we sow vegetable seeds and patiently watch them grow, idly watching the butterflies rest on our arms. Oh no; it has meant Mrs M and I behave as trapped predators, pacing round the garden reeking of gin and hollering at any woodpecker which dares show its bill. There is no day, there is no night. We barely dress. I rarely shave.

The pipe, therefore, was an effort on my part to move toward a healthier existence. Rather than shove twenty cigarettes down my piehole with breakfast I have opted for an inhale-free puff. 

Despite great intentions, my pipe-smoking career shall have to wait ’til tomorrow. Cerberus’ math classes have been elevated to the front of the queue. I’m not particularly grieved. Smoking a pipe may give me a Holmesian demeanour but looks like it will take a helluva lot longer to master than chugging five cigarettes at once. By summer I plan to be a shag smoking champion. 

Meantime I try desperately to stave off social services. There are days of the week when I’d be glad of their company, and thrilled at the peaceful house which would follow their departure. Nevertheless, we are parents, we are responsible, and it’s very much going to be our fault if our children remain illiterate for life and pursue a life of crack-dealing rather than librarianship. No PR company could save us from the public humiliation. 

For some unbeknown reason math lessons have become of great interest to Cerberus. Instinctively I assume it is because there are prizes offered on completion of certain tasks, but maybe I’m being unkind. Either way, he is into it today and it’s blessed relief. 

As I have mentioned previously, I am noting signs in the boy that he isn’t the deranged serial killer I’d assumed. He is paying attention to lessons. By that I mean an increase from ten minutes per day to twenty; it’s a doubling all the same. 

Over and over we go through multiplication, patterns, division and a perpetual range of numerals and their cousins. Cerberus is rapt. Eventually of course he sneers, spits at the screen and walks off, but twenty minutes in one place is Resurrection level miraculous.

Work is incessant at the moment. There’s no end of things to do, write and phone calls to make; Mrs M and I barely keep our chins above water. Our belief is that this is the furious tempest before calm reigns. If not, we’ll never make it to spring. 

A friend calls me today. He, childless, is marooned in Belgium alone in his apartment. He’s been there for months on end, and spent Christmas eating crisp sandwiches and drinking port.

In that scenario our house would’ve been a crime scene by now. Homicide, possible but unlikely; lying on the floor being eaten by the dog, perfectly conceivable. 

I think of this whilst I scrub the children’s hair post-bath. They really detest it when daddy washes them. Mrs M thinks I may be too cavalier. I’m not so certain. I turned out an upstanding pillar of the community after all, and still to this day I can feel the burn from when my own father used to towel my hair dry, I roaring in anguish. 

Home School – Day Twenty-Two

The jungle drums have been beating since Scotland’s glorious leader granted a few of her subjects permission to attend school from next week. That mercifully includes Cerberus; Medusa will similarly be dispatched back to her nosebleedingly expensive nursery. 

Any fool who wiggles an eyebrow at barbaric parents who send their beloved tots into full time daycare; with comments such as ‘gosh, why did they even have children if they do that’ should have their head examined. Only a non-parent or voluntary home-schooler could mutter such bilge. 

We are delighted at this step in the right direction. Less pleased at the fact Ms Sturgeon charged parents in the same breath as being chatterboxes at the school gates, and the notion children and their carers are having luxury privileges bestowed upon them by opening school doors. Last time I checked education is a child’s right, not a mere indulgence. Only in Scotland 2021 could it be seen as the reverse. 

I for one cannot wait to mooch around the school playground, yodelling greetings at fellow day-releasers. Perhaps we will all cuddle, wear paper hats and have a tea party with lemonade and forkfuls of Victoria sponge. 

However this latest ‘allowance’ pans out it is overdue respite. Cerberus’ schooling today follows an age-old routine. We successfully clocked in at dawn, then had a half hour long class with his new support teacher. I’ll make clear here, although I often dismiss my son as a mental defective, we never faced the actual precipice until lockdown.

Such is our incompetence at home schooling, Mrs M and I have had to bring in the education cavalry to save him from a life shuffling boulders as part of a chain-gang. 

His class with new teacher goes well, indeed he blossoms. I am thrilled. We cut a break in order that I can smoke a fistful of cigarettes then return for part two. Sadly, without his new educator on tap, he instantly loses any germ of interest. We park lessons for the day. 

Later in the evening, when sleep for Cerberus seems rather hopeful, I drag him back to the computer screen for interactive math lessons. Again he excels. My hope these latest days is that somehow he has realised, but is unwilling to verbalise, that if he doesn’t knuckle down before entering his school, he will be sent to the dunce class. Even at his rudimentary stage of life, the shame of this would be a blow. 

Mindful that I also don’t want the boy to end up on this hopeless track I manage to bring up reserves of compassion and gentle encouragement I didn’t know existed in me. Later I sleep with a clear conscience. 

In the afternoon not only did we do no schoolwork but we visited friends for a refreshing walk in a howling Scottish gale. Armed with five children, my fellow parent and I march the children across field and stile, whilst being the recipients of occasional blocks of ice lobbed at our ears and faces from the snowy mire still lying here and there at the foot of hedgerow. Neither of us bothers to chip the children off. Gradually they get bored and sod off as a troupe, probably to strangle some unsuspecting blackbirds.

The slog home is a cold one, and exhaustion makes me shiver. Outwith the home schooling my own work has never been busier; my phone rings constantly. Eventually I stop answering the calls. The most tiring aspect is the realisation that like every other night I will be sitting up until the wee small hours of the morning churning through paperwork. 

When we get home I stare at a crossword for a while in a semi-doze, put Medusa to bed, then shuffle to the study for the remainder of the night. 

It’s hard to believe that in a matter of days we’ll have the house to ourselves. It will be but a breather though. Already we are counting on fingers the days left before child number three arrives.

What have we done.

Home School – Day Twenty-One

Historically in Micawber Manor we’ve relished the prospect of a school holiday. In peacetime it would mean a conscious thinning of the adults’ workload, with perhaps even the prospect of stuffing a train ticket into the children’s pockets, followed by a swift phone call to a distant aunt alerting them to the imminent arrival of two miniature psychopaths. 

No such luck in 2021. We muddled through our mid-term break without the slightest inclination for revising schoolwork, and avoided any of our children having to visit the local hospital. Much of the time from the moment they officially deserted the pretend classroom was spent resembling the frozen fauna of Narnia, as winter descended on our village. 

Great drifts of snow and utterly impassable roads provided moments of great merriment for the idle hillbilly. Lorry drivers who’d forgotten to eat their Yorkie and speeding imbeciles found themselves marooned in the land that time forgot. We and fellow villagers didn’t even flick the curtains. To provide maximum terror several of us just stood in our little plots and stared as they created snow angels with their motors. None ever left their vehicle. 

All good things must pass however and the great thaw at the beginning of this week came along at the perfect time – the resumption of home school. Starting as we meant to go on, we clocked in on day one first thing, only returning to actual schoolwork at what should have been bedtime. Cerberus rarely sleeps, preferring to go out and hunt babies at night, so he was duly plonked at the kitchen table with his schoolbooks until he wept for bed.

My logic here was simple. I have to sit up all night working because of lockdown; thus shall ye. He hated it, which mirrors my sentiments. 

Often my mind drifts to life when we lived in a civilised country; travelling wherever we wished and working in cities across the UK. I complained at the time, and whilst lockdown has provided ample ‘getting to know you’ time with the chiddlers, I’d really like to get to know more adults whilst supping a pint in a pub after a day pretending we were all important in the office. 

Lockdown has been the humbling experience of a lifetime. Some friendships have been discarded and others forged, and the liberties we all expected were ours have been tossed into a skip. 

I spend more time now writing actual letters to friends and loved ones. Almost all include a commitment to the biggest drinking session of our lives when we are permitted by the White Witch to end the perma-winter. 

Both Cerberus and Medusa are beginning to unravel at this stage. They did last summer too; put simply they were sick of the sight of mum and dad. I don’t blame them. I can’t bear to look at them either. 

We may love our nearest and dearest, but absence truly makes the heart grow fonder. Cerberus is positively gagging for his friends; crikey even his teacher. Medusa has been reduced to hysterical fits when her morning bowl of cornflakes doesn’t contain precisely 159 pieces of cereal. 

The small things have become the hand grenades of old, and I rather think we’re the worse off for it. If our home is anything to go by, there are four humans living here willing to make a blood sacrifice if someone so much as looks at us the wrong way. 

I may need to order a bigger wickerman for our village summer party. Everyone’s invited…

Lockdown Home School – Day Twenty

School is out as at the end of day for mid-term. Naturally that has limited meaning in our current predicament. Today we chunter through Cerberus’ last batch of realistic assignments and keep our eyes fixed on two prizes. 

One; the possibility of a return to a real classroom before February is out. Two; the possibility of us hiring a private tutor to cancel out the phenomenal backward steps we’ve taken through lockdown. 

I am a general believer in luck, superstition, serendipity. Call it what you like. The flukery of circumstance or the Divine Hand poking its finger in our spine to make sure we tread the path which avoids the Slough of Despond. 

For days now my attention has been grabbed by newspaper articles flagging the dire curriculum in Scottish schools. Rewritten history, overt politicisation of subjects, brain-deadening focus on ‘experiencing’ learning rather than sharp toothed objectives like tests or learning to count, read or write. 

Not for a second do I consider we ought to home school; that would be kooky and well beyond our red line. Rather it abets a sense of melancholy whereby even with Cerberus and Medusa in the state education system, and in class, they might still be screwed for life. 

Before lockdown I’d a disheartening conversation with a chatterbox solicitor in London who informed me clients were veering away from opening offices north of the border. I instantly assumed this was a constitutional matter, but was surprised to hear it related to the inauspicious situation in schools. It turns out that if you’re in the game of international business, recruiting a workforce from a hotbed of degenerate illiterates is unattractive. 

The recollection of that conversation coupled with recent news is making me feel wobbly. I’m minded to drag the Ouija board out and dabble with the black arts to see if I can divine a sign for what steps to take. 

We do have options. Mrs M and the children are all American so we’d be tempted to return. The USA oozes possibility in a way the old country’s entrenched ways never could, but we adults are less than thrilled at the prospect of Cerberus walking out of a store with a semi-automatic.  We both work on the assumption that providing the boy with a crossbow or a pistol would ensure we’d be pushing up the daisies before you could say parricide. 

Quite how everyone can stay as chipper as an escaped mink in these dire times is a mystery. As the Irish poet Ronan Keating once purred, life is a rollercoaster. 

In the midst of pondering the abyss our two are tiptoeing towards, day to day calamities escalate. I’ve been reading Cerberus The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe of a bedtime and specially ordered Turkish Delight to provide a 3-D reading experience. I revelled in my inventive approach but the outcome was unfortunate. We gobbled our way through the treat box and Cerberus stayed up past midnight. That delayed my evening deskwork, which I subsequently completed at 4am. 

My appearance at a client meeting at 9am via video the following morning brought home the full impact of lockdown. Each participant had sympathetic lighting but not even that could mitigate my hideous mien. I looked like Shane McGowan emerging from a Temple Bar lock-in.

This is the new me however, and I will embrace it. No written word speaks to lockdown as starkly as my face after these eleven months. 

Lockdown Home School – Day Nineteen

From recollection, some people in the pre-lockdown era voluntarily opted to home school their children. I always assumed they were imbeciles; the type of people who named the mites Sycamore or Rainbow and made their own latrine in the back garden. The experience of enforced domestic education has confirmed this. Only a complete fathead would deliberately put themselves through it. 

Cerberus and Medusa work hard daily, not at learning, but at destroying the house. I touch up paintwork in each room once every ten days. For weeks now both upturn all furniture items in the youngest’s bedroom, leaving Mrs M and I to rectify matters immediately before bedtime. 

On the subject of restorative sleep, Cerberus is famously non-committal to the notion, going down roughly at 9pm on a normal day. A normal day however involves attending school, formerly nursery, and the exhaustion of social interaction finally catching up with him. 

Mrs M and I have for five years determinedly loathed weekends. We are of the callous breed who send their children to nursery from the first few months of their lives, in order to allow us to live ours.  

A conversation with a diabolical former neighbour;  a personal trainer with a brain the size of a squirrel’s testicle, resulted in him chipping me off for sending Cerberus to nursery. I’d loathed the dolt before but that sealed the deal. Any parent will know it is deeply unwise to criticise their technique, particularly if one is not on familiar terms. Never do it if you’re a peanut-headed gorilla. 

The experience also validated our choosing to send Cerberus to nursery early. We replicated the process with Medusa. In peacetime Mrs M and I work long unpleasant hours which are offset by the children being worn out, just like us, of a weekday. At the weekend Cerberus sleeps five hours in total and spends all waking hours undertaking to give me an aneurysm. I wish he would. 

Perhaps the biggest problem with lockdown is that time has both stopped and become illimitable. There are no weekdays, no weekends; in our experience it’s been one long day in March 2020. Reprieve came with in-school teaching through the second half of the year, but without that any routine has evaporated.

We work all hours of the day and night; schooling and play continues all hours of the day and night. There are no weekdays or weekends. There is little sleep.

Cerberus and Medusa must know this. A rare blessing for us is that they are both under seven years old, so relatively malleable.  The real home education horror stories are happening with those aged seven and up. I’m tottering on the fence as to whether our two will become deranged serial killers as a result of house arrest; many friends with older children already know their younglings will. 

I send teacher Mrs E an email today. It is the fairest way possible of providing a brief on Cerberus’ achievements and failings since Lockdown 2021 began. With mid-term break almost upon us, I felt the personal touch could perhaps fill in some of the blanks; where his schoolwork should have been. I also provide a vast and creative list of extra curricular activities which we have worked upon. All true but without the benefit of in-class testing so useless for measuring his abilities. 

Medusa’s nursery are in touch again. They (because we pay them so well) are extra swift off the mark with the proposed reopening in late February. I know I am paying for the service but I’m sucked in by how adorable they are. I pour out compliments, such as ‘you’ve lovely brown hair and I can’t wait to see you again’. Still they don’t hang up. You get what you pay for, that’s for sure. 

Cerberus’ school focuses on saying goodbye for mid-term rather than welcome back soon. I get the impression they couldn’t give a toss if the children came back; might even prefer if they didn’t. Living with my two all these months, I don’t blame them. I make a mental note to triple my income and make all my kin boarders. Presumably they get locked down on site.  

Lockdown Home School – Day Eighteen

The transition from professional jabberer to full time home educator has been one dotted with bear traps. Today I lead a concerted effort to play catch up on outstanding deadlines for Cerberus’ teacher Mrs E. Despite operating in the belief I know my way round the online learning portal, I was gravely mistaken. 

It turned out there is, tied to each task set by school, a button whereby you indicate whether one is complete; all being child-led. Unfortunately for our boy, the completion of these missions result in the accumulation of points. By my reckoning, until today Cerberus’ only points were for a deranged artwork, totally unrelated to useful or set tasks. We haven’t recorded one.

On this third day of the school week, therefore, I valiantly lead the charge by submitting as many pieces of work within credible bounds, with short notes attached outlining how I personally may require treatment in an asylum as they’d gone unnoticed ’til now. ‘Please forgive my son’ read the undercurrent. ‘I’ve no wish for my stupidity to result in Cerberus remaining in his year forever’ read the actual text. 

Net result; our boy would appear to his teacher to be a crammer before deadlines. He is five years old. I know we’ve been rumbled. In fact I’ve admitted it. I just hope Mrs E doesn’t take punitive action by reporting us to whoever it is that pelts turnips incapable parents’ way at the Mercat Cross. 

With unbridled panic racing through my veins I insisted Cerberus complete a project himself. Oddly he complied. The only reason for this can be he has fed our pet rabbit dishwasher tablets and is focusing on school in order to avoid the crime scene. I check on the bunny and he appears watery eyed. No change. 

Later I drag both Cerberus and Medusa for a 3.5 hour forest walk. Mrs M has a lengthy work call, as I do most days, so we cut her some slack. The children of this household behave towards their mother as flies do to those blue buzzing lights in the fishmonger that electrocute on impact. I daren’t ask Mrs M but one suspects she’d be happy to zap the children when they come within three feet. I google ‘stun guns’.

This means that whilst I can run phone and video calls with clients in the study facing only minimal interruption, she cannot. They would be smashing down the door with a hatchet and poker. 

Bracing myself for a bleak afternoon I hustle the pair out the door with five minutes to spare before Mrs M starts pulling my fingernails out with pliers. 

We route straight for the motor and then on to a particularly long ramble. It snows incessantly; vast morasses of mud, slime and snow are everywhere and I insist we walk for ninety minutes before we turn about. Knowing that preparation is everything I’ve brought a single Mars Bar, which I deal out at intervals using my penknife to slice off tiny pieces. It occurs to me that with the same blade I chopped up bird food but reason if its good enough for twitterers its good enough for the lesser evolved. 

Medusa gets painfully cold on the backward leg. I have brought the binoculars today and spy two jittery Roe Deer but little else. A buzzard swoops perilously close to our heads at one point, clearly considering snatching the girl from the ground. It swivels away when it spots her blotched face. I’m sure I heard it say ‘Fuck that. I’ll pick up a hare’. 

My parents call halfway from journey’s end and for something to do I answer the summons. We are in a deep glen so the signal keeps cutting out. I hold the screen in front of Cerberus and Medusa and their erupting faces tell the whole story. 

By the time we return to our crippled Land Rover Medusa has continually screamed for around 45 minutes. My boss then calls and I don’t pick up. I check messages while the shrimps roar all around me and it’s an urgent work case. Needs dealt with yesterday. Checking my watch I pick the time when I can feasibly return, hand over children, make coffee and be back at the desk. 

I spend the rest of the day racing through multiple work calls and I smash the deadline. Straight after it’s bathing supervision and incessant storytelling before I return to the study.

I finish at 2am.  Our days are always long now. An Ogden Nash ditty saunters across my mind; 

“May I join you in the Doghouse, Rover? / I wish to retire till the party’s over.”

Lockdown Home School – Day Seventeen

The wonder of home schooling knows no bounds. Today we’d an especially interesting lesson with an older class which taught the young ‘uns about melting ice caps. I take my hat off to David Attenborough, and commend myself internally for having introduced Cerberus and Medusa to his sonorous tones at an early age. Only the weekend past we closely studied wolves devouring a toddler deer. They were rapt. 

Video lessons can be hit or miss. More often a miss. Today however Cerberus put up not only with his tutorial on polar bear oblivion but sat through the telling of a story. My view on his abilities slithers around like a rhino on ice skates. Over the past four weeks I’ve gone from surprise at his depth of knowledge to disappointment at his plainly being stone deaf and a potential mental incapacitate. 

Big news for Scotland today though. I’d clearly missed the memo amidst the carnage that is current affairs, but we were apparently awaiting an announcement from our Chief Commissar, Mme Sturgeon, on whether schools would be reopening. I received some hopeful messages from chums but my working assumption has always been they’ll stay closed ’til Easter 2025.

A surprise then to be informed later Cerberus is indeed scheduled for a return to a real live teacher and actual classroom in late February. Scratch the story and there are c.50 caveats. I am working on the basis my estimate will be proven correct. 

Given my pessimism I’ve also started floating the notion of a private tutor. It suddenly dawned on me that even with our multiple interventions from teacher Mrs E and Cerberus’ new additional support, if he is placed in front of a blackboard he’s so far behind he could flop the year and be held back. I am sure other parents must share this sinking feeling but I’ve yet to hear them admit it face to face. 

Turns out looking for a private tutor is the equivalent today of obtaining liquor in 1920s USA. Like all wise parents there is no way Mrs M or I are going to post publicly on social media regarding our plight. Social outcasting is a secondary concern to the distinct possibility the local Stasi will appear on our doorstep and arrest us. Welcome to Scotland 2021. 

Instead I work my way round the proprietors of local village shops, asking my favourites what they’ve heard about home school rescue measures. Turns out its rather a good business to be in at the moment. I leave with several scraps of paper with names and additional promises to mention it to the said local education Resistance when they drop by for their cigars. 

It does lead me to the conclusion that despite us all being gaslit by government normal life finds it’s own way to survive. In this case it involves us all skulking about ferrying our children into private tutors’ homes. 

A sad time to be alive maybe but on the other hand we all know the Resistance are the ones to commend later on. If I remember correctly those being resisted met a rather more heinous fate.

Lockdown Home School – Day Sixteen

The start of a new home school week followed a weekend of emergency work calls and activity; hardly the recipe for a clear mind of a Monday. Nevertheless, this is the new normal. The only hotdesking is the spilt coffee over all the domestic paperwork, children’s schoolbooks, and the steaming laptop. 

Charging into what is now week four of home school brought with it a new perspective for Cerberus. He has been relegated to having extra online classes in the form of additional support teaching. I questioned the wisdom of this very hard in advance but the small unit of his classmates, similarly drowning in lockdown, proved an intimate and light touch affair.

Refreshingly it was all about reaching out to the sad-faced chiddlers and checking on their personal life and general happiness levels. I could do with a teacher like that myself these days.

I patted him on the head as I would a dog for not swearing in his first new class, and picked up the pieces from the weekend emergencies. Thereafter followed a two hour walk to what we call The Big Forest in the driving snow and bone-chilling wind. 

I admit I adore the outdoors; even to the point of having been an amateur hillwalker in a past life. Now the thought of dragging a five year old for an extended perambulation makes me cry on the inside; only beaten in the dismal stakes by undertaking a marathon home schooling session inside. 

So march across fields and through woods we did. Medusa refused to cooperate and thus remained by the glowing fireplace with Mrs M, Cerberus and I throwing ourselves into the icy blast. The Big Forest I haven’t been to for several weeks, and regretted it immediately. Much of the snow had melted to form deep muddy swampland. Mud and swamp as anyone with a small child will know, is as tempting to them as Turkish Delight was to Edmund. He sold out his siblings in order to get some more, and despite my repeated warnings, Cerberus discarded instructions to get some more. 

As almost always on long walks in slop, the balances tips only when furthest when home. In earlier days I often prepared some sort of goody-bag, including emergency clothing and feeding supplies. This never happens now. 

If lucky I bring a bar of chocolate and a pack of cigarettes. This time I didn’t even bring that. As a result Cerberus waded to thigh level in gloop when we were approximately two miles from our abode in open country, with no alternative but to creep miserably home in heavy snow.

For around the last mile he wailed, gnashed his teeth, and moaned “mummy, mummy, mummy” as repetitively as that broken battery powered toy which can only be switched off by smashing it to pieces with a hammer. I also forgot to bring that.  

Finally spotting Micawber Towers, I twigged the living room window had been slid open. Mrs M leaned out. She had heard us approaching the village. As had all fellow villagers. We passed two on the walk through, both of whom nodded, then burbled “home schooling eh..?!”. Yup. Home schooling. Eh. 

Lockdown Home School – Day Fifteen

In a normal school week I’m always hollering ‘oh my giddy aunt’ at the prospect of Friday. It’s a shorter day on campus which means the need to come up with a greater number of child-tiring activities. No such concerns flit through my mind now. Every day is thus. On acid. 

The conclusion of this week was no different. I upload a great sheaf of ‘art’ to the online hub, spend a little time sneering at competing parents’ own updates and take a swift glance at which horrors await us next week. Part of Mrs E’s summary includes a reminder we are nearing mid-February break; informing us all work should be up to speed. Cerberus has his dedicated support teacher in place next week, but even with that prop the notion of it working without their physical presence sends me into a swoon. 

It must be said I commend the boy’s school for their efforts so far; at the start of term I was astonished at the extensive online learning programme. The thing which made me reel back and forth, resembling a rowan tree perched on a Shetland cliff, was the idea Mrs M and I would be both tutors and enforcers. 

I know my son and the wisdom of the Ancients taught me a) he is aware his mother is susceptible to preposterous excuses to avoid work, and b) I would end up as Disciplinary Chief. The consequence, easily foreseen, is that Cerberus loathes me now even more than is to be expected. I have a detestable face, I’ll give him that. My habits also raise question marks; I drink wine by the barrel and smoke like a 1950s London chimney stack. I am prone to bouts of extended silence, interspersed only with an occasional mutter to myself or a roar when Cerberus / Medusa punches me in the cojones. 

The children’s Rabelaisian behaviour this week has turned me into a near hermit. Spending vast periods in the study, well into the night, my status has shifted from husband and father to interloper. At the breakfast table Cerberus tutors Medusa extensively in dad-directed affronts. My favourites this week were “daddy’s face smells like a butthole”, and “daddy you smell like shit”. Somehow, from the mouth of a small child, it’s almost cute. There’s no reason for me to intervene. I see their combined attempts at language is improving their vocabulary tremendously. My only worry is that when / if school and nursery reconvene my brood find themselves ejected on day one. 

Although it pains me to say it, whilst the boastful parent twerps in the online hub make me dream of setting their cars on fire, I am contented to hear similar woeful efforts at home education from villagers. Two mothers this week, of children older than ours, told me harrowing stories of how their offspring can’t sleep at night, cry during lessons, and in one case have 1800 unread emails from their high school teachers. We may have nippers across a wild age range, but they do share in the misery and failure. 

The means we have found to keep a lid on our broiling blood pressure is by listening to the wireless and reading our daily newspapers; only occasionally blowing a gasket, jumping up and down with our underpants on our heads.

I don’t blame the parents. I don’t blame the teachers. I blame the government, full and square. At Micawber Towers we’ve even taken to furiously texting radio stations to release the poison swilling in our spleens. Unfortunately, it makes little difference to our present situation. 

My hope and prayer for 2021, above all else, is that we will at some point collectively remember that without children there is no future. My own grandmother, 90 years old and in good health, doesn’t understand why people who need to go about their business can’t get vaccinated first. As she put it to me, ‘I’ve had my life and enjoyed every minute. I’m old now. You should get to enjoy yours’.

Thank you Granny. I couldn’t agree more.