Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Saffy Syndrome

Poor old Stella McCartney.  Not contented with living a gilded and privileged life, revered and worshipped by fashionistas around the globe, she is tortured with guilt because she sends her children to private schools.  Oh dear!  She is quoted as saying that the minute they come home “talking posh” rather than being “their awful selves” she will have to “knock it on the head.”  That’s quite an interesting statement there – let us dissect it, knowing a little about Ms McCartney as we do.

First of all, define posh.  At one time it meant being of high birth.  Nowadays it just means wealthy and consequently able to buy a veneer of poshness.  Your children probably will end up talking “posh” if you send them to private schools.  At least they will be able to do so when it matters.  For example in job interviews or when trying to relate to other posh people.  Day to day, they will drop their h’s, make full use of the glottal stop and that irritating interrogative lilt at the end of every sentence imported from Australia?  They will also say ‘like’ like a lot.  I actually overheard two girls recently discussing why one of them wasn’t having school dinners any more.  The reason was “because I, like, don’t like, like them...” 

You could try sending them to St Asbo’s Comprehensive; plenty of kids come out of Comps speaking perfectly normally.  However your children, Stella, have several handicaps imposed upon them before they start.  Number one – they have a famous mum and (somewhat less famous) dad.  Number two they live in a large and expensive house in a posh, sorry, trendy part of town, not at the top of a high-rise.  Number three; they all have idiotic names which firmly mark them out as progeny of a Notting HillBilly.  I’m sorry, but if you insist on adopting the ludicrous American habit of using surnames as forenames and calling your children Miller, Bailey and Beckett, you are stuffed from the off.  You should have thought this through properly and gone for Leroy, Jamil and Lee-anne.

It entertains me that she declares she will “knock it on the head” or should that be “knock it on the ‘ead” because surely you would have to drop the leading ‘h’ in order to sound cool?  True Ms McCartney and her siblings went through the state system but I seem to recall that she has said in the past that she hated every minute of it.  But did her famous surname open any doors?  You betcha!  How many teenage girls would like to intern on Savile Row and at Christian Lacroix?  And how many do?  And it's not every fashion student who can call on Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell to model her graduation collection...

Now let us consider why Ms McCartney would prefer her children to be “their awful selves”.  There seems to be a feeling amongst the creative community that their children should be portrayed as free spirits who are quite untameable.  Viz Jade Jagger’s declaration that she doesn't really parent her two daughters, they bring themselves up and she just kind of oversees it all from a distance.  Call me old fashioned but I don't really rate the sight of a thirteen year old girl posing in a plunging neckline and a provocative manner.  There’s something about the “I’m mad, me and my kids are out of control” declarations of the rich and famous that strikes me as quite sad.  Don’t they think their children need or want any guidance at all?  I have come across plenty of kids of rich families in my working life who have been brought up by the help and allowed to do pretty much as they pleased with every whim indulged by largely absent parents.  I wouldn’t say one of them was happy.

However, for every free spirit, there is the one that breaks the mould.  And here is where you get Saffy Syndrome, named after the long suffering daughter of Edina in Absolutely Fabulous.  Every so often, a child of famous parents decides to keep their head down and live a relatively quiet life – for example Fifi Geldof.  Anyone any idea what Bob and Paula’s eldest looks like?  Me neither.  Or Aimee Osbourne, eldest daughter of Sharon and Ozzy, sometimes referred to as the “missing Osbourne child”.

Wouldn’t it be kind of poetic justice if Miller, Bailey or Beckett decided to become a civil servant and live in a semi in Pinner...?  Stella - you're havin' a larf.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Don't try this at home...

It’s hot. 

Like duh! As my children say all too often to me.  It’s been hot before – for example in 1976 when we had week after week of scorching weather and yet nobody (that I recall anyway) seemed to find it necessary to constantly lecture us about Health & Safety in The Heat.

Am I being unreasonable (really, that should have been the name of this blog, but I suspect it’s already been nicked) to object to constantly being lectured on the bleedin’ obvious by pious pillocks on radio, TV, in shops?  HELLO?  I’m an adult and I am perfectly capable of applying my own sun cream, drinking adequate fluids and staying out of the midday sun.  I do not need some smug  weather man rattling off the number of NHS Direct with every forecast and exhorting me to ‘keep an eye on elderly neighbours’.  Only one of my neighbours is elderly and he is as mad as a box of frogs, owns two properties at either end of the street and strolls between them dressed only in a pair of ancient, grimy safari shorts.  He looks like Catweazle’s first cousin and is clearly a major soap-dodger (you don’t want to get downwind of him in any weather, frankly).  So, if you think I’m going anywhere near him you can think again.  I’ll pass on Michael Fish’s address or whoever it is who reads the weather these days – can’t tell one from another anyhow – let him deal with it, sanctimonious sod.

Another thing that gets right up my nose is being asked a raft of fucking stupid questions every time I want to buy something as simple as a box of Paracetamol.  First of all, you can only buy them in 16’s – presumably just in case I take an overdose.  Well here’s a flash – 16 IS enough to kill you and anyway, if I wanted to kill myself, don’t you think I might be intelligent enough to buy a box of 16 tablets at five or six local pharmacies, duh?  Then, when I ask for a box, the zitty youth behind the counter starts to ask me intrusive questions about my medical history.  Generally, I manage to hold on to my temper and the conversation goes something like this:

Me:  A small box of Paracetamol please.
Zitty Youth:  Joo want tablets, capsules, caplets or syrup?
Me: Er, just whatever is cheapest, will do fine.
ZY: Tha’s tablets then.
Me: Thank you
ZY: Joo wan’em?
Me: (now gritting teeth) Yeeessss.
ZY: twenny pee.  Joo ‘ave a clubcard?

However, in a parallel universe or inside my head, there is another conversation running and one day, I swear it will actually happen.  It goes like this:

Me:  A small box of Paracetamol please.
Zitty Youth:  says nothing because he is staring into space, lovingly caressing a small pustule on his chin.
Me: (slightly louder) excuse me?  A small box of Paracetamol please.
ZY: Wot?
ZY : Huh ?  Stares blankly at the shelves.
Me:  There!  Right a bit!  Down a bit!  THERE!
ZY:  Eventually locates box.  Begins to recite a script he has been taught and has committed to memory, well partially, anyway.
ZY:  Er, are you takin’ any uvver meddysin?
Me: Mind your own business and hand over the pills.
ZY: begins to look panic stricken, clings to script like a lifeline. Um, do you ‘ave any allerjees?
Me: Yes I am allergic to spotty little oiks like you asking me questions you don't understand and demanding answers you couldn’t judge the meaning of in a month of Sundays.  

Then there is the great carrier bag con.  Some time ago, it was decided by someone (possibly Al Gore?) that most of the world’s ills and certainly all global warming was caused by the use of plastic carrier bags.  Almost overnight, asking for a carrier bag in a supermarket became the greatest social faux pas one could commit.  Instead, we were required to purchase a selection of worthy-looking hessian sacks with that ugly reduce-reuse-recycle logo on them, the better to inflate the profits of Mr Tesco , sorry, I mean save the planet.  If you happened to leave all your bags in the boot of the car and decided to ask the nice lady cashier for a plastic carrier instead, you would be treated as if you had just stamped on a kitten.  Somehow, this ludicrous behaviour has now died down and bags appear to be as freely available as ever they were with no discernible change to the state of the globe.

Lastly, there is the “Don’t try this at home” twaddle, closely allied with the “No animals were harmed in the making of this item” baloney.  The best (by which I mean most stupid) example of both came courtesy of the BBC in a morning news item during the recent World Cup .  That little chap who won Strictly (sorry, not very good with names) had been shipped out for South Africa for a jolly er, spot of serious journalism and was inexplicably bussed out to a big cat reserve, where he was pictured stroking a Cheetah of pensionable age.  Crouching behind the supine animal (clearly extremely well-fed and not interested in snacking on a tiny dancer), doing the special whispery voice that everyone has to do in the vicinity of wild animals in order that they can assume some gravitas and sound like David Attenborough, he uttered an idiotic sentence which went something like “Now of course, no animals have been harmed by our visit here but I must stress that we are in a controlled environment and you really shouldn’t try something like this at home.”

Oh really?  Okay, I certainly shouldn’t  pet any of the hundred or so Cheetahs lying around in my back garden then, should I?

Like, duh!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Ready, Steady, GO!

So after the horrors of the school trip there is the (shorter) but equally pants experience of Sports Day.  So much for non-competitive sports – you ain’t seen nothing till you've seen ....drum roll please....the Competitive Parents.

You might think that this kind of thing only happens at Senior School by which age kids might be showing some real signs of sporting talent to be nurtured and encouraged by adoring mummies and daddies – Lord no!  If anything the battlefield is far bloodier at Primary level.

I have known people who:
  • ·         Were caught training their child in a local park, making her run endless laps, all the while timing her with a stop watch and screaming at her to go faster.  This was a performance they repeated on Sports Day at school, one parent at the finishing line, apoplectic and purple-faced and the other running alongside the race track, yelling at the unfortunate kid.
  • ·         Invented a case of Osgood-Schlatter’s disease the better to buy their child a head start in every race, including at the swimming gala (swimming is non-weight bearing, surely?) where she unsurprisingly cleaned up.
  • ·         Suddenly whipped a pair of spikes out of her capacious designer handbag just before the mummies race (“oh it’s just a bit of fun, isn’t it?”).
  • ·         Two dads who came close to punching each other over perceived dirty tricks in the dads’ race

And countless others too tedious to repeat.

What is it about these occasions that produces the worst kind of competitive spirit?  It’s just about the only time that parents will brazenly slag off other people’s children, snarling at anyone whose kid runs faster/jumps higher than theirs.

It is almost comical when it’s time for the parents’ race and you have that telephone box moment, when erstwhile charming daddy spins at high speed and suddenly emerges dressed as Superman or, more accurately, SuperPrat.  Ask any man (well, the Shah) and he will loftily announce that there is no point entering a race if you are not going to try and win.  My response is that trying to win is fine – trying to kill your fellow competitors on the field is not and is also a really bad example to set.

The other thing that drives me insane about Sports Day (and don’t start me on Prize Giving) is the concept of “We’re All Winners Here.”  (Possibly my least favourite phrase ever, along with ‘Please make cheques payable to HMRC’) Although children may come first, second and third, EVERYONE gets a prize – aah!  Just like real life! NOT.  How the hell are any of these kids going to learn to cope with failure in the real world? 

Compare and contrast with the event that is a secondary level Sports Day.  I popped into TD’s Sports Day for an hour recently – and that’s another thing – why do they have to go on for bleedin’ hours on end?  Hers lasted four hours by the time all the prizes had been given at the end – yawn.  It was a blazing hot day and the parents’ association was serving cream teas (looking slightly sweaty in the heat) and Pimms (massively watered down for Health & Safety reasons).  Parents were sitting around at tables gossiping and largely ignoring any signs of physical activity.  The girls were gathered together in forms or houses or gangs or whatever, (I haven’t a clue) and were chanting for their teams and largely ignoring their parents. 

One couple had lain on a blanket and just gone to sleep.  It was quite a bizarre sight – they didn’t have the body language of people who just happened to have drifted off in the sun, they honestly looked as if they had deliberately set themselves up for a snooze, pillows under their heads, looking really comfortable.  From time to time Mr Sleepy would come round long enough to wipe a bit of drool from the side of his mouth before snuggling down next to wifey once more.  I didn’t see a child go near them – probably too damn embarrassed – “Hey Jemima – I couldn’t hear the results for your dad snoring...”

When girls spoke to their parents it was hardly with the delight of yesteryear – remember how little Jemima’s 6 year-old face lit up when she realised that Mummy had arrived in time for her starring role in the Egg and Spoon Race? Hah!  Not any longer!  Talk about Not Wanted on Voyage.  Most girls were greeting their parents (who had largely rearranged difficult work schedules and battled to get there on time) with a curl of the lip and “you’re not staying long are you?  And don’t get drunk.” 

I bumped into one such parent whom I vaguely know (and like much more after this exchange).  “Fucking hell,” she hissed at me from behind sunglasses the size of dinner plates.  “I’ve driven an hour to get here, cancelled a meeting by pretending to have a migraine, spent 20 minutes trying to park, hiked 5 miles to the sodding sports field and the first thing she says to me is ‘when are you leaving?’  Fuck me!”  We decided to drown our sorrows in Pimms but it was deeply reminiscent of gnat’s piss, so that was another failure.  TD was slightly more gracious in her approach.  I did get a “Hi Mum!” as she strolled by on endless legs.  “My race is soon.” I wished her good luck and assured her that I’d be watching her and didn’t realise until afterwards that she hadn’t actually stopped to talk to me, just kept moving inexorably on like an escalator in permanent motion, waving over her shoulder as she went.