Tag Archives: Education

Early to rise, early to grump

Four times this week, I’ve woken from my deep and blissful slumber at 6.30am. And not just because one of the cats is aggressively scratching the door in an attempt to persuade me that it should be fed.

Each time I have reluctantly emerged disheveled and groggy from under the duvet (which I believe for legal purposes I have to call a comforter in the United States, despite the fact that it makes it sound like some kind of security blanket), and reached for the closet to pluck out my dressing gown. Ten minutes later – having finally managed to find the armhole in the pitch blackness of the room, put it on, taken it off so that it wasn’t back to front like a straitjacket, put it on, taken it off again because it was inside out, put it on again, and finally grappled in the bottom of the closet to find the missing waist cord – I get my day started.

Now, this week was an unusual week, given that I had very early starts at work, but nonetheless there are always two or three days a week where I have to get up an hour earlier than strictly necessary. That’s sixty minutes of lost sleep, making me sixty times more likely to be grumpy by the end of the day (as I’m sure The Special One will happily confirm with a world weary roll of the eyes).

And the reason? Clearly it’s not a desire to go for an early morning jog along the Atlantic Ocean coast. Nor is it a willingness to skip merrily to a delightful little patisserie nearby, to pick up croissants and fresh baguettes. I mean, I would, but trudging through the cold to get a loaf of Home PrideWonder Bread just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

No, it’s because The Young Ones have to start school at 8.15am, and given that we live an hour or so subway ride from their educational establishment, one of us always has to get up at 6.30 to wake them and make them lunch.

I’m not complaining about making the kids lunch, obviously. Well, I am, but that’s a different matter. In the end, despite a certain amount of grumbling, I’m happy to accept the role. What I struggle to understand is why they have to be at school at 8.15am.

The strange thing is, they seem to be the lucky ones, with other kids having to be at school for 8. Of course, I understand that parents work, and so dropping them off before they head off to the office is a necessity for some people. But in New York, most kids at high school either live within walking distance of school or get the subway on their own. Classes finish at 2.30 or 3, but show me a kid who wouldn’t swap an hour of freedom in the afternoon for an hour of extra bed, and I will show you a 13 year old who probably has extra-curricular commitments as a shoplifter.

In the UK, school starts at 9, and finishes around 3.30. Much more civilised if you ask me. Maybe there are studies that show kids are more receptive to learning early in the morning, and I would kind of understand that, and should certainly respect it. All I can say is that there are studies that clearly show that I am substantially more tetchy having got up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning.

It’s time for change in more ways than one, I can tell you.

A distaste for the good life

Maybe it’s because I’m British and we’re quick to put down anybody who is popular and successful, or perhaps it’s because I’m becoming insufferably crotchety in my old age. Whatever it is, I’m here to hold my hands up, look vaguely sheepish, and tell you that I just can’t stand The Do-Gooder.

Now clearly I don’t have an innate distrust of anybody who does good in the world. Bob Geldof may have lank hair and dubious taste in women, but you can’t fault his humanitarian efforts. Although, to be fair Bob, none of us like Mondays so it’s probably time to stop going on about it. Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King et al don’t bother me one iota, despite having the temerity to put the well-being of others above their own. And I’ve even been known to do my own bit for charidee on occasion, although the less said the better about the sponsored wheelbarrow race I organised back at school.

But The Do-Gooder is a different beast altogether. The Do-Gooder can’t help but make sure that every last person knows that they’re doing some ‘selfless’ work, and is guaranteed to make my hackles rise, even if the good deed they’re performing is pretty damn good indeed. Actually, the better the deed is, the more irritated I get with The Do-Gooder. You should see how I tear into those cancer research specialists…

The thing is, every community has its own Do-Gooder. Most people tend to ignore them, work around them or – more usually – give them the fancy sounding title that nobody else really wants. If you get introduced to your local community’s Executive Vice Chair of Waste Management Issues, run a mile.

Of course, there wasn’t a single Do-Gooder in sight when The Special One and I attended the first PTA meeting of the year for The Young Ones’ school. Ahem. All I can say was that I was the only man wearing jeans, and that if ever you hear me ask a question about voting procedures in any meeting anywhere in the world, you have my permission to shoot me.

What was particularly interesting about the meeting was actually the number of people who managed to prove themselves the absolute antithesis of the Do-Gooder. Bear in mind that this is a great school with results that outstrip those of better funded schools across the city. There was the goth looking mummom who played her Nintendo DS throughout the meeting. And the ice-crunching older mother who managed to scoff her way through an entire giant plastic cup of ice in ten minutes, and would probably have eaten the cup as well if she’d been given half a chance. And the family of four who may well have inadvertently wandered into the cafeteria, but still decided to eat their dinner there anyway as the meeting carried on around them.

Add in numerous Blackberry-viewing, diary-filling middle-aged folk, and it seemed at times that The Special One and I were pretty much the only ones actually listening to the headmasterprincipal’s (pretty inspiring) words.

Oh no. You know what this means, don’t you? I’m one step away from being a Do-Gooder. Quick, somebody get the rifle.