Thursday, 19 May 2011

Born Yesterday

Despite this being the title of one of my favourite Phillip Larkin poems*, I won't be waxing poetic in this post. It's more in the vein of "I wasn't born yesterday".

The Man-Child (otherwise known as Mr. Minimal) is one of those kids who puts 110% into anything that interests him, and 20% into anything classed as boring, pointless or tedious. (That would be most things academic.)

With a May 19th deadline looming, I finally got him and the Queenager to a chamber orchestra performance they are required to attend as part of being in the High School orchestra. They also have to write a brief critique of it. Once a term. Hardly a killer really.  I had already warned them both that a "collaborative" paper wouldn't pass muster as their teacher had already expressed interest in reading their different viewpoints.

Of course, the Man-Child couldn't find the guidelines (required elements) so I suggested he take last term's paper and copy the format. What I didn't say was cut and paste the opening sentence, which the teacher had highlighted in red because it didn't make sense the first time round. He had also simply replaced words with other words for the sake of expedience. Except that the new words rendered the paper utter rubbish, and I told him so. I mean, "I was impressed with the way the symphony looked"?? Come on. First of all it was a chamber orchestra and not a symphony orchestra; second, only one of the four pieces was from a symphony; and third, a symphony is a piece of music, not a bloody shop window!

Some of the sentences didn't seem to have verbs, or if they did, they were to be found right at the end of the sentence, Latin style. And, he kept referring to "the songs". I'm sorry, did I fall asleep in the middle? I don't remember a single voice being raised in song.

At least he had the grace to laugh when I handed the paper back to him while calling it "Bloody rubbish".

Nice try son.

Expat Mum

*Born Yesterday
Tightly-folded bud,
I have wished you something
None of the others would:
Not the usual stuff
About being beautiful,
Or running off a spring
Of innocence and love -
They will all wish you that,
And should it prove possible,
Well, you’re a lucky girl.

But if it shouldn’t, then
May you be ordinary;
Have, like other women,
An average of talents:
Not ugly, not good-looking,
Nothing uncustomary
To pull you off your balance,
That, unworkable itself,
Stops all the rest from working.
In fact, may you be dull -
If that is what a skilled,
Vigilant, flexible,
Unemphasised, enthralled
Catching of happiness is called.

(This was written as a christening ode to Sally Amis, daughter of Kinglsey Amis)


  1. Oh this did make me smile. You're quite right telling him it was rubbish. I read recently that constantly praising our children gives them a skewed impression of their talents which doesn't help them. Not that we need to be Tiger Moms - just realistic!

    (love the poem!)

  2. Gee does this sound "bloody rubbish" began in my own mother's words when I was so eager to write a letter to my grandparents yet at age 7 or 8 my handwritting was "bloody %^&*" and she made me rewrite and rewrite.... Things never changed with my mother (Mrs. Perfectionist) I still feel that most of the time what I do isn't quite up to her standards...but it keeps me reaching upward in everything! Well, yes my Mom has since passed on as well...but her teaching still to this day lives one! YOU are doing/did the right thing!

  3. Love the peom.
    If we don't tell them when things are 'rubbish' how will they learn to aspire to anything else? Though often I'm told that 'at least I've done the homework, no one else will have written anything'.... There were consequences in my day (Grumpy Old Woman exits).

  4. Keeping a balance can be so difficult sometimes can't it?

  5. I love Philip Larkin, he is *bloody brilliant*! When I went to New York I was asked to repeat the phrase "bloody brilliant" over and over, as some Long Island people loved me saying it, apparently it's a phrase unique to the British.

    I suspect that "bloody rubbish" falls into the same category?

    Some people just don't appreciate classical music, for some reason unknown to me, but I guess you can let off a teenager? ;-)


  6. As a high school teacher myself, I have only one thing to say about this: Thank You.

    As the mother of two teenage boys, I say: hahahahaha....I understand. Really.