Thursday, 9 May 2013

It had to start somewhere


You've heard it all before, of course. Man is about to hit 40, man starts wondering what it's all about. You work all hours, he reasons, for five or more days a week, for some forty seven weeks a year, for forty or so years, and for what? The chance to spend your last ten or twenty years - if you're lucky - doing stuff you want to actually do? Except of course you can't, because by then you're tired and old and your body can't and won't do the things you could before. But by the time you realise it, it's too late. Those forty years have gone. Man wakes up in a cold sweat most nights from a recurring nightmare where he's lying on his death bed, moments from croaking, and someone says 'so, any regrets?'

We're all mad.

So man starts thinking about what else he might do instead. He's already decided that his stupidly well paid City job doesn't cut it any more, that the daily two hour commute there and the two hour commute back really isn't worth it. He knows, deep down, that the big house, the nice car, the shiny new kitchen and the oversized HD ready, 3D enabled smart TV aren't worth the pressure from unpleasant clients, the day to day small minded politics of his office, the inane ramblings of his career obsessed colleagues, the constant stream of pseudo management wank-speak, going forward to this, picking the low hanging fruit from that, actioning the to do list of issues that point strategically to the collective melting of a million brains...

God, thinks man, I'm so very tired of it all. 

So here is man, about to turn 40, desperately wanting out. But man also has other things to worry about. Man has a daughter. And daughter is clever. Oh Lordy, daughter is so very clever; IQ so high it makes his nose bleed. Man knows that most people will think this must surely make his life easier, but most people would be wrong. In fact it makes life much much harder. Daughter is 8 years old and already has been through four schools, each one with its own particular brand of incompetence and lack of understanding. The first saw misbehaviour where in fact lay simple curiosity, the second thought that to spare the rod would lead to the downfall of man, the third was convinced that intelligence bred contempt and did everything it could to pretend that children had none, and the fourth...well, the fourth wasn't, isn't, bad, as it happens, but it costs just a little less than a third of man's take home salary each month and forces man to share breathing space with 4x4 driving nice-but-dim types who think it perfectly normal to wear full hunting garb to drop off little Rupert at the school gates and moan loudly about how much effort it is to have to go off to the pad in Bermuda again next week, but on the plus side they're so looking forward to seeing Camilla again at the weekend, and she's really a lovely person and it's so wonderful that Charles is finally free to have a life with her and oh, must dash, such a fag, they've brought my tennis lesson forward this morning. 

So. Yes. Where were we? Oh yes, man wants out and man has excessively clever daughter. Still haven't explained why clever = difficult, have I? Well, imagine a young couple. They have a child. Never had one before, no idea how that little bundle of joy is meant to behave, or what it's meant to do, or when. So when little bundle turns itself over from its back to its front and lifts itself up at the one week check they think nothing of it, even when the health visitor says 'oh, that's quite unusual.' And when little bundle starts following the words in that book daddy's reading quite intently, well, they all do that don't they? And when little bundle starts walking, or talking, or reading, or doing all those other things that parents think are miraculous milestones, the young couple don't stop to think that they're all happening months before little bundle's friends. Why would they? All children develop at different speeds, but they all get there in the end, don't they? 

Then imagine that same young couple two or three years later. Imagine them, one night, watching a documentary on television about remarkably clever children. Imagine their dawning realisation when the documentary concentrates on one young girl, about 4 years old, high IQ, described as a genius. As they watch, they realise that the things that the little girl is doing, the things which, according to the documentary, make her a genius, are things that their little bundle can do. Has been doing for months, in fact. Little bundle at this point is just about 3 years old. 

From then, life changes. The young couple have little bundle assessed and little bundle, it turns out, has a nosebleed inducing IQ. Little bundle, they're told, will need some support as she grows up. Little bundle will get bored easily. Little bundle will not go quietly into the night when told to do something, she will want to know why she needs to do it. Disciplining little bundle will not be easy. Keeping little bundle stimulated will take effort and devotion. Keeping up with little bundle will be a challenge. The young couple realise that life has suddenly become rather more involved

So, thinks the young couple, we'll enlist the help of the school system. Surely little bundle cannot be the first very clever little girl that schools have had to deal with. Schools will be experts at this sort of thing, they'll help us. But the young couple very soon learn that schools don't cater for very clever little girls. Some don't understand how, some don't believe that they need to, some think they can but in fact can't. Four years later, after so many meetings with so many teachers, young couple come to the realisation that schools really can't deal with little bundle.

And so here we are. Man wants out, man has had enough, man thinks that if the world wants to carry on being mad it can do so without him. But man has daughter to worry about. Thankfully, man has figured that one out (or, to be honest about it, wife has figured that one out, because wife is far more cleverer than wot man is, and man is more than happy to go along with it): daughter will be home schooled. If schools can't give her the support she needs, then her parents will. And with that, suddenly man's eyes are opened. Suddenly man realises he doesn't need to be tied down to where he lives. He doesn't need to live within spitting distance of a railway station, because he doesn't need to go up to London to work, because he doesn't need to earn a small fortune to live near a good school, because he doesn't need to send his daughter to a good school. Suddenly man realises that he's free. He can go anywhere, because his daughter can learn anywhere.

This is the story of a man whose life has hit the brick wall of mid life crisis, the tale of a family in flux, the continuing voyages of the Starship Who-The-Greasy-Poop-Knows-Where-We'll-End-Up. 

Join me.