But there's one issue where I believe very much in making light with the odd pile of used readies. I refer of course to the important business of getting rid of one's children's schoolfriends. My son, Tom, has always had a habit of palling up to the most dubious characters in any class. Boys with crew cuts and "Blunkett Dies" tattooed on their knuckles. Tom is only six but he already makes up his own mind about who comes home. "Dad, I invited Moxy," probably means we'll be playing host to the 3R's latest superstar, the boy who punctured the head's tyres last week, using only the pin of his Blue Peter badge. Not that I object to Moxy's presence per se (providing I've had time to lock the garage). It's Moxy's dad who bothers me. Mr Mox is small and wiry, a former SAS unarmed combat instructor with very little small talk on the subject of Australia's latest Chardonnay.
In the past I've tried steering Tom towards the children whose parents appeal to me but he's got that one sussed. "That Gawain seems nice!" invariably goes unanswered.
It's as if Tom knows I've got wind of the fact that Gawain's Dad runs our local wine bar. Any attempt to kindle friendship there is bound to fail. I like the fact that Tom is learning to make up his own mind. I'd just rather he hadn't decided that his kind of guy is a six-year-old with a bedroom wall full of exclusion orders.
Personally I blame the teachers. They who decide who sits on which table. They determine whether my son comes under the influence of a boy whose father knows about the latest Coonawaara vintage or one who kills for his living.
What I suggest is hardly illegal. A crisp tenner with the name of the child whose parents I wish to cultivate. Stuff it in an envelope and hand it over with the dinner money. Academic integrity is maintained, the teaching profession benefits, and with any luck I get the odd gratis bottle of house white.
Failing that five quid for shifting him from Moxy, OK?