"How was school today, darling?" I asked my eight-year-old son as he trotted by my side, uncharacteristically quiet. He hunched his shoulders and muttered something.
"What?" "I said, Not Very Good!" he yelled.
Somewhat taken aback, I opened the door of our house.
I put out a plate of fruit and biscuits and settled down beside him on the sofa.
"What's wrong?" With a biscuit in one hand and an apple in the other, staring fixedly at the TV, he mumbled, "We had circle time today."
"Sounds interesting. What's circle time?" "Hmmpf. Well, it's not interesting. It's all about telling your feelings and passing a stone round. And Miss Marple takes it, not our real teacher."
"Perhaps it might be good," I suggested, "to share your feelings with your friends?" "Well, they're not all my friends, are they? There's Jake, I really hate him, and Dave, he's not my friend any more."
"Well, there's the girls."
"Oh yeah, the girls." He finished the biscuits and lay back. "Can I have some water?" I fetched the water.
"But you like some of the girls."
"Oh, I like them all right, some of them, but they don't mind all that stuff - are you happy today, are you sad, what makes you angry - that's what they chat about. But me and Abdul (his best friend) we don't like all that."
"So what did you say?" A big grin.
"We said, 'Pass'."
"What do you mean, the teacher asked you and you said 'Pass'?" "You pass the stone and you have to say 'I feel happy when I and say when you're happy and then pass it on. And you can say 'Pass' and you don't have to say. So me and Abdul, we said 'Pass' to all of 'em."
"It can't have been a very good lesson for Miss Marple."
Bill flicked channels.
"Why do they want to know about your feelings in school? They never used to. I'm going to keep my feelings at home, anyhow."
"You do that, pet, if you want."