Arnold's World

11th September 1998 at 01:00
Look out for the advertisement soon to appear in the Tes classifieds under the Department for Education and Employment logo.

The successful applicant will be expected to run through the town, upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown, knocking on the windows, crying through the locks, "Are the children all in bed, it's past the time stipulated in the government directive?" Mr Blunkett, rushing in where even the most foolhardy angel would fear to tread, intends to tell parents exactly how long their children should spend in the Land of Nod. Parents, of course, will be delighted to receive this gratuitous advice.

Indeed, they will hope that, having sorted out the contentious issue of bed time, Mr Blunkett will bring the judgment of Solomon to bear on other aspects of family life.

For example, he could lay down the law on how long a child should be allowed to spend on the telephone, in the bathroom, and in a sulk.

The Highway Code could include a diagram, like that used for braking distances, which indicates the minimum distance children must travel on a family outing before being allowed to ask "are we there yet?"; to demand an emergency stop for a wee-wee or to be sick down the back of her father's collar.

A ministerial statement could establish how late into the evening a game of Monopoly may be continued before a parent can officially declare a stalemate. Further guidelines could clarify which member(s) of the family should be responsible for packing it away, and for fishing the mortgaged Water Works from the back of the sofa where it should never have been put in the first place.

A government that can outlaw landmines should be able to legislate against World Cup 98 footballs left on staircases, and tuna baps left in school bags from the last day of the summer term until the first week in September.

The Government has already tackled the vexed question of who should read the bedtime story. Dads must read to lads - it's official, Mr Blair said so on Woman's Hour. But it's generally recognised that if these bonding sessions are to be successful the story has to appeal to the male imagination - not for the sake of the son, but poor old dad who will be expected to plough through it umpteen times. Publishers should take note.

The estimable Mr Men series, for example, would benefit from the inclusion of volumes devoted to Messrs Orange, White, Black, Pink, Blue and Brown, text by Tarantino. The Postman Pat series could also do with a re-launch. What Greendale needs is a crime wave. Possibly, Ted Glenn could put a contract out on Mrs Goggins or diversify with a cash crop of ganja - it would, at least, give Pat a chance to kick some ass.

Not that it would appeal to most boys who, despite the depressing diet of violence served up to them by the TV, always show a preference for literature which can make them laugh. Nothing is more likely to get boys reading than the prospect of a story that will tickle the funny bone. So as my contribution to National Year of Reading, which starts this month, I intend to write the lads a story. It will be about some very silly politicians who believe themselves to be so important that they can tell mummies and daddies how to bring up their children. It is guaranteed to keep kids - and their parents - howling with laughter late into the night. Let's hope Wee Willie Winkie doesn't tell Mr Blunkett.

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