Father's day

9th December 2005 at 00:00
Why are people so stupid? Really, really stupid. Look - they're all around you! There they are: astrologers; homeopaths; ladies of a certain age who queue up outside concert halls for nights on end in sub-zero temperatures in order to reserve front row seats for Daniel O'Donnell; the entire audience of Steve Wright In The Afternoon; Steve Wright; people who leave football matches five minutes before the end.

Yes, OK, I suppose if you are 5-0 down, with nine men on the pitch, then there is always a temptation to go home early. But not every week, whether your team is about to conclude a glorious victory, or snatch a late and lucky equaliser. I don't care if you're trying to avoid the traffic. I don't care that you want to be first at the bar. The end is often the best bit. You are choosing to miss the best bit. Are you crazy?

I don't blame schools for this pandemic of idiocy. When I help in the infants, I see dedicated teachers doing their best to produce intelligent minds. Maybe it's a pattern of behaviour that's learned before school has a chance to exert its benign influence. I mean, this morning, in Miss Cox's class, I am listening to a boy read who I had already marked down as a little bit crazy a couple of years ago.

Back then, he was something of a pain. Awkward. Silly. Constantly fidgeting. (Granted, he was four years old. I am working on my empathy issues.)

But his behaviour and his reading have come along tremendously. And he is loving the story, a beautiful picture book about a squirrel, a duck and a cat and their life together in the woods making pumpkin soup (Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper, pictured. It's published by Corgi books, if you're interested). He reads and laughs, and reads and concentrates, and then... We are a couple of pages from the finish when the rest of the class return from assembly. Suddenly, his mood changes. Once more, he is the little fidget I remember from reception, twitching in his seat, glancing at the door.

"Hang on," I tell him, "just read this last little bit and you can get ready for playtime." But he won't. He can't concentrate any more. He stares longingly at his coat peg.

"Shall I finish the story?" I say, despairingly, as the others zip and button up. "It'll only take a minute."

No good. He bails out, never knowing if the squirrel and the duck and the cat learn to make up their differences. And that was the best bit! How can anybody choose to miss the best bit? Crazy!

Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent-helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend

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