I should be so lucky, that's no exaggeration

18th July 2008 at 01:00
As I approach my 20th wedding anniversary, I am reminded of my parents' 50th, which occurred earlier in the year

As I approach my 20th wedding anniversary, I am reminded of my parents' 50th, which occurred earlier in the year. I made a short speech at the celebratory dinner, just as I had 10 years ago at their ruby wedding.

This time, I decided not simply to repeat one of their frequent, harmless arguments, the ones that begin with my father exaggerating some event he has experienced, and end when my mother has negotiated him down to a more accurate stance. ("I tell you, son, we saw a herd of around 500 deer ." "Rob, you're exaggerating. There were about 40 .")

I could not resist repeating my dad's assertion that he was responsible for having Michael Winner's insurance commercial pulled from ITV, but that is too long, not to say implausible a story to recount here.

Instead, I talked about the children that my brother (polisman), sister (primary teacher) and I meet. You can, if you have nothing better to do, divide them into groups. Smart or dim. Good-looking or plain. Practical or haunless.

You might even categorise them as good or bad, possibly the most useless distinction of them all (I believe I have looked into the face of evil only once as a teacher, and that was found in the eyes of a Charles Manson look-alike parent with a bizarre take on God's word. And I'm not trying to be funny here).

In the end, the distinction that matters is "lucky and unlucky". The lucky ones have a parent or parents like my own. Happy with my family and my work, I am sometimes horribly conscious of how different it would have been, had I the misfortune to have been born into a different, indifferent home.

I could have been royalty - packed off to a boarding school I hated, or I could have spent my first year of life propped in the corner of a sofa with a baby's bottle in my mouth, ignored in a haze of cigarette smoke. Instead, I was lucky.

Something I think we should also celebrate is that today's schools do so much more for the unlucky children than those of 50 years ago. It may seem as if I'm exaggerating, but perhaps we are in a golden age - at least with respect to pupil support.

Gregor Steele got a sheepskin flying jacket on his last notable wedding anniversary.

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