My idle, blissful, ignorant youth

21st September 2001 at 01:00
When I tell people that I and my ridiculously large number of siblings (there's roughly eight of us: as we look scarily similar, like pasty Russian dolls in trackie bottoms, we can't count with 100-per-cent accuracy) didn't go to school, they say: "Oh, did your parents teach you at home?" To which I say: "No, we just didn't go to school."

Then they say "(About) eight kids! Are your parents Catholic?" I reply:

"No; just shag-happy loons." Then they say "(Roughly) eight kids, no school, no lessons ... what's all that about?" and I cheekily twinkle "Too much acid in the Sixties, I fear."

Thanks to LSD and our admirably relaxed local education authority, we lived every child's dream - frisking like Brummie otters all the long day - never once having to write an essay on the Romans. We were taught nothing! Not even our four-times table! Mum once accidentally told Caz how Impressionism started - but then, we might have got that off the lyrics of "Vincent Van Gogh" on Jonathan Richman's Rockin' and Romance album.

The days were spent in a heady whirl of watching classic 1950s musicals and smiting pixellated aliens; night, of course, was for telly.

Dad would sometimes take us on "nature walks" and, in between stealing bits of fencing, would point out a thrush ("Your Uncle Mick once ate one of those"). My mother - immersed in her project of spending every minute reading the books of, or pretending to be, Daphne du Maurier - would swat us away, shouting: "Go and read a bloody book!" I think she hoped we'd tackle philosophy. Instead I read 46 manuals on cake-decoration whilst Caz ringed the rude bits in Jilly Cooper's Riders.

You will be thinking "My God! Those retarded sub-literate kids!", to which I'd say: "You've met my brother Joe, then." But seven out of eight isn't bad for a life of educational indolence. I believe the proportion compares well with many top prep schools.

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