Sadness of being a white elephant

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
IT WAS the school fair on Saturday, reminding me yet again how sad it is see so many poor, unwanted old things hastily abandoned in the main school hall. I don't mean all those unbought books, the bric-a-brac and crackly Herb Alpert albums but us, the parents and grandparents who have come along to support these events. We are just as embarrassing to our offspring as that unsold collection of Alistair MacLean novels that I had donated last week after much inner debate.

By 4pm it was pretty clear that nobody much cared For Whom The Bell Tolls and wherever it was that eagles dared no member of the parents' association was going to be paying 10p to find out. Indeed it is only when faced with a copy of Osbert Sitwell, Monica Dickens or The Memoirs of David Lloyd George that most of us come to realise how much we actually value the 10p coin.

Abandoned by my daughters in the hall, I was beginning to realise that parents also date badly. There was a time when Sarah and Ginny actually squabbled for my attention. Dad was a domestic best-seller. Now the girls have remaindered me, giggling with relief as soon as they can run off to join a group of friends.

Fortunately I had my own father for company on Saturday and he was in fine form, talking to Mrs Blowsy, the head of lower school, recalling some of the fashionable excesses that they'd seen implemented during the 1970s. There was the time when my Dad's school went open plan and took off all the classroom doors (with the result that everyone got colds and several children wandered out never to be seen again). And the time when the local authority said spelling must not be corrected because doing so inhibited creativity. And that competitive sports must be phased out because they encouraged dangerous competition and times tables mustn't be taught because they encouraged ... dangerous multiplication, I suppose.

Those innovations were bestsellers too in their day. Yet if education policy had had its White Elephant stall on Saturday I suppose we'd have seen no-takers for most of them. They'd have been put into black bags at 5pm and stuffed in Mrs Blowsy's car for delivery to Oxfam first thing Monday morning. Mind, I don't want to worry anyone but I have heard Monica Dickens is making a comeback.

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