Sing along now: summer loathin' happened so fast ..

20th July 2012 at 01:00


Finally, some three weeks into the holidays, I am getting a decent night's sleep as the pressures of last session begin to ease. I am even beginning to remember my dreams again, always a sign that my sleep is more relaxed.

Last night, for example, I dreamt was in "Curriculand", where all pupils wear school uniform, are polite and respectful to their teachers, always do their homework, never play with mobile phones or eat chewing gum in class, and study hard for every test and exam.

Where teachers are paid the same as doctors, can retire at the same age as policemen, where supply teachers get full pay, every new school course is provided with sample assessments and national support materials for pupils, which they can all download on their iPads, bought with the money the government saved from shutting down Glow, and .

And then I woke up.


Gail has invited her appalling family round for a barbecue tomorrow, so I spent most of today cleaning it, an unpleasant task that involved clearing the congealed and hardened ashes out of the base after its final outing (and subsequent stay on the rain-soaked patio) last August.

Gail's helpful advice was to remind me that I "should have cleaned it at the time, then it would've been a lot easier".

Teachers, like my wife, are good at that: stating the bloody obvious.


Incessant rain has meant postponement of the barbecue until tomorrow, weather permitting. Frankly, as we leave for Majorca on Friday morning, I think we should have postponed it further, but Gail is eager to catch up with her family. I'm not.

At least the postponement gave me plenty of time to buy supplies, especially as I had to make two supermarket visits because Gail declared herself unhappy with my first-time selection.

"Morris," she frowned: "We need more than drumsticks and sausages for a barbecue."

"No we don't," I countered. "Drumsticks and sausages are the only things that people eat at barbecues, it's the same every time we have one - they just want sausages, drumsticks, sausages, and more sausages."

"Speak for yourself," she commanded. "And get back to Tesco for some decent ingredients!"


Sunshine having dawned brightly this morning, the barbecue proved to be everything I'd expected. And worse.

It started badly when the fire took rather longer than planned to ignite properly, with the result that our cooking time was slightly diminished: no problem for the sausages, but the pork chops and rib-eye steaks were perhaps rather rushed in preparation.

Gail's mother was as critical as ever, her father as somnolent, but it was Mike, her wealthy brother, who proved the most irritating piece of grit in our holiday oyster, as he shared his views on where Scottish education was going wrong.

"But, Morris!" he exclaimed fiercely, when I protested that teachers did indeed need long holidays: "What are you teaching them in those 190 days you have them? If they could come into society able to read and write properly, then I wouldn't mind. But in the real world where I work, they can't even string a sentence together. What are you going to do about it?" he challenged, biting the end of a particularly well-fired sausage, as if I alone was responsible for all the failings of Scottish education.

I protested the values of Curriculum for Excellence, whereupon he barked rudely: "Hah! As far as I'm concerned, it's Curriculum for Excrement", as if he was the first person in the world to think of such a hilarious description. Things went downhill swiftly after that, as he explained his intention of sending Poppy - my four-year-old niece - to a private school "to avoid the worst ravages of the system, or maybe we should move down south, where Michael Gove seems to have the right idea - rote learning of poetry and a proper grounding in basic English grammar".

I was furious, especially as the apple of his fatherly eye was further down the garden kicking lumps out of our own son, Fraser.

I asked Mike if he'd ever read The Slap, wherein an adult at a barbecue becomes so incensed by the behaviour of someone else's child that he slaps said offspring in an ill-fated attempt at restorative justice.

Unsurprisingly, he hadn't.


Our holiday got off to a disastrous start when we met the appalling Kennedy family at the airport check-in queue. There was Douglas, the educational iconoclast of Greenfield Academy's 2N, accompanied by his unkempt father and slovenly mother, plus younger brother Damion, all dressed in matching tracksuits.

My distress at sharing a flight with them was multiplied tenfold after I sneaked a look at their luggage labels under the guise of offering a handshake and best wishes for a good holiday - only to discover they were staying in the same hotel. Talk about a teacher's nightmare.

And to cap it all, Gail's brother called to say that Mike is laid up in bed with severe stomach upset, an ailment which he blames on my undercooked pork chops.

"Well," I nodded sagely to Gail, trying to conceal my secret pleasure at the news: "I told you we should've stuck to sausages."

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