My daughter comes home waxing lyrical about secondary school - even the long lunch queues and non-existent drinking fountains are marvelled at. The payphone is so cool, she's used up most of her pocket money phoning me and her dad. All the teachers like her. She likes them right back. She's made new friends. Wonderful.
Her happiness continues, but a cloud looms on my horizon. The art teacher doesn't believe that we've been bankrupted by the cost of school uniform and PE kit, including indoor and outdoor trainers and football boots. Daughter produces a list of necessary art books and equipment - and an optional (ha ha) one. Just pound;10 or so. I seal a tenner and a sigh into an envelope.
The bliss continues, though one friend of the previous two days has been successfully courted by others. Teachers still smile upon Daughter, although the music teacher did point out that people who bring headphones from home, however good these are, stuff up the school's music system. He "suggests" that we buy regulation ones from him. I put "only" a fiver in the envelope. Daughter is relieved that she won't be upsetting the nice music teacher.
Thursday <> It rains buckets. Daughter loves cycling to school, come rain, come snow, but not carrying wet bikegear around all day. Also, Daughter believes in egalitarian relationships between adults and children. The deputy head doesn't. He yelled at her for something which wasn't her fault and wouldn't let her explain. She bemoans life's unfairness all the way home. I agree when she hands me a letter from the maths teacher. Her calculator isn't good enough. Only the "optional" one "suggested" by him in his welcome pack, is. I seal pound;7 in an envelope.
Daughter is beaming again.She's been elected to the student council. She's amassed a merit and several credits. A glowing secondary school career beckons. By the way, she needs pound;1 for the welcome disco, plus pound;1 for drinks and crisps. Plus pound;1 for the dance club taster session. Actually, she might as well sign up, since I always say clubs are a way of meeting new people. Only another pound;15. Daughter's free education is bankrupting us. I need a job, which means having to leave Daughter to fend for herself after school. Well, she's a big girl now.
Shereen Pandit is a writer of short stories and a poet. She lives in London