Tune in, switch off - Tears and tugs to go

26th February 2010 at 00:00

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. Unless you watched Leaving Home at 8 (Channel 4) and saw for yourself the folly of Forces parents on the move, trying to create some security for their daughters by placing them in a boarding school. Ironically, these were the very families that should bring up their own children, unlike Mr and Mrs Alcoholic Asbo on the housing estate nearby whose children's life chances could be transformed by a bit of boarding.

It wasn't Dotheboys Hall. The new eight-year-olds were well looked after, offered decent meals, stimulating teaching and activities galore at Highfield in Hampshire, a top prep. But it wasn't home. Summoned to ease the pain, nurse told the little people there was no medicine for homesickness, advising them to keep busy and get really tired. My wife gives me the same advice.

Yet no amount of galloping about the stately grounds could compensate these tiny exiles who were grieving for their mothers. We used to threaten our kids with boarding school when they were particularly badly behaved. Nowadays we would be up before child protection for such cruelty.

Oddly, fathers were not mentioned in this mummy-centric yet mother-free universe. Back at home, meanwhile, the mothers moaned with that Princess Diana at the Taj Mahal look - pools of sorrow in limpid eyes. They had lost their offspring after only eight years. It's bad enough 10 years later when they clear off to university. Eight is a childhood gone.

Keeping busy, one mother briskly walked her dog. No threat of kennels: we are always kinder to animals. Brief reunions revealed mothers' hugs and fears; children's tugs and tears. And if the parents suffered more than their kids, we felt it served them right.

There were more tears on Piers Morgan's Life Stories: Gordon Brown (ITV1). Alastair Campbell was close to tears on the Andrew Marr Show because the playground bullies keep teasing his mate, Tony, about Iraq. So would old Growly Jowly copy the spin supremo's mix of sneers, tears and smears?

For this was I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Back in Here - here being Number 10. Every insult made about him was re-heated and served up by Morgan. "I've gotta get better," joked the Prime Minister as his mistakes and social ineptness were paraded like a game of pinning the tail on the donkey at a children's party. The audience laughed and the opinion polls remained obstinately static.

Time to show emotion; on cue, the Prime Minister revealed his agonies as a parent facing the death of his baby daughter, perhaps copying David Cameron who does the same routine about his son.

The camera repeatedly panned to Sarah Brown in the audience. Why was she not by his side? I may have forgotten how to teach drama, but I can remember this cheap trick heightens the focus.

If the Prime Minister was completing his self-evaluation form for Ofsted on his performance and his government's, too, I wonder what grades he would give. Now shed those tears.

Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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