We're with the cat on this one;Opinion

9th July 1999 at 01:00
WHY do we choose what we choose? I bought this flat because I liked its windows (sash). I bought my car because I liked its windows too (electronic). In fact about the only thing I didn't buy because of its windows was my computer. I went for that because it had a sexy matt black finish. You might say therefore I am the typical impulse buyer, foolishly swayed by insignificant details. Personally I believe I'm no more capricious than those men who stipulate double glazing, twin carburettors or a binary modem. It's just that you can understand what I'm talking about and so my follies are more transparent.

It's the same when it comes to choosing a school for my younger daughter. I tend to favour the high school with all those plants in the library, whereas Ginny was very taken with the comp because it has a cat living in the staffroom. Her mother on the other hand really liked two of the other mums she met at St Kit's, one of whom has had exactly the same problem parking her car at Sainsbury's.

But surely, you say, this is serious stuff! Selecting a senior school is rather like that final scene in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade with all the chalices. Indie knows that the consequences of a foolish choice will be horrible, painful and immediate. For Ginny a wrong choice could be equally painful, even if it takes seven years for the poison to work its way through. Her whole life may well have been blighted before we realise we should have gone for the one with the pussycat in the staffroom after all.

So how do we choose? Schools do their best to help. They produce booklets with league tables and photos that tell you what a science lesson looks like. The prospectus for our local independent school even has shots of girls in ballgowns being escorted by handsome young men to the summer ball. But ultimately these documents are about as relevant as estate agent's particulars enumerating the number of power points to be found in each room. No one ever says: "I loved the flat but alas there just weren't enough sockets." We buy because we know we'd enjoy living there. Just as we choose a school because something indefinable tells us that our daughter will thrive in this environment.

Something cat shaped, maybe.

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