Freddy's blog: A run of bad form

When I was 13 years old I had a run of bad form at school. First I got in trouble for insulting my French teacher’s fur coat. She was a Russian woman called Madame Filipovna. A very mean and unsympathetic woman, except when she was using her hand puppet, Monsieur Placard. That’s right: Mr Cupboard (and his is the only real name used here). I didn’t like her very much, and so out came my early polemic against the atrocities of the fur trade as embodied by her – or on her.

She wasn’t there at the time but Mr Batten heard me and made me write an essay, on which I did a fairly poor job – thanks to following my Mum’s instructions precisely – prompting an unfairly brutal public humiliation. I didn’t like Mr Batten much either, until a year or two later when he realised I was quite good at hockey and started being nice to me. Meanwhile I was clashing with Mr Jansen over my best position on the rugby field, with my refusal to play second row resulting in a demotion to the 3rd XV and having to work my way back up as an inside centre. And then it was my birthday and the excitement of that and the stress made me ill.

My housemaster, Mr Clayman, accused me of faking it to get out of trouble and I had to go and see the headmaster, Mr Oxbow-Platt, when I was back. My dad told me I had to apologise for my misdemeanours and feigning illness, even though I didn’t do that, but he also went to see the headmaster himself and allegedly reminded him what it’s like to receive a robust verbal chastisement rather than give one out.

It was a bad month or two and I remember it vividly. I can also think of all sorts of subsequent personal issues that seem to be rooted in that short time and especially in my parents’ way of handling it.

I was reminded of it in the last couple of weeks when we had a broken window the day before we went on holiday and a couple of days after we put our house on the market. Then on holiday half the family were ill and we needed a total of seven appointments at the doctor, it rained the entire second week, we hit a bollard with the rental car (although we did get away with that one), I lost my season ticket at the airport on the way back and almost every viewing we had cancelled on the day they were supposed to see the house. Nothing like the fur coat thing, but it did feel like a run of bad form, made worse by framing an otherwise wonderful holiday.

But it happens easily and the stress is real. Little things stack up and quite a privileged world seems to be ending. I want my daughter to be able to handle it better than I did aged 13. I want to show I can handle it better than my parents did when I was aged 13. And I want to prevent a run of bad form looking like the root of problems to come.

The answer is simple, not too expensive, rather anticlimactic (sorry) and employed by dads everywhere, especially those whose families have just been visited by anthropomorphic tigers. I’m going to take my girls out to dinner, have a laugh and an ice cream, and reset the form table.

That’s it.

Freddy works a nine-day fortnight as a kind of deluxe jack-of-all-trades for a trade association in the City. On his day off he and his bright, happy daughter read books about animals, play with animal stickers and go to look at animals!.

Category: A Cityfather's Diary


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