MAN'S WORLD

CRANKY RIGHT-WING supergenius Roger Scruton has become a dad, at the ripe age of 54. Last week he outlined his plans for raising his five-month-old son in a Sunday Telegraph article. His intentions are summed up by the question, "If John Stuart Mill could read Greek at the age of six, why shouldn't Sam?" Greek children can read Greek by the age of six, so I'm sure it's possible. Scruton also hopes that his son's English will "match that of the four-year-old Macaulay, deflecting the attentions of meddlesome toddler-coddler with the words: 'I thank you Madame, the agony is somewhat abated'". Now I've seen both Home Alone films and I don't recall this line, but Scruton's memory is probably better than mine.

I'm glad Roger Scruton isn't my dad but I do feel some sympathy for him. I remember what it's like to have a five-month-old son. Behind his expression of perpetual bewilderment, you imagine all sorts of things going on. At this point there is indeed no reason why little Sam shouldn't read Greek at six. Later on, several dozen reasons may become apparent.

My son Johnny is now 14 months old and extremely good-natured. When I toss him a ball he smiles beatifically as it bounces twice and hits him in the face. He just keeps smiling as if being hit with a ball were the most natural thing in the world. There is a placidity to him which Professor Scruton would no doubt call complacency.

Johnny also speaks with a fluency that few children his age possess, albeit in a language that no one understands. I have toyed with the possibility that it might be ancient Greek, but it seems it's only Greek to me, and to everyone else. I detect words, but not meaning. This is a transcript of a recent conversation:

"Diggle." "What?" "Mythical." "What?" "Reticule!" "Juice? Do you want juice?" "Gorbals. Jif."

He can shake or nod his head for yes and no, but he's got them mixed up, and we've all had to adopt his system.

Scruton says his son will learn the finer points of language from "our nightly reading of the classics and our home performances of Shakespeare". This is clearly the hollow boast of a man who has never tried to play a game of Snap with a four-year-old. It's satisfying to think that Scruton Sr will also learn his lessons the hard way.

Professor Scruton and I do have one parenting flaw in common. "I have restrung the guitar," he writes. "Each evening I play to Sam, and sing from a book of English folk songs which tell stories in strophic form." I too have restrung my guitar, and I also play to my sons, although the only English folk song I know is "Mellow Yellow". Even this had to stop, because my older son got sick of it and hid the guitar, but I'm still looking for it.

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