My son, your son

The scene is the waiting room of Ridley Prep, the junior section of Ridley College, a highly regarded independent boys' day school in, let us say, Wimbledon. Mr and Mrs Upper are waiting with their son, James, who, although only ten, is in elaborate school uniform. Mr and Mrs Middle sit next to them with their son, Ben. Ben is the same age but wears trainers, tracksuit bottoms and an Oasis T-shirt

Mrs Upper James is at Chipmunks!

Mrs Middle Is that a school? Or a zoo?

(Mrs Upper laughs lightly)

Mrs Upper Chipmunks sends 50 per cent of its top stream to Ridley! James has been doing French and Latin haven't you James?

James Oui je have!

Mr Middle Ben is at the state primary. He's been doing Sexism and Wildlife. But he is close friends with a bus conductor's son!

Mrs Middle It is important for them not to be in a middle-class ghetto we feel. The state primary does produce a more rounded child we feel.

(All look at Ben who is picking his nose)

Mrs Upper Is that why you're sending him to a public (acidly) school?

Mr Middle Not really. We believe in the comprehensive system. But we didn't really like the look of our local comp. Ben plays the violin. And you can't play it there apparently.

Mrs Upper Do they have a prejudice against stringed instruments?

Mr Upper I know what you mean. The one near us is jam packed with black...er... (he manages to stop himself in time) ...railings. And there's an awful lot of bullying.

(He rounds on James)

Mr Upper Stop looking gormless. The headmaster doesn't want to see some moron walk in there...

(Mrs Middle, soothed by Mr Upper's total lack of political correctness smiles, with menacing sweetness at Mrs Upper, whose son is wiping his snot on his shirt)

Mrs Middle We feel that to start a child off in the independent sector can be too restricting. I mean I am sure Chipmunks isn't like that but some of them are just fancy dame schools with ridiculous yellow braid on the blazers for which you pay nine hundred a term.

(All look at James who is wearing a blazer with gold braid on it. He picks his nose and flicks it at Ben)

Mr Upper Well I suppose at least a primary is cheaper

Mr Middle Too right squire!

Mrs Upper Has your husband been made redundant or something?

Mrs Middle Gavin teaches Mediterranean Studies at the University of Reigate.

Mrs Upper What's that? Telling people how to shout at members of your immediate family?

(Mrs Middle is now practically squaring up to the other mother. Both men are looking at the floor)

Mrs Middle We just hate this idea that education is simply a matter of money. We only buy our children's education because Mrs Thatcher destroyed the inner London comprehensives.

Mrs Upper And the idiot Labour Government destroyed the grammar schools.

Mrs Middle And we regret that little Ben who's just been growing naturally is now going to have to be force fed with a lot of stockbrokers' sons who think culture is something that helps you survive at parties!

(Mercifully the door opens and the headmaster emerges with the Akhbar Family)

Headmaster Wonderful to meet you young Muhammed! I don't think I have ever heard a clearer explanation of the particle theory of light! Mr and Mrs Upper would you like to bring young James in!

Mr Upper Wonderful to see you again Headmaster! We met at the Chipmunks' Bring and Buy did we not?

(She turns with a triumphant grin to Mrs Middle)

Mrs Upper Best of luck to young Sid! Did you know there's a Latin component to the Ridley Exam?

Ben What's Latin?

Ben cont Only joking.

Mr Akhbar Very nice to meet you all!

(Ben gets up. The Akhbars depart, with great dignity and style, for their waiting Rolls Royce)

Ben That James looked a real tosser. Now - can we go over this again? I am not to mention the Maths tuition the Latin tuition the Greek tuition or that Dad has been tying me to the bed every night to make me finish Catcher in the Rye by well-known American author JD Salimber.

Mr Middle Salinger, you berk. And try not to use the word "tosser".

Ben I thought it was your favourite word!

Mrs Middle I didn't like the look of the Akhbars. I mean it's wonderful that Ben will be mixing with Asian boys. But they are so competitive!

(She crawls towards the headmaster's door and glues her ear to the keyhole. Ben and his father both look at the floor)

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