A SURVEY of school parents' evenings by researchers at Bristol University found that only 75 per cent of parents regularly attended them, a figure which falls to 20 per cent in some inner-city comprehensives. And whose fault is this? Could it be the parents who prefer to get their feedback from EastEnders? No, of course not, it's the teachers. If they're not intimidating the parents, they're boring them with bland resumes of their child's progress. Some grown- ups, poor dears, have such bad memories of school that it traumatises them to go and spend 15 minutes with a teacher who is probably 20 years their junior. I know these parents well: they are the ones who ignore requests for help in the library or school clubs and never get the letters inviting them to evening discussions on SATS or the school's reading policy. But amazingly they never miss the microscopic smallprint on the newsletter informing them that the school photographer will be available on 8.30am Monday morning to take family groups. And they always have a temporary remission of school-phobia for the annual school disco.

This is not just a class thing, however. I had, in my bigoted way, assumed it was most prevalent amongst the families who breakfast on crisps and cherry cola on the way to school. But then a friend, who stalks the corridors of power at the BBC and gives her children porridge for breakfast, confided that she was terrified of our children's teacher - a mere slip of a girl who looks as if she wouldn't say boo to a goose but whose powers of control are quite awesome. (Forget cruise missiles - send Miss Blanchard out to Baghdad: she would have Saddam wimpering at her feet within minutes.) Anyway, I find these parent-teacher evenings hugely rewarding, providing you ask straightforward questions, like did you really tell my 11-year- old son that he had to go and see Titanic for his weekend homework?

There have been spooky parallels with the Diana saga in our household this week Dennis, our much loved rodent, was as you will recall hovering on the brink of death last week, but by Monday the vet had decided it would be kinder to help him on his way.

The task of taking him for his injection fell to Kelly, the children's nanny whose new job description now that the children are all at full- time school basically involves doing everything I'm no good at (yes, I've now got every woman's heart's desire - a wife. It's amazing, though, now she has full run of the house, to discover all the things about my housekeeping that have clearly irritated her beyond measure over the last five years: why did she never tell me before that she hated the way I leave the tea bags out on the counter? What other petty resentments have been building up, I wonder, as I quickly sweep the hard skin pickings from my heels under the sofa). Now Kelly never got on with Dennis - or his good friend Napoleon - but nevertheless this mission gave her no pleasure. Nor did breaking the news to the children, who instantly suspected a conspiracy. Did Dennis really die, or was he pushed? And the awful, shameful truth is that they are right - it is not Dennis that lies six foot under the camellia bush, but Napoleon. If we had to have a rat dying on us, then the least it could do was take the children's choice of name with it. Call me a snob but Napoleon is altogether a more fitting nomenclature, I feel, for the pet of a family who religiously attend parent evenings and eat a full English breakfast.