There must be an absolute stampede for the gents' lavatory when Clinton responds to the call of nature
Monday 23 June 1997
"Wiping crumbs, genitalia and other preoccupation's (sic)" was the topical title of a painting in the final degree show at Brighton Polytechnic. Bereft of babysitters, we had to take all four children with us to the private view on Friday night; you would think they would welcome the opportunity for some late-night carousing, but the word `art' or 'gallery' is guaranteed to bring mine out in terminal sulk mode. They have seen naked men in glass cases at the Hayward, a wall of willies at the Serpentine and still they insist that art is boring. But then perhaps we have been too liberal - my childhood exposure to art was, after all, limited to furtive searches for bare bottoms in a book of Ingres. The girls, in celebration of the Turner shortlist, were more appreciative than the boys - they frolicked in a latex padded room cell like true performance artists. But my thirteen- year-old insisted on humiliating us by doing a William Hague - declaiming in oratorical young fogey tones that painting a yellow rectangle on the wall was not art, thus giving our arty Brightonian friends - whose teenage children do them credit by piercing their belly buttons and running away from home - the perfect opportunity to sneer at us for deserting state education at secondary level.
It's particularly nauseating to hear the Conservative party milking William Hague's credentials as a comprehensive school boy, as if he were some sort of war hero, triumphing against enormous odds. Apart from the fact that it is patronising 90 per cent of the school population, it is also deceitful (a Conservative trait evidently not restricted to Old Etonians): if it was a grammar school when he started there, it hardly gives him the right to claim he opted for a comprehensive education. But still, fudging over the issue of where you send your children to school is a middle class prerogative. I'm guilty of it myself - the admission that my oldest goes private is always followed by disclaimers - that it's an old grammar school, that most of its intake comes from the state sector, that it is described as "not for social climbers" in the Good Schools Guide. Meanwhile friends who send their children to comprehensives in leafy suburban areas ("leafy" is a standard educational euphemism for "middle class") are honour bound to exaggerate street cred factors: when they mention "knives in school", it's actually canteen cutlery they're talking about.
Sports day was a disappointment this year: I had hoped to witness first- hand some of the parental competitiveness I have heard about from friends (my favourite is of a mother seen castigating her child after the 200 metres - "Second is not good enough"). My son had implored me not to go and I had rather excitedly assumed that this was because he thought I would shame him by turning up in an outrageous, radical chic outfit. But it turned out the reason he didn't want me to go was because he wasn't going either; attendance was optional unless you were a sporting hero. Consequently I had to stand there in the pouring rain with the four other parents who had turned up, staring fixedly in to the middle distance, pretending that one of the muscly little brutes was mine. This completes a lifetime of sporting humiliation which began for me at the age of four, when I stopped short of the finishing tape because I thought you had to jump over it, and continued with a younger sister who won the Victrix Ludorum at every sports day, while my best result was a fourth equal in a sack race with five contestants.
Those bastards at BSkyB are really turning the screws now: they've bought the next series of Friends and ER. But dammit, we're not giving in. If the pitiful sight of the boys watching England football matches on Ceefax hasn't weakened our resistance, it would be too shameful if I capitulated over middle-age lust for George Clooney.
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