Cooper Brown: He's Out There

'I'm imagining myself giving Suralan hell in the boardroom, when the headmistress interrupts my reverie'
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The Independent Online

I've been trying to get H-F into a school. No wonder you Brits are pretty dumb. According to Ben, it's impossible to get a kid into school unless you're banging the headmistress or are prepared to part with a couple of million for a new library.

Having been panicked into action by our neighbours moving to the country because they couldn't get their brat into anywhere "suitable", we set about applying. Man, what a scam. Just to be considered for entry you have to send a cheque that is entirely non-refundable. There are about 10 schools that Victoria considers "socially acceptable". (By this she means somewhere that she can tell her friends about without them making "chav" noises and acting out violent knife incidents in the playground.)

So I go about sending over a grand in the post as an early Christmas windfall for these assholes only to be rejected by eight of them by return – "return" with no actual return of my cheque, of course. I'm thinking of opening the Cooper Brown Academy and announcing that we are ready to consider applicants. I reckon I could cream off 10 grand a year from the non-refundable application letters. I'd have to call it something really stupid like "Golden Hearts" or "Little Piglets". Why not just go the whole hog? Self-tutor H-F and then give him outstanding results? Who would ever check?

Two weeks later, we get a couple of letters telling us that we have successfully made it to the "interview" round of two of our chosen establishments.

Victoria goes mental with excitement and rings Trinny to boast. I'm sitting there wondering whether it shouldn't be us interviewing prospective schools rather than the other way around? Apparently not – and Victoria doesn't want me to go to them as she thinks that I'll ruin our chances. Unbelievable. Everyone is happy for me to pick up the bill for these places, but I can't even go and ask questions...

I refused and told her that I was coming, whatever she said. She begged me to "dress properly", by which she meant a dumb blazer and chinos so that I'd look like all the other asshole dads from the City. I was going to wear my vintage Lords of the New Church T-shirt with the proud slogan "Fuck Like A Virgin" on it, but she was one step ahead of me and had hidden it. In the end, I played the game, and we set off for our first interview with me feeling like some regional bank manager.

We walked to the place – a Notting Hill town house that you would never tell was a school if you weren't "in the know". We go in to be met by this really snooty asswipe who gets us to sit down outside the headmistress's office. I suddenly feel like I'm back at junior high in Decatur waiting for Mr Brezhinski to call me in and adminster the "punishment". It was only years later that I realised that it was technically sexual abuse and that I could have simply refused to cooperate with what he did to me. Not that there would have been much sympathy back in the hippie commune in the Redwood Forest where Mom lived with my "dads".

I'm snapped out of this unpleasant flashback by the asswipe telling us that the headmistress is ready to see us. It's like being called in to Suralan's office in The Apprentice by the foxy Frances – except the asswipe is an asswipe and not foxy. (I would so totally wipe the floor with everyone on that show. I hope they keep me in mind for the next celebrity version. I would be top TV and give Suralan a run for his wrinkly money.)

Anyway, I'm just imagining myself giving him hell in the boardroom when the headmistress snaps me out of another reverie.

"I was just asking your wife how you heard of us, Mr Brown..."

"We're not married..." I replied, regretting it as soon as I spoke. "We're getting hitched in five weeks, actually, so... it'll all be all right when that happens..." Both Victoria and the headmistress are giving me "hope you die" looks.

The headmistress tries to pretend that she doesn't care but I can see that she does.

"Tell me a little about... I'm sorry, how do you pronounce the name?" She looks all snooty, like she has never heard an unusual name. Jesus Christ, the kind of kid that gets bullied in a Notting Hill school is the one called John or Jane – everyone is Merlin, Roosevelt or Mahiki. Don't play the prim bitch with me, lady.

"It's Humboldt-Fog," says Victoria. "It's quite common where my husband was raised, in northern California. It's a type of cheese..." The headmistress looked like something unpleasant had just crawled out from under her shoe and I could feel another "donation" cheque being cashed with no return. It was time for some action.

"Listen Miss Brodie, let's not beat about the bush here. How much money do you need right now for you to confirm H-F at your school so that we can all get on with our busy lives?" I was playing hardball and cutting through the snotty. There was total silence from an appalled Victoria and a gobsmacked headmistress.

After a moment, the headmistress stood up.

"I think that you have misunderstood what we are all about, Mr Brown. I'm going to have to terminate our interview session immediately."

Victoria started to cry and we got up and started to walk towards the door. As we got there and Victoria walked outside, tears streaming down her cheeks, the headmistress grabbed me by the arm and whispered: "Four thousand, cash, and he's in..."

Sometimes life actually is as easy as I think it is. I shook her hand and left to catch up with my distraught future wife to give her the good news. Cooper Out.