Wednesday, 9 September 2009

From Cool to School in 48 hours

This blog first appeared on The Bournemouth Echo website on 9th September 2009 and was also published by The Blog Paper on the same date.

I’ve just spent six weeks with one of the coolest kids in Bournemouth. I am not just talking “cool”; I’m talking UBER-COOL. My son has been on school holidays for a month and a half – routine was abandoned to the four winds and, for the main part, inspite of an odd day here and there when the uneasiness of slight boredom crept in – he has occupied himself very happily by posting his artwork to an arts website and writing reviews of comic books for his blog. The weather – as we know – wasn’t up to much but we managed to have a really enjoyable time together.

We didn’t have a “summer holiday” this year as finances wouldn’t allow – although, the end of the school holiday culminated in a weekend in London. It would probably have been less expensive for us fly from Hurn to “somewhere” abroad for a week than the exorbitant amount of money we managed to get through in the capital. Never mind – it’s “only” money, isn’t it?

My son, at the tender age of 12, found his spiritual home at Camden Market. He’s a tad young to actually “be” a Goth or an Emo but his taste in clothing very definitely veers towards “Emo” and Camden is, indeed, Emo heaven. He’s been after a long leather trench coat for a very long time. He hasn’t actually nagged about getting one as he’s far too subtle for that – he just bookmarked so many webpages showing the sort of coat he wanted that my PC very nearly ground to a complete halt. I’ve now been able to delete all the bookmarks because, at Camden, he found one. Kerching. He also found some absolutely inappropriate tee-shirts (the kind that make grandparents spin in their graves prior to their actual demise). Kerching. We drew the line at some truly vile black boots which appeared to have coiled springs located in their soles.

From Camden, where 1½ hours’ parking cost us nearly £7.00, we headed towards Shaftesbury Avenue where the iconic Forbidden Planet shop is situated. Another paradise for artistic kids and adults who like comic books, models of comic book heroes and posters. I didn’t grumble (and what’s more I didn’t allow my husband to grumble either) when son chose a couple of books he wanted to buy. I’m just very happy that I have a child who enjoys reading. I realised we’d actually managed to find bargain parking in Camden when I was charged £11.00 for 2 hours in an NCP in Gerard Place in Chinatown. Kerching. My only solace was that public transport for three of us would have equalled the amount we spent and at least we had the convenience of having the car with us. But, by the time evening came and we were due to see Omid Djalili as Fagin in “Oliver” at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, I’d decided that I’d actually had enough driving in London for one day and we actually took cabs to and from the theatre. Kerching.

The show was marvellous – it far surpassed my expectations (because, having been a very regular theatre-goer when I lived in London, I’ve sadly now become accustomed to being rather disappointed by touring theatre companies’ visits to Bournemouth which, try as they might, simply DO NOT match up to West End theatre productions). Three seats in the stalls, however (well ... if I’m going to see a good show, I want to sit in good seats – very good seats) cost us more than two nights in our hotel. Kerching. Never mind. This was our summer holiday!

We headed back to Bournemouth on Sunday – early in the day – in order (a) that we wouldn’t be tempted to spend any more money and (b) that the uber-cool kid in the long leather coat could get an early night or two before re-starting school today. And yesterday son’s face showed the benefit of the first early night – the mandatory Goth dark circled eyes had disappeared and a 12 year old boy was bright-eyed and bushy tailed. But as the day wore on the bright-eyed kid transformed into a very, very subdued little boy.

He’d had a hard, hard year in Year 7 last year. He’d been looking forward to attending a school with fantastic facilities and specialising in his favourite subject – art – but the reality of actually being there had hit him with a huge shock. He’d been the victim of several very nasty bouts of bullying (actually resulting in the suspension of several older boys); his lessons had been continually disrupted by constant changes in staff and really he was NOT looking forward to his first day back in Year 8. When I took him to school this morning, he looked very young and very forlorn (his appearance not actually being helped by the fact that age 11 jackets and trousers were miles too short for him and age 12 apparel is miles too long). He didn’t glance back at me when he got out of the car but it pained me to leave him there and I have been worried all day long.

When I collected him this afternoon, a Year 8 kid got into the car. Not uber-cool, not forlorn, just a Year 8 schoolboy. Apparently the day hadn’t gone as badly as he’d been expecting it to and the Year 7 boys were now the objects of the derision of the Year 10 and 11 boys. Year 8 and Year 9 boys seem to escape the worst of the bad treatment. The Year 8 schoolboy I bought home with me was hopeful that the rest of this year will go well and that he’ll be able to settle in and get some work done. He was wondering whether there was anything that he could do to help the Year 7 boys settle in quickly and not have such a rough ride in their first year at “big school” as he did.

Good to know, as a parent, that despite his uber-cool holiday demeanour and his quite strange taste in attire, my Year 8 schoolboy seems to have his heart very much in the right place.

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