Sins of our Fathers

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Freud, and where the hell were you when I needed you in 1984?

So one day I find myself living the nightmare of all teachers' kids.  Not enough that I have been again uprooted, this time from a school in Scotland, where I was constantly bullied for being an English bastard eventually pretty happy and settled, and dumped instead in a rich kids' International School in Northern Europe. Now, worse still, my dad, the Northern Socialist, turns out to be my geography master.

My classmates, from what I can gather before the nightmare begins, are a heady mix of Eurotrash, US corporate offspring, children of diamond dealers, Indian princes and South African arms dealers' spawn. I have surmised this from behind my silent veil of chewing gum, gallons of mascara and Duran Duran scarf. This outfit does, I must admit in hindsight, rather tend to differentiate me from my new classmates. They, by sartorial contrast, sported the mid-Eighties uniform of jade green cashmere, frilly blouses and stonewashed baggy jeans. Even the girls. Being an International School meant that, in the 1980s, if you could write your own name and use the bathroom unaided, you would graduate cum laude.

Anyway. Period six, and  I am slumped in the back row, furious. The Northern Socialist is showing uncharacteristic bonhomie. 'Right, I want you all to stand up when I point to you and say where you come from and we can all get to know each other.' 'My name is Dimitri, I'm from Greece', 'Hi, my name is Phil, I'm Californian.' 'Good day, I am Ton, I come from Holland.' The NS is like a cocktail party host, 'Oh, lovely, how interesting, California, are you a vegetarian?' The pointing finger moves closer.

'You. The bovine one in the back row (he is undoubtedly talking to me). Chewing gum in the bin, please.' 'Manish, great to meet you, we'll be looking at diamond mining this term.' 'Susan, you're from Georgia! Do you know what a levee is?' Oh Christ, I know the NS and he can't resist the lure of any tenuous link to song - in this case to a man-made feature.  Just please don't let him sing Don Maclean. Too late. He sings - and I use this term in its loosest sense - 'Drove my chevy to the levee...'. I slump even lower in my chair.

With ominous certainty, the finger alights on me. 'You. Where do you come from?' I lumber crossly to my Doc Martin-ed feet. 'You want me to say where I come from?' Collective gasp of breath at the new girl showing unspeakable insubordination. 'Aye, I do.' I  mutter 'Scotland.' 'What? a JOCK? Well, no doubt you'll be educationally sub-normal. Don't worry, I will use very small words and you can have special colouring-in exercises to do.' This is my Dad, trying to be funny, oh and put me at my ease. Nice one, Dad.

I forget, mercifully, the rest of that lesson. At the end of it, I find myself in the oxymoronic 'study hall.' A kind Dutch girl, who later becomes one of my dearest friends bounces up to me. 'You were in Geography just now.' I burn in shame and nod imperceptibly. 'That was appalling. He really bullied you and showed no respect for your nationality. I'll come with you if you want to make a complaint to the Faculty Board.' 'Leave it,' I mumble, 'He's my dad.' 'No, really, I will support you with the B - what did you say?' 'I said he's my dad.' A long silence ensues as the entire room considers this statement.  Well, what could they say, really?  I like to think that the silence was redolent with empathy at the sheer awfulness of my predicament.  In retrospect, they had spotted a hideous troublemaker and all sidled silently away from low geography marks. They weren't as stupid as they looked.

Me? I'm over it now. Honestly.


  1. Gail, in northern California9 November 2009 at 04:50

    Unbelievably hurtful. Why did he do that?

  2. Gail, bless you. Because he thought it was funny. Which it was.

  3. Gail, this is the Colonel. Trust me, she's over it. The sense of humour gene in that family is, shall we say, robust. I am living, if scarred, proof thereof.

  4. Love your are a natural story teller and I look forward to reading more, xv.

  5. Lovely to see you Vicki and thank you so much! E

  6. What no mention of being able to smoke smelly french tabs during school hours, loosing basketball games by shooting in the wrong basket,and snogging the boy I fancied on the french trip - spill the rest of the beans and stop slating the NS!

  7. Get off my blog you trouble maker. No, I didn't think any of those things worth a mention.

    He was a terrible snogger. And possibly a secret vegetarian...

  8. I remember the NS, all the boys in Scotland were petrified of him

  9. Scotland. Europe. West Indies. Middle East. His global terror reach was unrivalled. Absolute poppet of an old grandad these days. Bless.


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