Category Archives: education

School, Little Elf, Change

Always different and always the same.

Four years ago, I had a turn at delivering dudelet to nursery. Supermum had actually taken him to his first day so by the time I walked him to school he’d already been ‘socialised’ into the norms of the nursery experience. Back then, parents could lead their children right into the large, awkwardly-shaped open-plan space with its 19th century hall.  Dudelet held on to my hand and showed me the hamster, the place where he put his bag, the sand tray and the funny-things-hanging-from-the-ceiling until the teacher clapped her hands and he toddled off obediently to sit on the carpet with his nearly-four-year old peers. He still sneaked me a quick “look-at-me” wave, though and a wide-eyed grin, amazed to be sitting there in the midst of a newly independent, mysterious world, at once circumscribed and vast.

I went outside, overwhelmed by the sense of gateways opening and closing and, to be honest, my own memories of more than forty years previously. It wasn’t the scent or taste of a madeline so much as the high angle of the ceiling and the low sticky-back plastic covered tables and…and…

Well, I cried a bit.

Little elf was different. Supermum and I took her together for her first day after we’d persuaded to put some clothes on (she’s very prone to naked protests). First we dropped dudelet off at the ‘big’ playground with the other Year Threes then  headed across the school to the nursery classrooms. Little elf showed me her hook with her name on but (different building, new head teacher, change in policy) I had to stop at the classroom door and watch her scamper off to join the other children on the assembly mat. She was already chatting and didn’t even look at me.

Earlier, she’d shared a few anxieties, mostly about lunch.

“I won’t be able to eat.”

“You’ll be able to choose something you like.”

“But how will they know?”

“You can tell them what you want to eat.”

“But what if I can’t tell them?”

“You can point.”


This time, I didn’t cry. I don’t know why. Perhaps we suspect there’s something more resilient about our daughter? Or perhaps we’ve just grown thicker skins? There are so many transitions, so may never-to-be-turned-back motions of the clock and we can’t cry about them all. There aren’t enough tears in the world.

Theories about Anne Frank and Lis Sladen

The fact is, children see death and horror differently from us.

I was profoundly saddened by Lis Sladen’s death – she was an icon of my childhood and brought me and dudelet together in our first common enthusiasm. I think Dudelet was also upset but he dealt with it in his own inimitable way.

“Will they get someone else to play Sarah-Jane?”

“No, I shouldn’t think so. I hope not.”


It evidently continued to prey on his mind as the following day, he showed up at 7am at the foot of our bed and announced,

“I know why they can’t get another Sarah-Jane!”

“Why?” we asked, dozily.

“Because they’d have to go back and edit all the old episodes. And then they’d have to go into all the shops and change all the DVDs. And they’d have to go round everyone’s homes and take all the old DVDs and replace them with the ones with the new Sarah-Jane and people wouldn’t like that.”

I lay there imagining hordes of BBC meninblack swarming across the country re-writing television history in such an apocalyptic, Stalinist way and had to agree. People really wouldn’t like it. It sounded like something Michael Gove would come up with.

He also shared his notions about Anne Frank after catching glimpse of a book cover in a shop window.

“Oh look! Anne Frank!”

“Yes – do you know who she was?”


“What do you know?”

“Well, she hid from the Germans in Holland and they marched up and down outside her window in their big helmets with wings on.”

(Wings on?)

“What happened then?”

“Then she had to hide from them.”

I mentally begin to review the explanation of the Holocaust I’ve been saving for a moment like this.

“And then they caught her.”

“They caught her?”

“Yes. Someone betrayed her and the Germans, well, the Nazis, the German Nazis that is, took her away.”

I wondered if this was a good moment to explain concentration camps and the Nazis but dudelet interrupted.

“There’s another theory – I think she was standing by the window and they saw her.”

I think I’ll try and tackle it later. Is seven too young to explain genocide?