Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
So how was school today, darling? "Shit." she says. I do not want to hear that kind of language in this house, I tell her. "You use it." Ah, I say. Well I'm allowed to. Not only that but it's part of my job, as a dad--especially when studying gas bills, or if I find that the bathroom is covered in shampoo for some reason. In fact there was a bill passed through Parliament recently, dictating that dads must by law, use a certain amount of that language once their children reach a certain age.
So we get to talking about education. She doesn't want to go to university. Apparently, she says, you just get a big debt-- about 23 grand-- and then, even if you get your degree, you probably won't get a job. What will she do instead? She'll do her GCSEs and if they're okay, she'll go out to work. She wants a job. If not, she'll go to college, take another run at them and then get a job. Her best friend, another writer's daughter and a very clever girl, doesn't even want to bother with school anymore. She's out of there like a shot as soon as she can do it. She wants to go out to work. What sort of work? " Beautician or hairdresser." she replies. Might these not be bimbo jobs, I ask?
"Hairdressers are some of the happiest people in the workplace." she tells me. "Because they make other people happy." This is a chastening reply for me, as I suddenly remember my very good friend, a hairdresser, who is happy, pretty wealthy and spends much of his time having Citybreaks in Venice. Fair enough, I say. "Well you don't want me to do music, do you?"
Baby, I say,. I would love you to do music. I just don't want you to get your heart broken by it. You can work and work and work and be the most brilliant person in the world at it, but it's one of the few occupations where your work and persistence are not guaranteed to be rewarded. Trust me on this. Besides, absolutely everybody wants to do music. A man called Walter Pater (I think) once said that all art aspires to the condition of music. In other words, everybody wants to be the singer. Or karaoke nights would never have taken off. "But it's the main thing I'm interested in." she says. Do some writing as well, I tell her. Never think that because you have one talent, that there isn't a second, or even a third nestling in there somewhere. It was my own biggest mistake during my early years.
She still doesn't want to go to Uni, and neither, it seems, do many of her friends. I will support her in this. There have been two recent salient items in the news. One, is that there are far too many students who want to go to Uni when there simply aren't enough places. The second one is that employers, especially one mega supermarket, are complaining because they're now getting an intake lacking in basic numeracy, literacy and communication skills. In many instances, this includes a proportion of university graduates. I would predict that the former problem won't last too long. Because if a couple of fairly smart provincial secondary-school girls refuse to be conned by the Big Debt and No Job scam which our rulers are currently running under the flag of education, then how long before the rest of their generation, put two fingers up to it, too?
Listen, I tell her, learn how to write a letter. Learn how to answer a telephone cheerfully and clearly. Learn how to do basic end-of-evening till receipts and to add up your own wages slips.Oh and one other thing: Punctuality. If you are working for someone and they say "Get here at 9.a.m." then be there at five to. That's all it takes. And you will work. I know at least one employer, who doesn't care what qualifications you have. He just wants you to be cheerful, efficient and crucially, there.
Unfortunately, you can do none of this for another two years or so since you can't leave school until you're sixteen. "Well I know a girl who's working for her dad at fourteen and helping to run the restaurant." she says. I don't have a restaurant, I tell her...but you can make me a cup of tea if you want. She says: "Hollyoaks is on TV." Exactly, I tell her. And I go away, feeling like somebody's old dad.
Somebody's old dad, yesterday.