Thursday, 25 June 2009


I came rushing down the stairs when the phone started ringing. My wife was reaching out to the instrument, but I yelled at her to leave it and snatched it up. I’d been waiting for this. All through my bath I’d been planning what I was going to say. It was no surprise when a wheedling voice enquired;

“Hello? Is that Muh-Mr Buh-bare-bare-badman?”

“No, this is not Mr Bare-bare-badman. Mr Bare-bare-badman does not live here, you intellectually challenged mollusc. Neither does Mr Madman, Mr Batman or Mr Bedpan. You’ll find no-one here called Sadman, Crabman, Fatman, Splatman, Taxman, Ratman, Catman, Saucepan or Katmandu. I will not deign to converse with morons who call up spouting verbal diarrhoea in stupid, squeaky voices. You are an odious, pathetic non-entity with the intelligence level of a pine cone. If you ever call here again I will track you down and personally see to it that you receive the full frontal lobotomy that you so richly deserve and that will no doubt result in a doubling of your I.Q!”

I slammed the phone back into its cradle, drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly with a sense of achievement. I strode purposefully into the kitchen, beamed at my wife and kissed her on the forehead.

“Are you feeling unwell, Badders?” she asked with concern.

“Me? Not a bit of it. I feel really good. In fact I feel so good that I think I won’t have my usual Choco Straws for breakfast, my dear. No – I think a boiled egg is in order this morning.”

I almost skipped to the kitchen table and grasped the handle of the saucepan waiting for me there.

An icy hand of dread ran its fingers up my spine and plucked the small hairs at the base of my neck. I turned stricken eyes to my wife who stared uncomprehendingly at me.

“Whatever’s wrong?” she said.

With nerveless fingers I grabbed the saucepan lid. Trembling slightly, I raised it an inch or two and peered within. I slammed it back in place and leapt back as though electrocuted.

“Badders?” She touched my arm and looked at the saucepan in bewilderment.

“It’s still in there.” I said.

She reached out and pulled the lid off the saucepan allowing us both to stare at its occupant. The guinea pig stared back at us with sightless eyes. The blood from my scratched hand had congealed in its fur forming stained, dried spikes that stuck out at odd angles. Rigor mortis had pulled its lips back from its teeth giving it a terrifyingly angry sneer. One little paw was raised in a frozen poise of accusation.

“You’ll have to take it back.” She said quietly.

“Are you insane woman? They’re home-edders! I’m Graham Badman. They’ll think I did it deliberately. My God – what if they go to the papers?”

“I still think you ought to take it back. Perhaps if you explain….”

“Explain! How’s that going to come across? ‘Excuse me, Smith, but as you liked my idea for studying Scooby-Doo so much I thought you might be interested in my next idea. I thought your children might like to dissect your guinea pig which I seem to have asphyxiated in my saucepan having first marinated it in my own blood.’ ”

“You suggested they study Scooby-Doo?”

I waved an arm impatiently, “Not now….!”

“I wonder if it did die from suffocation,” she mused.

“What? What?! No, perhaps you’re right. Maybe it couldn’t face the shame of living in a house of home-edders and decided to end it all. Hang on, I’ll have another look. Maybe there’s a suicide note scratched onto a sunflower seed!”

“There’s no need to take that tone, I’m only wondering if it was shock rather than suffocation. You did say the cat brought it in, before you smothered it in blood and stuffed it in a saucepan.”

“You’re not helping, you know.”

We both stood gazing at the unfortunate cavy. It continued to stare back with its glazed eyes.

“No – sorry, Badders. You have to take it back.”

“Really? Couldn’t we just…. um….”

“If you’re about to suggest flushing it down the loo, you can forget it!”

“No, of course not. But we could put it in a bin bag and…”


“But they’re home-edders!”


“They’ll do something weird with it!”

“Whatever are you talking about?”

“You don’t know what they’re like. I’ve talked to them. They’ll see this as an opportunity for a ‘learning experience’. They’ll be making a coffin out of paper mache and composing a eulogy.”

“You’re being ridiculous!”

“No I’m not. They’ll dig a big hole in the garden and sing sad songs while the children shake maracas and tambourines and blow kazoos. And you know the worst part of all? They’ll dress it up in their next report to the local education authority as part of their educational philosophy and provision.”


“No it isn’t. They’ll say its art and craftwork, creative writing, music tuition and bloody gardening!”

My wife put the lid back on the saucepan. “It goes back,” she said firmly. “Now!”

“Oh….. must I?..... I thought I might just….”


I sighed and picked up the saucepan. This wasn’t going to be a success. I went through the kitchen door with a heavy heart.

Autonomous Ed was sitting by the front gate washing himself.

“This is all your fault!” I moaned. He stopped washing, one paw held in mid air and glared at me from lowered eyelids (after all I’ve done for that animal!) I waved the saucepan at him threateningly. “You did this.”

He actually backed away. He clearly thought I was going to throw it at him. Delighted, I waved it at him more vigourously and ran towards him. I stumbled. The lid went flying over the gate and rolled down the pavement. I only just stopped the guinea pig following it, leaped over the gate and raced after the lid.

It came to a very noisy halt, colliding with Old Mrs Mort on her way to the postbox. She looked at it and then slowly drew herself up to regard me with a suspicious eye. Mindful that our recent meetings had gone none too smoothly I gave her my most you-can-trust-me-I’m-an-expert smile and stooped to retrieve the lid.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs Mort,” I said “Must keep the lid on my…er casserole. Don’t want it going cold, do we?”

She peered into the open saucepan and gave a strange little cry. I thought she was going to scream and rushed to calm her, but she fled surprisingly quickly for someone who bulk buys anti-chafing cream.

Finally arriving at Smith’s front door I rang the bell with a sense of trepidation. He opened the door without offering any greeting and regarded me owlishly.

“Hello, Smith. I was just wondering what you might be doing with the children.”

“Here we go again,” he sighed through gritted teeth.

“No, no, no. You misunderstand. I just wondered if….ummm…..gardening? At all?”

“What on earth are you implying?”

“A bit of singing, maybe. It’s a nice day. In the garden…nature….biology…spot of dissection, perhaps…, no, no NOT dissection. Sorry, I was thinking of something else.”

“Look is there some point to all this? I’m in the middle of showing the kids how to rewire a plug. I don’t really have time for being harassed with a saucepan.”

“Rewire a plug? Good Lord, is that safe? I mean where are they going to plug it when they’ve finished?”

Do you know the insolent man actually closed the door in my face! I was left there with the saucepan. I slunk back home, but fortunately my wife had gone out to the W.I. Quickly decanting the guinea pig into a Tupperware container I sneaked back to Smith’s front door and quietly left it on the step.

I kept a low profile for the remainder of the day.

“What on earth have you done to upset Rev. Thomas?” my wife demanded when she returned home.

“Nothing!” I was baffled. “I haven’t seen the man for days.”

“It’s a funny thing – but when he’s really angry his stutter completely disappears.”


“Apparently he phoned here this morning to discuss your spell checker problem and you were incredibly rude to him. Quite frankly he told me you can stick your computer…” and she went on to describe something anatomically impossible.

Odd that. I’d have thought a man of the Rev. Thomas’ education would have had a better grasp of human physiology.

Monday, 22 June 2009


According to my wife, Rev. Thomas is something of an I.T. whiz. She’s going to speak to him later and ask him to give me a call about my spell checker. He’s a lovely man. It’s such a shame about his very pronounced stutter. And yet he’s always cheerful. An inspiration for all of us.

 Most people who own cats are used to them bringing home little presents of mice and birds. Frogs and toads appear to be Autonomous Ed’s specialty. I’ve spent many an hour on my knees coaxing a petrified amphibian from under the sideboard. On one memorable occasion the stupid creature even brought a grass snake in. However, even this did not prepare me for the sight that met my eyes in the kitchen this morning. 

“You boy! What have you got there?” 

Autonomous Ed lowered his head and stared sullenly at me. The terrified animal clamped in his jaws struggled frantically and plopped onto the quarry tiles. It skittered across the floor in a desperate escape bid. The cat was after it in a flash, batting it with a paw and sending it flying. It landed upside down at my feet and I quickly scooped it up, getting my hand quite badly clawed by Autonomous Ed in the process (after all I’ve done for that animal!) 

A few moments later I carried the victim into the sitting room. It seemed unaware that it was safe and continued to wriggle madly. In the process it was becoming quite sticky with the blood from my wound. 

My wife looked up from her crossword puzzle. 

“Good grief, Badders! What are you doing?” 

“It’s a guinea pig,” I explained. 

“Oh my God, it’s covered in blood! What the devil are you doing to it?” 

“I think it belongs to that home-ed lot next door.” 

“Well, surely that’s no reason to kill it. Good grief, there are laws, Badders. I don’t care what you feel about home education, that’s not right!” 

“I’m not trying to kill it, you silly woman! That’s my blood I’m covering it in!” 

“Whatever for, they’re vegetarian aren’t they?” 

She really can be very obtuse sometimes. I spoke slowly and in measured tones. 

“When I picked it up, I got badly scratched…” she opened her mouth but I held up my hand for silence. “NOT by the guinea pig, by the cat. I need you to get me a plaster, but first I need something to put the guinea pig in.” 

She rushed into the kitchen and I could hear cupboard doors banging frantically. She hurried back clutching a large saucepan. I raised an eyebrow in question, but she merely shrugged. 

“What do you want me to do, Badders? I’m all out of guinea pig cages!” 

I carefully placed the guinea pig in the pan and it started to scrabble at the sides. I didn’t think it would be able to get out, but to be safe I put the lid on and went off to get a plaster. 

On the way back from the bathroom the phone rang. 

“Hello, is that Mr Bedpan?” 

“Look, will you please stop calling this number. I am not amused by your childish nonsense and quite frankly I’m starting to get very irritated.” 

“Calm down, Mr Bedpan. Don’t get flushed!” 

“There – you see! You aren’t even consistent. A toilet flushes, a bedpan does NOT. If you’d paid more attention in school you might at least have been able to construct a well thought out prank that built to a logical conclusion.” 

“Yeah, I see what you’re saying. That’s the trouble with a bedpan. It’s not much to go on, is it? Ha ha ha!” *CLICK* 

That’s it! I swear if I get one more of these calls there will be repercussions. I was quite flustered. What with this spell checker business, the guinea pig incident and having to put up with home-edders lowering house prices in the Avenue (we’ll never be able to sell) my head ached. 

“I’m going for a walk,” I announced as I breezed through the sitting room. “I need some fresh air…” 

I only got as far as the front gate. I could smell smoke. Looking back at the house I realised the smell was coming from next door. Tentatively, I opened their gate. I started to walk up the path, sniffing as I took each step, then pausing a moment. It was an elusive smell and I found that by moving my head one way or the other it was either stronger or fainter. Sometimes it was barely noticeable and I had to sniff quite loudly to detect it at all. If I took a big stride sideways it also seemed stronger and a couple of quick sniffs confirmed my suspicions. A big stride backwards and a long, drawn-out sniff confirmed it was fainter again. A movement caught my eye and I turned to find Old Mrs Mort on her way back from the postbox staring at me in alarm. 

Panic and a desire not to draw any attention seemed to deny me the power of coherent speech. 

“Home education…..” I hissed, waving a finger at Smith’s front door. “Smell that!” I sniffed loudly a few times to encourage her to do the same. Her mouth made a small “o” shape and she started to edge backwards. 

“No, don’t scream!” I squeaked and rushed to her, but she hurried off surprisingly quickly for someone in support stockings. 

This was clearly a ridiculous way to proceed. After all, I have nothing to hide. Any right-thinking individual can see it is Smith who is suspect, so I strode confidently to his front door and rang the bell. The smell of smoke was very much stronger this close to the house. 

The door opened and Smith gazed at me with that infuriatingly open expression. No-one should look that approachable. Just what is he trying to conceal? 

“Mr Smith – I’d like to know exactly what you’re doing in there. I have grave concerns for the safety and well-being of your children and strongly suspect you are engaged in activity that is contradictory to their welfare.” 

Would you believe it? He raised an eyebrow as though I was the deviant! 

“I would like you to allow me access to your house so that I may address directly the issues that concern me.” 

He continued to regard me silently for a moment before he answered, “No.” 

“What do you mean, ‘No’?” 

“No, I won’t allow you access to my house.” 

“Are you ‘home-edding’ now? Is that what the smell is?” 

“We are currently engaged in an opportunity for learning that was prompted by the children themselves, yes.” 

“Wha….by the children?! What sort of education system is it that allows the children to decide what they should learn? It takes experts to decide a curriculum, not children. What is they want to study? Scooby-Doo?” 

He shrugged, apparently unconcerned. 

“They aren’t studying. Though actually your suggestion about Scooby-Doo is quite inspired. My eldest is a brilliant young artist, way beyond the capabilities of the teacher at his last school. He’s very keen to learn about animation. The Scooby-Doo cartoon began as simple cell frame animation in the 1960s and has progressed to a largely CGI based graphics production. Along the way it encompassed live action, green screen integration allowing the producer to realise a convincing three dimensional interpretation of the original two dimensional medium. It would make an extremely interesting topic that he’ll find fascinating. Thank you very much, Mr Badman.” 

“But….but….but it’s a cartoon. You can’t study cartoons! It’s not a school subject!” 

“Ah ha and I think you’re beginning to see our point.” 

“No I am NOT!” I was deeply insulted. 

“And what are you teaching the children today, Smith? How to build an atom bomb? Is that what the smoke is? Or perhaps it’s a history lesson and you’re re-enacting Joan of Arc!” 

One up to me, I think. 

“Actually, Mr Badman, there’s nothing in the process of uranium enrichment that would produce the type of smoke you are concerned about. Atom bombs don’t explode by lighting the blue touch paper! Also, my children aren’t interested in history, so we don’t bother with it in the formal sense.” 

“Not learn history? Have you any idea of the damage you are doing to your children?” 

“When I was at school I studied the rise of communist China, the history of Greek medicine and the decline of the cotton weaving industry,” Smith said.

“Exactly. Good sensible school curriculum subjects.” I nodded in approval. 

“I can’t remember a single fact about any one of them. Not once have I needed to use any of that knowledge since leaving school. I have an O’Level in History yet I couldn’t put the Kings and Queens of England in chronological order. What exactly was the point of what I learned, Mr Badman?” 

“It was the school curriculum.” I proudly explained, but he was shaking his head slowly and sadly at me. 

An attractive young woman of about thirty appeared behind him in the hallway. She was wearing a blue and white striped apron and held a spatula. 

“Are you ready, darling?” she asked. “The barbecue is at the right temperature and the children want to put the sausages on…” 

“Barbecue…? The smoke!” I nodded as the penny dropped. 

“The smoke,” said Smith nodding back. “Goodbye, Mr Badman.” 

I was left staring at the door which closed in my face. To my horror I could hear Smith calling to his children, “Mr Badman from next door has come up with a splendid suggestion for a project……” 

I returned home feeling a little disappointed. It could have gone better, but at least I feel he is starting to take my concerns on board. 

Friday, 19 June 2009


I was sitting in bed this morning drinking a cup of tea, when Autonomous Ed wandered in. He sat down near the wardrobe, glaring at me. After a moment of retching, that quite put me off my cuppa, he coughed a large hairball into my slipper! I was absolutely speechless. After all I’ve done for that animal! I’ll swear he smiled at me and then swaggered out.

Breakfast was disappointing. I couldn’t find my “Mr Tickle” cereal bowl anywhere (but I have my suspicions).

I met the Rev Thomas in the High Street. Nice chap. Really terrible stutter, it must be very difficult for him. He’s always cheerful though. There’s a lesson there.

The youth that served me in PC World appeared to have curvature of the spine and a bizarre speech impediment of his own. After nearly every sentence he grunted something that sounded like “ya-gemmie.”

“Most probably a virus or summink, ya-gemmie?” he opined.

“I beg your pardon? Did you say it was a virus?”

“Yeah. You ‘ave t’be careful what sites you visit, ya-gemmie? You have to arkse yourself if it’s safe, ya-gemmie?”

“I’m sorry… did you say ‘arkse’? I’m not sure I’m following this…”

“No worries, chief. I can sell you some software, ya-gemmie?”

“I hope you don’t mind me asking, but were you home educated by any chance?”

“Nah, mate, Hamperleigh Grammar School.”

“Good God…”

“I ‘ated it!” he went on “Couldn’t see no point in half wot they learned us, ya-gemmie? All I left wiv was a GCSE in woodwork an’ a ASBO in intimidation.”

“Worryingly, I see this sort of situation far too often,” I told him sadly. “It very clearly demonstrates a total failure in parenting.”

“Ya what?”

“It is the responsibility of parents to ensure their children enjoy the school experience. Are you seriously telling me that you didn’t learn anything?”

He thought for a moment. Actually, he thought for quite a while. I’ll be honest; he stood staring into space for so long I wondered if he’d suffered some kind of a seizure.

“Oh yeah, there was this one fing I learned.”

I was reassured.

“Dave Collins showed me how to hack the security lock on a nicked mobile phone. It was well wicked...”

“I was actually hoping for something you learned from a teacher.”

He looked confused. “Dave Collins WAS a teacher.”


“Maffs….’e taught maffs, ya-gemmie?”

Eventually I returned home £35 worse off, but reassured that my spell checker issues would soon be eliminated.

The phone was ringing as I came in.

“Hello? Could I speak to Mr Batman?”

“What? Look is this the same person that called before?”

“I just need to speak to Mr Batman. I need to tell him it’s ready.”

“What are you talking about? Tell him what’s ready?”



“Yeah! Dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner, Batman! Ha ha ha!” *CLICK*

I’m not going to stand for much more of this. I’ve been very patient with these crank calls, but they’ll suffer my wrath if it doesn’t stop happening.

I inserted the CD for my new anti-virus / anti-spyware program into the computer and it began installing. After some time I was prompted to accept the licence agreement.

Have you ever actually read one of these agreements? I was outraged. This software company actually assumes the right to access information about me and inspect my files and settings. It interrogates my hard drive and gathers data that it doesn’t have to share with me and then stores that information for as long as it likes. Potentially, it could hold data on me forever!

It determines if my processing speed is adequate and my provision for memory meets whatever standards it dictates. If it feels my system doesn’t meet this requirement it can refuse to install.

Even more insulting is the statement that failing to comply with the licence is regarded as an illegal act. In such an eventuality it will communicate in secret with the software developer and furnish them with a full and detailed report.

Who do these people think they are? How dare they inflict an arbitrary set of regulations and dress them up as a mechanism for support and protection?

I had to agree to the licence, just to continue doing something I had every right to be doing. It’s regulation gone mad, if you ask me.

After all that, I don’t know what this spyware thing is supposed to have achieved – but my spell checker issues are worse now then before I installed it!

I sat down and wrote a very stern letter to the manager of PC World… but I don’t think I can send it.

Every instance of the word “spyware” has been changed to “underwear”.

Dear Sir,

I wish to express extreme dissatisfaction with your recommendations for resolving my underwear problem.

I was assured by your senior sales manager, Darren that good underwear protection would resolve embarrassing issues I have been experiencing. Apparently underwear requires frequent cleaning, which I had never considered.

However your underwear product has done nothing to enhance my performance and left me feeling quite sore!

I am now considering wiping everything clean and avoiding underwear altogether


G. Badman,

I really am quite cross. I wonder if I could use the computer next door to send some emails?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


The day started badly when I awoke from a particularly disturbing dream. I was trying to gain access to the Big Brother House to ensure the Housemates were meeting the five ECMs, but was being obstructed by that McCall woman. 

I had a bath to calm myself down, but couldn't find my favourite ducky anywhere. (I have my suspicions). I also have the nasty feeling that my spell checker is on the blink. Either that or someone in this house has been teaching it new words. I was typing an email to Ed Balls earlier and the alternative spelling it provided for "Balls" was nothing short of a damned disgrace! I shall be speaking to PC World in due course! 

My wife stood watching me when I had a glass up to the dividing wall. 

"Badders, what are you doing dear?" (I do wish she wouldn't call me Badders). 

"Shhhh. I'm listening to next door." 

"Spying, you mean?" 

"Certainly not! I'm merely trying to ascertain if they are engaged in the unsuitable practice of home education, based on your statement from the other day." 

"And can you tell?" 

"'s very suspiciously fact I can't hear anything at all....And you know what that means, don't you?" 

"They're out..." 

"They're almost certainly engaged in some perfidious practice that they'd rather keep secret. I notice we haven't actually SEEN the children today. Ask yourself why!" 

"It's half past eight in the morning!" 

"Exactly - what are they trying to hide?" 

"They're out..." 


"They're out... they went out earlier, about half an hour ago. That's why you can't hear anything." 

"Good grief, woman I do wish you'd furnish me with all the facts before you get me spying through the wall!" 

The phone started to ring and I angrily snatched it off its cradle. 

"Is Madman?" 

"Are you trying to be funny?" 

"Sorry? Is that Mr Madman or not?" 

"No it certainly is not! Who is this?" 

"I need to speak to Mr Madman.... Is he there?" 

"There is no Madman here!" 

"That's a matter of opinion, mate. Ha ha ha......." *CLICK* 

I've been getting one or two crank calls like this since my report published. I was now so angry I decided to have it out with the neighbours as soon as they returned, which didn't happen until after lunch. 

I knocked on the door, casting an expert eye over the state of the front garden and outside decor while I waited. The door was eventually opened by a chap in his mid thirties. My wife must have this wrong, I thought, this fellow looks quite normal! 

"Hello, can I help you?" he asked with no trace of regional accent. 

"Good afternoon Mr Smith, is it?" at which he nodded. "I'm Mr Badman from next door. I am an expert in education. I've written a report that you may have heard about in the news." 

He was eyeing me with a neutral expression. 

"I hope you don't mind me enquiring, but I've heard a rumour that I'd like to nip in the bud, so to speak. Before it gets out into the Avenue at large. About you. About you....ahem.....home educating your children!" I lowered my voice to minimise the offence. 

"Yes, that's correct." 

Can you believe it? He was almost brazen with it - as if it was the most normal thing in the world. 

"But.... could you not get into the school of your choice?" 

"We took the children out of school because it was failing them. It didn't provide for their educational needs and enforced an outdated regime that is unchanged from the 1950s. We believe the school system is fundamentally flawed. It stifles individuality and independent thought and fails to meet or nurture the educational, aspirational and ideological aims of young people in the 21st Century. It enforces a draconian state of authority and metes out punishment disproportionate to regulations belonging to a less sophisticated society. It consistently fails to address issues important to this generation by preserving its middle aged, middle class fossilised concept of education. Put succinctly, it is mis-managed by a set of misogynist, ante-deluvians incapable of adapting to today's challenges." 

".......Did you not like the uniform at the local school? Because a lot of us experts in education believe that red is quite a vibrant colour..." 

"It's got nothing to do with the uniform! Did you take in any of what I said? You compel the children to study subjects they have no interest in and that have no relevance whatsoever to the challenges and issues awaiting them when they leave school. You overload them with 15 hours or more of homework a week, fail to provide the necessary resource and punish any inability to regurgitate verbatim acres of mind-numbing boring data that is instantly forgotten and never revisited following each stage of the process. In the meantime you totally fail to equip them with the life skills essential to their eventual function as an adequate well-balanced member of society" 

" it the parking, then? Are you able to access the school bus?..." 

"Are you even listening to me?" 

"Yes, yes, I assure you that I am.....something to do with bullying wasn't it? Look, I was bullied at school and it certainly didn't do me any harm. There's a lot of nonsense talked about how schools should address bullying. It's actually character building to be bullied. A rite of passage, if you like. I well remember having my head flushed down the lavatory on a regular basis and running home crying with my hair smelling of Toilet Duck. But they couldn't do it now, because I'm virtually bald. So who has the last laugh now, Norman Ecclesthwaite, eh!" 

I had become quite heated, raising a clenched fist into the air and raising my voice. 

Old Mrs Mort who was on her way to the post box clutched her handbag tightly and yelped. I tried to calm her down, but she ambled off surprisingly quickly when I rushed to her. 

When I turned back to Smith's door he had closed it and gone back inside. I could have handled it a bit better - but at least I feel I've broken the ice. 

I'll probably leave it a day or two before I ask to see the children though. 

I started typing an email to Ed Balls. I wanted to express concern that home educators wreck and distort the issues outlined in my report. However, my spell checker kept replacing "wreck and distort" with "rectum disorder" so I had to give it up. I really must call PC World in the morning…

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


I wandered into the kitchen this afternoon to see how my wife was progressing with the task I had assigned her. She was supposed to be covering my report with some old wallpaper to protect it, but didn't seem to have got very far. Not only that, but given it was past 1.15pm there was something else that immediately gave me concern.

"Are you chewing?" I demanded.

She looked suitably sheepish as she held up a Polo packet.

"In the bin. NOW! And give me that packet."

She handed it over and hurried to the pedal bin. I tucked the Polos into my top pocket while she returned to her seat.

"You may see me at the end of the week to get these back. Now, how are you getting on with covering my report?"

"Actually, I've been flicking through it and there are some parts of it that I don't understand."

I smiled in that reassuring I-am-an-expert kind of way and sat down opposite her at the kitchen table.

"This part about inspectors having the right to enter the home where a child is being educated..."

"Yes, go on."

"Is that really.... necessary....?"

"What?! Of course it's necessary. Who knows what sort of environment these children are being taught in? Listen, this may shock you, but I strongly suspect a lot of these homes don't have a proper blackboard!"

This didn't seem to shock her at all. She can be a funny woman sometimes.

"Not only that, but what about changing facilities? When it's time for P.E. there needs to be a proper area where the children can get changed."

"What about their bedrooms?"

I regarded her sadly with a slow shake of the head. She just doesn't think these things through.

"Unsupervised....? Have you any idea what kind of chaos that could lead to? Towel-flicking, clothes not hung up on pegs, shoes in the middle of the floor. And have you considered inappropriate behaviour?"

"Not recently," she sighed with a curiously wistful expression, I thought!

"Some of them might use it as an opportunity to get away with wearing jewellery or make up." I explained.

She leafed through the report a bit.

"And your concerns on the suitability of parents to teach children....?"

"Look, we need to ascertain what sort of views these children will be exposed to. What if the parents have strong religious or political views? They might not be the correct ones!"

"Such as....?"

"Challengers of authority! Anarchists, Communists, Maoists, Trotskyists, neo-Trotskyists, crypto-Trotskyists, union leaders, Communist union leaders, atheists, agnostics, long-haired weirdos, short-haired weirdos, vandals, hooligans, football supporters, tree huggers, muggers, tree-hugger-muggers, headshrinkers, real ale drinkers, punk rockers, glue-sniffers, dole-scroungers, vegetarians and people with ginger hair!"

If anything, she looked more alarmed.

"But applying your criteria, what would you be left with?" she asked. "Thugs, racists, bully-boys, psychopaths, sacked policemen, ex-security guards, disgraced prison officers, ex-military fascists, neo-fascists, crypto-fascists, loyalists, neo-loyalists, crypto-loyalists and people with rampant dandruff!"

"Exactly!" I proclaimed, "The backbone of the teaching profession!"

We were both distracted by the banging of the catflap. Our malevolent tomcat was heading for his bowl until he spotted me. He paused mid-stride to favour me with his normal baleful glare. I honestly don't know what it is with this animal. He seems fine with everyone else, but has a demonstrable lack of respect when it comes to me. I named him Edgar Allan Poe when we first got him, but my wife has taken to calling him "Autonomous Ed", which infuriates me!

He sat down on the quarry tiles and began licking his nether regions, one eye still fixed on me in open challenge! In the kitchen, I ask you!

"You see!" I waved a finger at the cat, "That's exactly the kind of thing we need to prevent. And not just that.... do you realise that in some of the homes where children are being educated the parents still..... they still have.... relations?!"

"Mother's coming on Saturday," she said. She can be quite obtuse at times.

"Sex!" I was becoming exasperated, "Imagine that!"

She got that strange wistful look in her eyes again. I swear I don't understand the woman at all sometimes.

"But even if everything you say was true," she said slowly, "wouldn't children at school still be exposed to all of that when they go home... and at weekends.... and during holidays?"

"Well now you're just being silly," I said. "You’re just trying to justify your own narrow viewpoint with unsubstantiated supposition."

"Yes, I see that," she admitted. "It really needs an expert to be able to do that sort of thing."

"Exactly!" I treated her to my full-on 'what-a-clever-girl' beam. "And I AM an expert!"

"Yes, dear..." she said, but in a strange and quiet way.

"Come on, now," I patted her hand. "Finish covering that report. It'll be breaktime soon and you can go outside and fetch the washing in."

She continued in silence for a moment while I grabbed a chalk from my pocket and threw it at Autonomous Ed.

"Oh... I nearly forgot," she said. "You know the new family that moved in next door? I was talking to the mother earlier. It appears that they're home educating their children....."

I'm sure she must have that wrong. This is a nice neighbourhood...!

Saturday, 13 June 2009


Ed Balls was very pleased with my report into Home Education. But that's no more than I would have expected (I am an expert, after all!)

He rang me as soon as he'd received it. "Badders, old chap!" he exclaimed (I do wish he wouldn't call me that...) "Just the ticket, mate!" (....mate..!!?!)

Anyway, it looks like HM Gov. will put all of my proposals into practice, which is no more than to be expected (I am an expert).

If there's one thing I really can't stand it's amateurs (I think they refer to themselves as 'parents') believing they know what's best for children.

The teaching profession was created for a very good reason and has been serving the best interests of children since its inception. How could these lentil-weaving, tree-hugging, dole-scrounging, home educators possibly believe the education they provide is equal? They don't have teaching qualifications!!! End of discussion...

Just look at the product of our secondary school system. Young adults, well-adjusted, peaceful, dedicated to the achievement of true excellence, which as you know can only be measured by examination results.

I explained all of this to Ed Balls on the phone, but I don't think he got it.

"Yeah, yeah, very interesting, Badders, but basically your report provided the whitewash we needed to force through legislation we had already prepared..."


"Yeah, mate. Whitewash... It's a Government term for a full and balanced report by an expert chosen by the Government."

"I'm not sure I understand.... What are you implying. Because, I AM an expert you know..."

"Yeah, but only in state education."

This confused me. But Ed went on to elaborate;

"I mean how many kids have you personally home educated, Badders?"

I was deeply offended. What an outrageous and ugly suggestion.

"NONE!" I said, somewhat forcefully.

"Exactly! So you're not really an expert on education per se, are you? If we'd wanted a balanced report we'd never have asked you in the first place. We'd have also involved home educators in the process!"

I was beginning to get more and more confused.

"But I am an expert.....!"

"Yeah, yeah. We've been through all that."

"But what you're suggesting I've done would be similar to asking David Cameron to decide Labour party policy..."

"Yeah, exactly!"

"Or Abu Hamza to suggest changes to the Jewish religion...."

" Look, must go. People to see, human rights to trample on, I'm sure you know the kind of thing. Bye, Badders, speak soon."

"Um, er, yes, right. Well if I could just say....."

"Missing you already." *CLICK*

I went into the lounge a little unsettled. Not something I'm used to at all. My wife called through to ask if I'd like ham or cheese sandwiches. She always asks me for guidance. I am an expert you see.

My head was still spinning when she placed the plate in front of me. So much so, I forgot to give her marks for food preparation and presentation.

"Cheer up, Badders!" she said. (I do wish she wouldn't call me that)...