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?"
"Well......it's very suspiciously quiet....in fact I can't hear anything at all....And you know what that means, don't you?"
"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 in the morning!"
"Exactly - what are they trying to hide?"
"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 that....er.....Mr 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"
"....is 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…