There she was, MsDD, six years old in her Judo class in the Western suburbs of Paris – by the way, I’d always imagined Nanterre (as in Brioches de...) to be a sun-kissed rural idyll, with waving cornflower-filled meadows and swallows flitting to and fro. In reality, it’s more like Slough – going up to the other Judoka on the Dojo with an ultra smiley face and asking if they would be her partner. Tinier than them, she was, and though she couldn’t really communicate in French she did her best to understand and worked hard. So much so that she was rewarded at the end of her time with not one but two belts. On this occasion, however, the bigger boy she was forced to partner ignored her smiley face and bashed seven bells out of her. Her sweet-tempered world died at that moment and, sitting and watching from the parents’ bench, I was in tears at her loss of innocence.
Before her, I was brought up with the notion that I had to be twice as good, twice as well behaved; twice as well-mannered as everyone else in order to be accepted into the society into which I was born. Fine. I smiled my way through and took everything on the chin: the insults, the rudeness, the bullshit as, indeed, most people actually do. But I am a sensitive soul, prone to overthinking and worrying what people think of me and this has been my undoing in the past. Twice as good has got me nowhere.
Recently, however, I find myself less tolerant of foolishness and less willing to smile and keep my head down. This morning I was very sharp at the tactlessness of one of the competitive Music School mothers and then went on to explain to the Director exactly what I thought of the actions of some of the teachers. I must quickly point out that I have nothing but respect and admiration for him, but I don’t think he’s been aware of some of the goings on, the unfairness, the lack of transparency in some of the teaching and ranking decisions. It’s not going to change anything but at least I have voiced my concerns in a respectful and reasonably objective manner and I feel better for speaking up.
In the spirit of this, then, I’d like to voice the following opinions and thence hold my peace:
- I do not agree with Jeremy Corbyn and his politics and have watched with dismay as the Labour party for whom I aways voted until recently has lurched into old fashioned class war politics. Now, I understand that you might not agree but I’m not going to vilify you and call you names if you don’t because I find that divisive, unhelpful and puerile. If that makes you hate me, so be it. Over the last few years it’s been clear that many of you despise people like me anyway and I’m not going to change your mind by rational argument.
- I loathe the tiresome colonialist, self-congratulatory jingoism of the Last Night of the Proms.I’ve sat through so many dull prom concerts with the same bleddy music, and all that bobbing and flag-waving does my head in. Have you ever listened to the lyrics of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory? No? I suggest you do and you’ll see what I mean. They’re all about stretching the bounds of Britan wider and wider; about Britons never, never being slaves. I always think: “Yes, but what about your participation in the enslavement of others? Oh, you built the railways, did you? Did you do that out of the kindness of your hearts?” Yes, yes, I know it’s a tradtiton but, in my view, it’s a spectacularly unattractive one and I pity the poor musicians who have to sit through it every year. Yuck.
So I am to be despised and vilified by the Left and the Right. Fair enough. I am exhausted by today: the packing; the music school politics; the frantic sorting out of laundry. I have this awful feeling that after this 24+ hour journey, my mother’s condition will have deteriorated. I feel generally scratchy, demoralised, despondent so I’m stumping off to bed. Goodnight.