I’m not ordinarily one for school plays, assemblies, recitals or anything else that means that I have to sit in a gym hall surrounded by primary school children on chairs that were designed either for the bottoms of six-year-olds or crack-addicted supermodels. It might sound a little callous, but by the time I’ve tweezed my 35-year-old butt in to one of those tiny chairs a twinge in my coccyx reminds me that I did some damage to it by not being able to do stunts properly on a BMX when I was in my teens.
This means that I stop concentrating on the show taking place at the front of the hall and start fidgeting in a vain attempt to relieve some pressure off my aching bottom and, in turn, this means that my wife starts tutting, sighing and hissing at me to sit still so much that by the end of the show she’ll moan at me that it’s my fault she missed all of it.
Today was Jacob’s first ever appearance in public and apparently it’s written in the Magna Carta somewhere that I must attend such events in my five-year-old’s life. Whining and wheedling and saying “oh, do I have to?” more repeatedly than my eight-year-old does when told he must eat his cauliflower got me nowhere and, resigned to thirty minutes of my bum cheeks going numb, I made my way in to the gym hall with all the other parents.
These days you aren’t allowed to take photographs of your own children in such environments in case you might inadvertently take a photograph of one of his or her friends and then show it to that child’s mother. Such photography is bad and so the teachers do it for you instead and then charge you for a copy of the same photograph you could have taken instead. This is apparently called protecting our young from the bad stuff in the world and is the politically correct thing to do. This morning’s show required the children to be dressed in pirate outfits. (Inwardly, I’m smiling slightly at the irony that pirates themselves weren’t necessarily politically correct…) During the show the children are required to sing an old sea shanty, once known as Sailor’s Holiday, today we know it best as Drunken Sailor.
You know the one I mean: “What shall we do with a drunken sailor…” and so on and so on. Except that, apparently, it’s politically incorrect for five-year-olds to say the word “drunk” and so there they were, reception class children, singing “What shall we do with a sunken sailor…” Well, nothing, obviously – because he’s sunk. It sort of spoils the rest of the song. If a sailor’s sunk then we can’t put him in a bab and beat him senseless. We can’t put him in a longboat until his sober, because he’s not drunk, he’s sunk. We can’t put him in a bed with the captain’s daughter – because, oh my word, he’s no longer drunk so he could probably do something very naughty. Nor can we give him the hair of the dog that bit him, because he’s not allowed to drink, and we can’t soak him in oil ‘til he sprouts a flipper because that makes absolutely no sense at all.
I have news for the school – and any other politically correct official who wears hessian knickers instead of a skimpy g-string: Jacob lives, plays and grows up in a pub. He understands drunk. What he doesn’t understand, however, is the cotton wool you’re trying to wrap him up in.
Of course, I don’t know if they changed all the other lyrics to suit the revised opening line, because the woman behind me had decided that it was far easier to let her two-year-old squeal endlessly in my right ear throughout the show rather than keep the child quiet, and now I can hear nothing at all because my eardrum is shattered.