I always hated school and little in the progression into adulthood has convinced me of the value of children being herded into large classes, set to specific timetables from the age of 4 and then told to shut up, sit down and listen. I’ll never forget my first school day at the age of 4. I had forever been sure I never wanted to go to nursery, home was more than enough for me. That first day my mother had to pretend we were just going up to drop my older sister off. When the awful truth dawned, I screamed and screamed and ran away, but what can a four-year old do? He must be dragged back in and brought to heel. Apparently I calmed down and sat in the class quietly but my first question upon escape (hometime?), was – Do I have to go again tomorrow? Yes you do son, for another fourteen years. Best not mention college and university yet either, poor lad.
For sure, along the way there were good teachers and good kids as well as the bad, but even now I am convinced I learnt more from my time with Meccano, Riviton and Airfix than I ever did from school. Actually, I must backtrack slightly. I learnt that some proverbs are true – A bad apple really can spoil the whole barrel, that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and that empty vessels make the most noise. I suppose the squeaky wheel gets the oil is also true and believe me, there were a lot of squeaky wheels at my school. Thankfully nothing squeaks in those corridors any more, not even rats, as the awful place got demolished a few years ago.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, because that’s the second part of the trap. Knowing that I was so opposed to my own children starting school aged 4, I was easily swayed by the promise of them not starting until age 6. The deadline was approaching for my eldest daughter in 2004, that soon she’d be starting in the UK and I really didn’t want that for her, the same pain I’d experienced. I knew she was of a similar mentality. One of my favourite phrases of hers was “Do it self”, whenever I tried to help her on the Park climbing frames and such self-reliance reminded me of myself. In this way, Denmark was very appealing.
I shouldn’t have believed it. Within 2 months of arriving in Denmark, still without any income for either parent, hemorrhaging money on expensive house improvements and having an empty unsold house in the UK, my daughter was signed up for Danish børnehave, despite my protests to the contrary. I was told I was anti-social and that children needed someone to play with. Not only was I suspicious of the system, but the cost even then was about £150 a month. Despite being promised it was all about play and flexible, it was identical to English nursery or infant school – the same timetables, brainwashing and exposure to unpleasant children I remember too well myself. She didn’t need it and I was the lone voice saying we couldn’t afford it and that I didn’t agree with it. Too late.
I tidied up my paper folders the other day, some 14 years later, and found some of those bank statements. They make horrific reading, even now they made me feel incredibly sad, knowing the story behind every minus transaction on my account. Everything I had worked and saved for, disappearing drip..drip..drip, as if my wrists had been lacerated and I was lying on a bed, bleeding out slowly every month. It seems like an appropriate metaphor that by 2010, all the blood really had drained out of me and I needed a blood transfusion, but that’s another story for another day.