I started learning German yesterday as you do when you go to bed at between two and three in the morning every day and you are so busy you think your head might drop off. A couple of months ago, it seemed like a really good idea. One of my closest friends just moved to Germany at the behest of her husband (sounds somehow familiar) and I thought: "I will be going to see them regularly," (I have managed it once so far,) "I must learn German." I really like the idea of learning German and another mother from school agreed to teach me. Sitting at her kitchen table, I learnt: "Guten Tag", the word for tour operator "die Reiseleiterin" and how to say "Mein Name ist Hannelore Herzog" - ofcourse my name is not Hannelore Herzog but it might come in handy. Perhaps I will call myself Hannelore when I visit my friends. I had the lesson and walked back through brilliant morning sunshine to the house. I thought to myself: "How I feel right this minute is probably uncomfortably close to insanity." When I got back my husband asked quizzically : "Why are you learning German? You know there's no time for self- improvement." I growled at him, in German.
Later, we went up to school to discuss strategies to address our concerns about our son's various injuries and relationships. The meeting went well on a number of fronts not least the fact that I managed not to cry during it. Close run thing at one point but just scraped through. I do not think a parent is ever at their strongest in a staffroom, even with a china cup of tea in their hands. Part of you is thinking: "Should I be here?" and "Now I'm for it". I wonder whether teachers ever feel that way.
Thank God though for teachers who do not want to see an isolated child stalk their corridors and haunt their playground. The school is determined to stop the hurt. Among various proposals, playground buddies and a friendship bench were mentioned. I love the idea of a friendship bench. An honest place where you admit a primitive need. A bench on which to sit while you wait for someone to cross the painted asphalt and take your hand with its bitten down finger nails in their warm and grubby one. Someone who will say those magic words: "Come play." There is an idea for an up and coming politician. Pledge to buy a friendship bench for every school. Call it Gordon's friendship bench, or Dave's. Think of all those votes piling up in the future - talk about the Jesuitical "get them while they are young". How grateful would you be to a politician who gave you a friend to play with every time you were lonely as a child?