Alexander has been pestering the hell out of me and Marcia. He wants to go to school.
I keep telling him that at three, he is a bit young and that he will really enjoy himself at the crèche (he was due to start next month).
‘But I can count, Daddy!’
‘Go on then. Son’
‘One, Three, Seis, Quatro, Seven, Nine, Five, Dez! And, Daddy, Daddy! I can write my name!’
In years to come, some sub Saharan equivalent of an Egyptologist or cryptoanalyst will discover that piece of paper and spend his whole life writing a thesis on it. In the meantime, Alex’s cheques will bounce. As monikers go, it would be hard to forge but would hardly fit along that thin strip on a charge card taking up, as it did, all of a sheet of A4 writing paper and a lot of my coffee table.
Alex is big for his age. Today he sat alongside his six year old friend as we all enjoyed lunch and he dwarfed him. Having played together all morning and enjoying a bowl of real comfort food, Feijoada com Arroz, he was dismayed when his friend headed off to school leaving him behind. He dwarves most other kids as well so has been hanging around with his own gang, not one of them less than five years old. Anyone younger, he has realised, is usually snot nosed and wrapped in a shawl on its mother’s back and can’t kick a football for shit or ride a bicycle and they certainly do not know how to catch crabs at low tide.
This is a socialist society. The State dictates everything. Just registering him was a nightmare. At three, Alex may now enter a crèche, find his own corner in which to soil his nappies and then dutifully fall asleep. Clearly since he can dress himself in fresh skids and shorts and, when necessary, perch himself on the toilet and shit like anyone else wiping his own arse afterwards (so long as the toilet paper is within reach), and does not sleep between the hours of Five in the morning until Ten at night, I could see a degree of incompatibility between him and his peers.
Alex, of course, had no idea but sat at the same lunch table today was the headmistress of the local school. I expected Alex to behave like a complete bastard. Toss his food, refuse to eat it or even sit at the table. I even expected him to dismount his chair and relieve himself at the side of the Jango. Instead he stood on his chair, supervised the equable division of the contents of the pans before sitting down and tucking in.
‘Alex’, queried her Royal Headmistressness in Portuguese, ‘why do you want to go to school?’
Alex was busy shovelling Marcia’s Feijoada into his mouth but he paused, emptied his mouth and answered, in English, ‘Because school is impotent’.
‘Muito importante,’ I translated hurriedly and went on to point out that the lad would, pretty soon, be fluent in two languages.
A couple of months ago I had scored a supply of English Lemon Barley Water and it was on the dregs of one of these that Alex started sucking noisily, his straw just too short to reach the bottom of the bottle.
‘Alex’, I said, in English, ‘bin the straw and just tip the rest down your neck!’
Which he promptly did.
He starts school in a class of five year olds on Monday.