Thursday, 25 September 2008

Did your parents come to this school?

At the age of 11, on an introductory visit to Maldon Grammar School, where I would shortly start attending, I was asked an apparently simple question by my future form teacher: “Did one of your parents come to this school?” I answered, “Yes.” Next question: “Was it your mother or your father?” “My father,” I replied. “And do you know which house he was in?” “No, I don’t know.” Easy as ABC, wasn’t it?

Well, hold on a moment…

You see, in my eagerness to answer truthfully (combined with my well-known ability to misunderstand the most “obvious” things), what I actually meant was: Yes, my father came to this school a couple of weeks ago to attend an introductory evening for parents. (He had had his entire schooling several hundred miles away up in Scotland and had never previously set foot on the premises of Maldon Grammar School in his life!) Maybe, I surmised, they had divided the visiting parents up into sub-groups called “houses” for some obscure reason, but my father certainly hadn’t told me anything about that when describing his visit. So, in the words of Mark Twain, “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.”

During the summer, I was away visiting relatives in Scotland with my mother and sisters. On our return, my father showed me a letter he had received from the Headmaster, stating: “You child informs me that you are a former pupil of this school but was unable to tell me which house you were in...” – and inviting him to provide the missing information “so that we can continue the family tradition”!

My father, convinced that I would never have said anything like that, had immediately written back acknowledging receipt of the letter, “which I can only assume has been sent as the result of an administrative error”...

So I managed to get some unwelcome attention from the Headmaster, and maybe even appeared to be a liar because I had endeavoured to tell the truth.

And you thought you had problems!

PS: Amusingly enough, I learned later that my score on the entrance exam had been 100%. They tested my “verbal reasoning” skills – but not, apparently, my common sense!

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