My, how they grow. I am writing this sitting in The White Hart in Llangybi, South Wales, having a glass of wine or three and waiting for my daughter. She is three miles away at the Caerleon branch (which I’m certain isn’t the right word, but my knowledge of matters and concepts to do with academia is mercifully restricted to not knowing how to spell peddagoggy) of the University of South Wales being interviewed for a place on its primary school teaching training course.
She is 18 in August, yet it seems like only yesterday that I was changing her nappy, bouncing her on my knee, reading her nursery rhymes and drying her tears. My observation on the transience of our children’s childhood is by no means new, but just as poignant, not to say as sad, as every other time it has been made since mankind took to rubbing sticks of wood together to get the central heating going.
My daughter has set her mind on becoming a primary school teacher, and good on her.
I must admit, though, that when she was younger and showed no particular preference for any profession in any direction, I had hopes that she might become a doctor, say, and I would one day find myself in the enviable position of being able to nudge the nearest Indian and tell him: ‘See that woman, there? She’s my daughter. And she’s a doctor!’ Depending upon whether his daughter is also a doctor or not, one-upmanship doesn’t come any better. But it wasn’t to be.
As a younger girl she showed an aptitude for mathematics (she most certainly didn’t get it from me) and even though, I’m not to sure of the details, she was chosen to represent Cornwall (or was it just North Cornwall) and some kind of maths olympiad the maths skills seem to have died a death. However, for a while and on the strength of her prowess at doing sums rather better than her peers for a while, he sights were set on a career in accountancy. And Lord how my heart sank. But it didn’t last, and after she had spent some time doing work experience at a local primary school and like me, finding a real joy in the company of children, the decided a primary school teacher was what she wanted to be.
. . .
I finished off the above part of the entry at home once we had driven - I had driven - the 140-odd miles back home to Cornwall. But I must recount (as best I can - sometimes these things don’t come across quite as well when written down) a scene at the pub.
Sitting near me were three elderly chaps, older than me by a few year. Two were drinking beer - lager and Guinness - and the third was drinking wine.
The wine drinker wasn’t saying too much, the Guinness drinker was contributing a little more, but the lager drinker, who spoke with a thick Newport accent, was holding forth about nothing in particular as only chaps such as him know how to hold forth. Then at one point he observed that ‘the world has gone nuts’.
This was too much for me, and I turned around and told him that I had realised that the world was nuts by the time I was four. When, I asked, had he first realised that the world was basically bonkers. He’s tell me he told me, and proceeded to do some at quite some length as only some South Walian men can do, men who could make the Second Coming sound a pretty dull affair and one, if possible, to be missed.
He first realised, he said, that the world had gone nuts when ‘they’ decided to close, then knock down, Newport bus station, and build another just 100 yards away. This action I gather was the height of stupidity. For example, he told me, whereas before folk could catch a bus, arrive at Newport bus station, get off their bus and were immediately at Newport market which was just next door, now - Lord, the horror of it! - they had to walk several hundred yards to the market from the new bus station!
He took the best part of 15 minutes to expand on it all and I got rather bored.
So I told him that was just a local, not to say quite trivial, incidence of the world being nuts. Could he, I asked, give me a far, far more serious example of how the world had conclusively lost its marbles?
‘I can,’ said his friend, the man drinking Guinness. ‘When they closed Cardiff bus station,’ he said.
Perhaps you had to be there. But it was typical of the humour in South Wales.