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Plaudits and prizes

Prize winner

It seems to be Prize Day for someone every day this week – we had the quietly determined Malala being pipped at the post for the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this week then the equally unflashy Alice Monro scooping the Nobel Prize for Literature a couple of days later, which more than made up for the slightly stomach-churning cringeworthiness of the Dr Who writer and Twitter king Neil Gaiman being reminded that he lost out to Ian Hislop for the school English prize on Saturday Live. Fancy someone caring enough to point it out at the time, never mind writing it down for posterity, but Neil Gaiman didn’t seem to mind and gamely turned the loss into a celebration of libraries. But it got me thinking. Will my kids carry school memories like that around with them for decades? Obviously I’ll be the last to know, but I got a glimpse into that world when I traipsed after Cleo at parents’ evening last week, watching her contemporaries swap eye-rolling looks of sympathy as they were forced to face their teachers en famille.

I can’t remember the last time I spent so much time hanging around school corridors and between sympathetic eye rolls of my own with other parents (there’s something about waiting outside a biology lab that brings out the 15 year old in me). I was reassured to see that, yes, they do still put the chairs up on the desks at the end of the day and still gouge initials encircled by hearts into the wooden lab tops. The teachers have certainly improved – they talk to the children rather than the adults for a start and really seem to know and care how they are doing, producing wonderful grids of results that they all run a ruler along to show – literally – how on or off track they are. Luckily Cleo was mainly on track, which was just as well, because I wouldn’t have wanted to have to explain myself to her chemistry teacher who greeted us with a muscly handshake and a firm smile. “Ah, Cleo, sit down,” he said. “I’ve got a good list and a hit list.” He paused, “And you’re on the good list.” He paused again. “How did you do it?” Were teachers as frank and funny when I was at school? I can’t remember a single parents’ evening. And I certainly can’t claim to have any Hislopian treasured moments of glory tucked away to keep me warm at night. Any treasured memories I do have of my school days were strictly limited to watching the cool sixth form boys climb up to the top floor of the school bus in their army surplus coats and wondering whether I’d ever be accepted up top. Sigh. I still have a soft spot for a turned-up blue serge collar, but no, I can’t remember who I lost out to for the English prize – and whoever it was they didn’t end up on Radio Four. Though my favourite sixth former in the blue trench coat did awfully well for himself. Apparently.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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