‘That’s a question I’ve asked myself every day since September 5, 1977. I hadn’t known on September 4 that the following afternoon I would start keeping a diary, or that it would consume me for the next thirty-five years and counting. It wasn’t something I’d been putting off, but once I began, I knew that I had to keep doing it. I knew as well that what I was writing was not a journal but an old-fashioned, girlish, Keep-Out-This-Means-You diary.’
– David Sedaris, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
‘So how was your day at school, Lu?’
It was good,’ she replied airily.
Hmm. I stared at her timetable. Welsh, PE.. bla bla bla.. ok and English. I know: I’m a subject snob. ‘How was English?’
She shrugged. ‘The teacher asked us to write down a bunch of things, including what worried us about English. I put my hand up and said, “Miss, I don’t understand the question.”
She asked me what I meant, and I said, “Because I’m not worried about anything when it comes to English.”
She said to me, “That must mean that you don’t care about English then.”‘
My ears pricked into antennas. ‘What did you say to that, Lu?’
‘She asked me what marks I was getting at my old school.
I said, “Pretty good marks,” and she said she wanted to know what I thought pretty good marks were.
So I said, “Mostly A-stars.”’
I felt my liver wince. The teacher must have loved that. Lulu playing the anticipated new role as homeschool/internet-schooled student whose political awareness had, until now, been smuggled away into home-cooked lunches and afternoon nature strolls.
I gulped. ‘What did she say to that?’
She said that if I had no worries at all then she could give me some extra work from Year 10. I said I thought that was a great idea and I’d love to do some extra work.
My eyes were practically popping by now. This conversation sounded straight out of a movie. The student-teacher new enemy relationship scene. And I already knew who was going to lose if it got worse. ‘What did the other kids say?’
‘Nothing. But then she asked the class if anyone thought they hadn’t progressed since Year 8. And this boy Oliver put up his hand. He said he didn’t feel like he’d progressed. The teacher started telling him that if he didn’t feel that he had, it was because he wasn’t expanding himself. He wasn’t trying hard enough. Afterwards, she asked the class the same question again. This time no one put up their hand.’
I frowned. ‘I bet.’
‘She’d asked us to be honest and when Oliver did, she shamed him in front of the whole class. She told him he was basically lazy.’
‘And meanwhile you have Year 10 work to do.’
Lulu grinned. ‘I don’t mind. Let her hit me with it.’
I shook my head. I felt like I had water in my ears. Since when did worry and care mean the same thing? ‘You know Lu, the next time she goes for you, you can tell her, “Miss, I’m not saying that I think I’m perfect. It’s just for me, if I work hard, then I don’t worry. I know that I’ve tried my best.’
‘Yeah and then she’ll give me detention for a week. You think I haven’t sussed out this real school yet?’