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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Hill Street boots

Photo by Michael Gibb
"Fasten your bootlaces," I tell my son for maybe the hundredth time, as we're wandering back to his flat, after black coffees and a shared plate of salty chips in the Oxford CafĂ©, at the foot of Hill Street, near the Art School.

"Naw," he tells me for maybe the two hundredth time. 

See that's the thing about being a parent. You don't learn that they don't learn from you. They would much rather listen to complete morons who've had sixteen pints and are wearing T-shirts that say, 'Immigrants are like sperm - millions get in but only one works."

Oh sure, for the first coupla years kids pick up some stuff from their mum and dad. Mostly words. Especially if you're well educated. By the time my boys were four years old, according to the expertsthey'd heard 30 million more words than children from less middle class families. (I'm guessing that's about 300 from me.)

All those extra words are a huge advantage in terms of brain development. Which is probably why, after a few years of being a bum, my boy is now a highly capable man. 

Who can't tie his shoelaces. 

"I can," he tells me. "But sometimes I choose not to. You seen the new Ridley Scott, by the way? The Martian? You'd like it. Actually maybe the science would annoy you. High winds on Mars, stuff like that. Good film, though."

He crosses the road to take a look inside a skip and pulls out a long piece of plywood peppered with one-inch nails. "Hmm," he says. "What could I do with that?"

"Sleep on it?" I suggest. "Has The Martian got that Australian nutter in it? You know the one I mean. Scott uses him a lot."

"They're all nutters," he says, tossing the bed of nails back, stepping on his left lace with his right foot and stumbling. 

"See!" I cry. "That's what happens. You nearly fell there. If you'd been crossing the road you could have been hit by a bus."

"Bollocks," he says. "I went like this." He does a tiny stumble then walks on, going, "La, la, la."

I shake my head at the futility of it all. What is the point of decades of hard-won time on Earth if none of it is transferable to your kids? So much for experience, is what I'm thinking. About as useful as a Scottish twenty pound note in a Cornwall clotted-cream shop.

"They're all nutters," he says again. "You know what Australians are, don't you?"

"People from Australia."

"Scotsmen who've been left out in the sun too long."

We reach his flat. "Coming in for coffee?" he says.

"Just had one," I say. "And got to get back to write."

"Why can't you write a blockbuster science fiction film?" he says. "Can't be hard. Bunch of astronauts headed to Mars take a wrong turn, end up in Australia. Meet talking crocodiles. Turns out they're Martians, scouting for an invasion force. Astronauts tell them Ayres Rock is the capital of the world, which they believe because it's identical to Mars. Whole invasion fleet lands there and gets duffed up by Russell Crowe, wearing big boots with the laces undone."

"I'll get on it right away," I say, turning and stumbling over my own feet.

He raises one eyebrow and looks insufferably smug.

"Bugger off," I tell him and head on home.

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