Working at the weekend

flexi time


I try as much as possible to reserve weekends for family time – well, at the very least Saturdays, but this weekend I had to do work on a Saturday morning. I hadn’t factored in that my partner had arranged to go out on Saturday, mainly because, although he had mentioned it at some point, it wasn’t on the calendar. No problem, I said. I would take the kids to the interview with me and daughter one could babysit. Thursday night arrived. Daughter one announced she was going out on Friday and staying over in London. Uh oh.

That left daughter two as chief babysitter. Daughter two is the kind of babysitter who when left to invigilate a bath with only son ends up getting in with him, fully clothed. Yet she can have her very sensible moments – she announced this week that she had won the class prize for technology – and she is highly moral. Daughter two is the Chief Vegan in our household. Unpredictable would be a fair summing up of daughter two’s approach to life. I decided to let my interviewee know that I would be coming with kids and that it would be great if I could do the interview, but still have them in my line of vision somehow.

My interviewee was very happy to accommodate, not only that but he is the keeper of an ancient clock and invited the kids and I to help him wind it up. So after the interview in a beautiful enclosed garden during which daughter two improbably led a yoga session for the younger crew, we found ourselves climbing up a very narrow old staircase to wind up a centuries-old clock. The mechanism has been changed several times, most recently in the early part of the 20th century, but the clock face dates from the 18th century. However, it linked up to a GPS system across the way which transmitted information on its accuracy to a computer. The kids were impressed. They all had a go at winding the various parts of the clock and we registered our winding activities on a website. It’s not every Saturday that you get to wind up an ancient clock.

“I need the toilet,” said only son the moment we left the clock tower. There was a McDonald’s nearby. From the past to the present in 200 paces. We had something to eat and headed to Lush which is only son’s favourite shop in the world. He asked for multiple demonstrations and then plumped for a multicoloured bath bomb, brandishing the money he had earned from losing his first two baby teeth. We headed for New Look, only son’s least favourite shop ever. He had to be escorted out after complaining very loudly that surely daughter two already has enough clothes by now.

Daughter two is off on an exchange next week and needed a t-shirt. On the way home, she looked tired. I mentioned that I had found her on her computer at midnight the night before. I had been worrying that she was watching something she shouldn’t have, possibly involving zombies since they appeal to her melodramatic side. She announced that she had in fact been watching a programme about what the ideal world would look like and proceeded to give me a detailed description of how she would transform the education system – more personalised learning [“we are not robots”], more focus on creative skills and collaboration, more continuous assessment…

I spend quite a bit of time reading reports on this kind of thing by academics and experts. Here was daughter two, aged 14, coming up with it all by herself. I have decided that, in addition to being my technical support officer due to her prowess at technology, she will now be my go to person for discussing matters of education policy.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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