Thursday, 3 November 2011
Soon after the coalition government was formed David Cameron and Nick Clegg announced their intention to delay morning cabinet meetings so they could help with the school run.
But in this week’s Grazia interview the PM said he doesn’t take his two school-aged children to school as much as he used to, though he does try and do it once a week. “...every morning there are priority meetings and phone calls,” he told interviewer Jane Moore, “so you’re endlessly being squeezed...”
Well, welcome to real life. David Cameron is far luckier than most of the working population because he lives “above the shop” and can dash upstairs to the flat above No 10 for a cuddle with baby daughter Florence in between meetings. If you’re running a small business or working as a teacher (don’t forget, it’s the last episode of Channel 4’s fantastic Educating Essex tonight) there’s no way you can break off during the day and pop home.
For most of us, working means a lot of hard graft and endless compromises. Six years ago my husband was working on his computer in our freezing cold attic. He was in between jobs at the time and suddenly came rushing downstairs at top speed. He’d had an amazing new idea for an ingenious hi-tech system that helps to reduce water leakage. Not the glamour end of the market, but pretty damn smart all the same.
All this time later, his eureka moment has resulted in a fully-fledged company 70 miles from home that’s helping to save vast quantities of water around the world. There’s still a long way to go, but to get this far at all he’s had to work flat out seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. He’s missed parents’ evenings galore, cancelled holidays at short notice and hardly ever took our children to school. But then again, if he had helped with the school run, his company wouldn’t exist at all – let alone be employing anyone or making a major contribution to saving water.
I’m sure he’s not the only parent who’s made sacrifices. In fact he’s probably very typical of so many working parents.
Nick Clegg said last year that children often miss out on time with their dads and highlighted research showing that “where fathers are involved in their children’s lives they develop better friendships, they learn to empathise, they have higher self-esteem, and they achieve better at school.” Well yes, but this isn’t something you can fix through legislation or by insisting fathers (sorry, but it is usually the dads) get home in time to put the children to bed. Working parents simply have to make time for their children when they are at home.
PS: After reading my blog about the forthcoming RCA Secret exhibition yesterday, a reader asked what I’d bought in previous years. I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember who the artists are but the two prints we bought are pictured above, in their full glory. Sad to say, they are not by Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin.
Wednesday, 2 November 2011
The Royal College of Art invitation sits tantalisingly on the shelf. This year’s RCA Secret sale takes place on November 26 and looks set to be as good as ever, with original postcard-sized works by superstar artists alongside up and coming art graduates. Last year's show featured art by Tracey Emin, David Bailey, Peter Blake, Maggi Hambling and many more.
RCA Secret was launched back in 1994 and is now an annual event. Each year hundreds of artists, from penniless students to household names, create a one-off work of art on a postcard. The public can then buy one of the 2,800 cards on display for £45 (all proceeds go to support student artists training at the RCA). But the catch is that you don’t know who designed your card till you’ve handed over your money.
The first year I went I queued for three and a half hours and failed to buy anything. So the following year we set the alarm for the crack of dawn and arrived at 6.30am. Big mistake. By the time we got to Kensington Gore the queue snaked right round the college and back again. Some intrepid art fans had pitched sub-arctic style tents on the pavement outside and rumours were flying around in the darkness that they’d been there for three days.
We thought we were well-equipped for the wait with coffee, iPods and thermals but our efforts paled into insignificance next to our fellow queuers. Most had sleeping bags, blankets, chairs and ski gear.
When the queue hadn’t moved an inch after 90 minutes my son whispered in my ear. “Shall we go home?” he said. Freezing cold and fed-up, I agreed. But my daughter wasn’t having any of it. “Don’t be so feeble,” she instructed firmly.
It was an agonising five hours till we reached the front of the queue. By the time we got inside the RCA building we were so numb with cold we could barely speak. And just like the year before, when we made it to the basement saleroom virtually all the cards we liked had gone. Electronic score boards flashed green for cards that were still available, red for ones that had sold. My daughter gave a running commentary as we inched closer and closer to the sales desk. “There’s one of your choices left, and one of mine,” she told us cheerily.
“Numbers 113 and 1898,” she told the saleswoman, when we finally made it to the front. And guess what? They were still there!
“You were right to make us wait,” I said as we trudged out, clutching our precious postcards. “But I’m not coming again.”
Except now it’s nearly time for the 2011 event… and I’m wavering.
You can view the postcards at the RCA from November 18.