Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Article excerpt

'Oscar!' cried Miss Herd as I arrived. She was standing at the classroom door releasing her charges one by one as the parent, or in my case the grandparent, arrived to escort them safely back to their respective homes. Oscar came solemnly out in his navy Academy sweatshirt carrying his red Fireman Sam lunchbox and placed his four-year-old hand in his grandfather's 57-year-old one. We headed off to the car. 'Did Tom play with you today?' I said. Tom, by all reports, is omnipotent and capricious in his choice of playmates. 'No,' said Oscar tragically.

I was standing in on the school run for Daddy, who had to work an extra 12-hour shift at the care home unexpectedly. Oscar lives with Daddy and goes to stay with Mummy at the weekends. 'Are you having me?' said Oscar. 'Until eight o'clock,' I said. 'Is that long?' he said. 'Very,' I said. He looked up, pleased.

Before we did anything else, grandad had to go to the doctor's for a depot anti-testosterone injection in the bum. While we were inthe waiting area he sat on my lap and I read him a picture story called Rupert and the Pirates . Rupert was kidnapped by three vicious-looking, ill-mannered pirates, and one much older pirate with a kind face who eventually helped Rupert to escape. We wondered why such a decent old man should be keeping such disreputable company in the first place. When Rupert returned with a burly, laid-back policeman, the pirate with a kind face grassed up his mates, and the copper took his good behaviour into account and let him off with a caution.

And on that happy note we went into the treatment room, where Oscar sat on a chair clutching his red plastic lunchbox and watched as the practice nurse punctured grandad in the buttock of his choice with a syringe. The nurse was extra cheerful, even festive, with a small witness present, and afterwards presented him with a Biro sponsored by a drug company as a souvenir. Then he put his small hand in mine again and we went out. 'I like your shirt,' he said when we were out in the street again.

After that we went to a literary festival. The main event was being held in a medieval banqueting hall. We sat on deckchairs on the lawned courtyard outside, eating peppermint ice cream from tubs with plastic scoops located in the lids, while observing the festival-goers coming and going. …

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