1 AM Saturday 20 July 2012 Nunhead Heights

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my children cry. Well, not nothing, but I get a warm feeling when my children get all sad and need a shoulder to cry on.

Lovely,Lovely Mini-Lew on school leaving day. Getting his shirt signed by friends.

When I see my children sobbing I know they need me, they’re vulnerable, and they won’t be pounding on each other or screaming for me to buy them something. There’s peace.

My oldest son, Mini-Lew, had his primary school leaving day today, Friday.

He is eleven and “graduating” from “Fairlawn Primary – The Best Primary School in the Borough of Lewisham Because Mr. Bosher is Amazing.” [Mr Bosher was the Head - USA: the Principal]. In September, Mini-Lew is going to “Harris Boys in East Dulwich, Where a Lot of Money has been Spent and Mr. Bosher is now Overseeing.” Most of the other children are going to other schools in the area.

The parents and the children met up afterwards at The Herne Tavern on Peckham Rye in East Dulwich, right across the park from Nunhead Heights. How very English. Or rather, how un-American. Children in a pub where adults are drinking? Sacre Bluer! [Is that how you spell that?]

Like all leaving dos, one finds out one is fond of people one hadn’t thought one had been that fond of, and one finds that they are fond of you and you had no idea. This usually happens in the storage shed behind the pergola in the garden. No luck for me.

Anyway, one always has the fondest feelings when one is leaving.

Still, Fairlawn parents are some of the most decent parents of the children one could send his child to school with. Whoa, that’s a mouthful. Lovely, lovely people, Fairlawn people, and even more lovely after they told me what a good dad I was and how lovely they thought Mini-Lew is.

Mini-Lew, by universal parental agreement, is “a lovely, lovely child”. And I believed the parents even though I told them their children were “lovely, lovely children” too. Parents do that in the same way everyone at a twenty-five-year high school reunion tells each other “You haven’t changed at all!!!”

Mini-Lew is truly lovely, lovely.

I know he is because his younger brother, the Wild One, nine-year-old, is not universally called a “lovely, lovely child”.  He has his fans among parents but parents don’t universally call a child who scampers up fifty-foot-tall trees like a Madagascar Limpir  and splashes recklessly in the rat-pee River Peck “lovely” like a rat. Still, he is gentle with smaller children, though, and is first to comfort a sad or injured child. A lovely, lovely child.

Anyway, something happened in the beautiful Herne Tavern garden, a garden with mounds of the kind that Saddam Hussain built before the first Gulf War to delay the Americans and British, planted with dozens of fruit trees.

A spontaneous outbreak of mass hysteria erupted and my Mini-Lew was the most emotional. All 20 or 30 classmates were crying, running around from classmate to classmate hugging and having group hugs and saying that they would never see each other again and that they didn’t want to leave Fairlawn. It was pandemonium.

Columbus came over to me when things calmed down, I hadn’t interfered – okay, I didn’t notice as I was talking about my children to other parents. He was trying to dry his eyes with a Kleenex. We put our arms around each other. It helped a bit. It was a lovely moment.

Here was my son being so adult and feeling the new emotion of loss.

Then I laughed and almost couldn’t control myself.

I shouldn’t have laughed but it was that or cry myself. I was feeling new emotion, too: The odd feeling of witnessing my child being so adult. Or maybe it was me feeling all adult having a child that adult. I felt weird, that is all I know.

One doesn’t have many new emotions at my age. I can’t remember the last new one I had. I usually have the same old emotion: embarrassment at my failure. Maybe this is why one has children – so one can feel something totally new? [And I must stopped using the word "one"!]

Later, I informed Columbus that I, too, cried like he was crying when his mother took him and his brother off to Scotland for Christmas without me when he was just two and half. I thought I would never see them again.

I wanted him to understand that it’s okay to cry, that everything would be alright, and that his mother wasn’t nice to me. Not very mature on my part but I was feeling fragile, too.

He smiled because he’s a lovely, lovely, child and  he knows that’s just his Dad talking shite. Then he started fighting with his brother again and asking me for money. Back to normal. Lovely, lovely.

[And that is what a few pints of beer over five hours does to me. Make everything seem so lovely!]

In praise of Beans on Toast:

There are certain signs that one has gone native – the drinking is one. Another is when a fellow American expatriate calls soccer “proper football” and you agree. Or when you can go into a restaurant and not ask for anything different from what is on the menu. Or when you make Beans on Toast.

I held out for twelve years before I made Beans on Toast. And I enjoyed it.

The other night I went all the way. I had Beans on Spaghetti – a dish that was common in this country before I arrived in 2000, or so I believed. I had seen it in the book Fergus’s Upside-Down Day by Tony Maddox.

If you like beans on toast, you will surely like beans on spaghetti. Beans are tomato-y and protein-y and make a delightful topping.

Interesting, it is not an English dish at all and according to my informal survey, it’s only ever mentioned in the Fergus’s Upside-Down Day. Which, by the way, is a lovely, lovely book. Highly recommended.

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