I’m worn out. And after helping cart Ms Miffy’s portfolio across London, my arms are dangling gorilla-style round my knees. How we ever thought she’d manage on her own, goodness knows! Anyway, for your edification here are the the gory details:
9.10 am – Leave house having written hasty note to school giving little Miff permission to come home at lunchtime to see to the cat and the dog. I’m lugging huge plastic folder, Ms Miffy equally huge plastic one held together with duck tape, which splits only yards down the road. Realise that there’s no way we’re going to be able to humph this lot with us on the tube.
9.30 a.m. Arrive at station. At the sight of us staggering along, the station ‘mafia’ take pity, and for once don’t ask us to show tickets. Leave Ms Miffy propping up her portfolios (or perhaps the other way round). She’s still suffering from the lurgy, and is coughing like a consumptive. Her voice is coming back gradually. She’s brought strepsils along with her but decides that keeping the pathetic croak might gain her a sympathy vote at her interview. Does not, however, gain her any sympathy from the station staff, who tell her off for moving several inches away from her luggage to check the train times. Interesting thought here: If the rail company were to blow up her entire 2 year’s worth of A Level art coursework, would we be able to claim compensation?
9.40 a.m. Manage to catch earlier train than we’d intended. Stroppiness of station staff made up for by helpfulness of ticket collector lady on train who helps us find some seats and finds somewhere safe for the portfolios. Ms M falls asleep against my shoulder on journey.
10.30 ish. Get into Paddington. First stop cash machine, where I withdraw the equivalent of a small mortgage to cover taxi fares. Ms M splashes out 20p to pee. We both splash out on coffee and sandwiches.
11 ish. Find nice taxi man. Spend equivalent of modest mortgage on drive to Charing Cross. Try hard not to let out exclamations every two seconds of ‘Ooh, look! There’s ….’ ‘Hey, isn’t that where…?’ and similar remarks like a four year old on an outing. Parents can be so embarrassing at times. By now Ms Miffy is beginning to look more than a little pale and ‘interesting.’
Wait in arctic blast at Charing Cross for train to be announced. Combined effects of said blast and Millie’s coffee from Paddington earlier, sends me off through the turnstiles brandishing my 20 p pee money. Gaze into the mirror and wonder whether I look the part of ‘prospective art student’s mother.’ Probably not, but it’s too late to do anything about it now anyway.
Twenty minutes and one chapter of Brian Mclaren later, we arrive at Elmstead Woods station. Ms M calls taxi company. Can’t understand at first why she can hear another phone ringing in the background until we find out that said taxi firm is based only yards down the road!
12.30 ish. Arrive at college – 1 1/2 hours early! Our arms are stll in their sockets and the duck tape is holding out…just… Friendly receptionist lady lets us store our luggage in her office, and directs us down a coridoor to the canteen where dozens and dozens of noisy students are milling around eating chips and looking arty. Poor Ms M looks worried. Refuses any food and buys herself a coke. A few other interviewees have also arrived early. You can tell who they are by their terrified expressions, large portfolios (though none as large as Ms Ms so far) and instruction sheets clutched in their sweaty palms. However as the other students leave and the place quietens down, they start to relax a bit and start talking to each other. Ms M gets into conversation with a boy opposite. I make myself invisible. As I’ve noticed before, it’s amazing what you learn about the life and times of your average teen at times like this.
2 p.m. The hour has come. As parents, our last task is to help our offspring down the coridoor to the studios after which we’re redundant. I stay with another couple of mums, and we search out the library. Linger there a while, but somehow reading the papers doesn’t appeal, and eventually we drift back to the canteen to talk about life, the universe, A Levels, and the joys and sorrows of parenting teens. And of course, how it’s all changed since our day! Our own teens return at one point, but no, we’re not finished. This is only a break before round two of the process.
4.10 p.m. Having given up all hope of ever seeing our offspring again, we’ re startled to be interrupted in mid-chat by knocking at the by now locked door. They’re through!
Club together with another mum and daughter who are also Paddington bound and taxi to the station. Over the wait for the train hear Ms Miff’s verdict on the afternoon. Not promising apparently. When they were notified of the interview, barely a couple of weeks ago, they were told that they’d be seeing round, plus each would be having a 20 minute interview with a tutor during which there would be a chance to go through the work they’d brought with them. In the event, the staff went through their portfolios whilst the students were being shown round. There was no interview, each instead being asked to pick a piece of work at random and give a one minute presentation to the group. Ms Miffy also reckons that the work the others brought with them seems to differ drastically to that that she’s been encouraged to produce for A Level, in that it’s far more creative. Worries that her school are teaching in a rigid, prescriptive way. Resolves to rethink her portfolio if not for Friday’s interview – certainly for Oxford Brookes in February, and include mostly stuff she’s done off her own bat at home. We’ll see.
Start the crawl home. We pass an uneventful journey. Make running repairs to the black portfolio en route. Resist the temptation to see how many folk I can bash on the legs with it as we charge through Paddington station in the rush hour! Thank goodness there’s a through train due. Pausing only to grab a Burger King, we leap aboard.
Still, we’re back in one piece. Wish us luck for the next time….Friday. And poor Ms Miff, who has a French exam tomorrow!