Competitive parents beware
The concept of "reading age" is a funny thing. Those with children will be familiar with it, those who work in bookshops too - at some unspecified point in the school year it appears that somebody in authority Decrees what a child's reading age is (for the uninitiated - not remotely dependent on chronological age!) and suggests that they read accordingly. Which is fine - some kids read better and faster at earlier ages than others. In practice, however, it becomes another cause of panic for the parents - is he reading "the right age" of books? A nervous parent came in and asked for teenage books for her 9 year old, as he had recently been assessed as having a 14-yr-old reading age. It was totally in vain to tell her that most teenage books these days are entirely concerned with Issues that 9 year olds may be uncomfortable with, i.e. drugs, sex, people-trafficking, ASBOs, unwanted pregnancy, knives, mugging, and all the other joyful trappings of an ordinary teenager's life. "Oh, but he's terribly intelligent." she said, entirely missing the point, waving aside our protests and buying the poor child a copy of "American Psycho"... well, obviously not "American Psycho", but why even go on? Somewhere out there in Southwest London is a bewildered 9-year-old who will henceforth be terrified of girls, drugs, psychopaths, going outside at any time of day whatever, etc etc..
Political satire, ooh controversial
I was sitting in a friend's garden yesterday with various other people, some of whom genuinely had the day off, at least two of whom were "working from home" - ie feet up on a deckchair with laptop on. At one point my friend Eamo had to call his IT department to speak to someone called Osama about his inability to get email - whether he admitted he was trying to get emails while sitting in someone else's garden is a moot point. I only mention this because there is something profoundly ironic and unintentionally funny about someone on the phone saying "Can I speak to Osama please? .. Oh, he's not there... Do you know where he is?"