A man who crossed a river in 49 BC still has influence over us. All those years ago Julius Caesar crossed a river with his legions. The river was the boundary between Rome and one of the provinces. Once he crossed the river he was in fact declaring civil war.
It is always a little strange to call a war `civil’. If we are civil to our elders we are polite and well mannered. If we enjoy a civil wedding then we are participating in a wedding where marriage vows are exchanged . The religious element of the wedding, however, is by choice and not decree. The civil rights movement was associated, for some time, with peaceful protests. Violence erupted only when the authorities became upset.
But when Caesar crossed the river he crossed the Rubicon. We know that crossing the Rubicon is a decisive and irrevocable step.
In just a few months time you will be taking a final and irrevocable step. You will be filling in a form where you are writing the senior schools in order. You are offred a choice – and you really do get to choose at this stage. Later on you may not be offered the school of your choice but at least for a few moments you will have had a choice. You have been exercising your civil rights. One you have completed, and sent the form off, you will have `Crossed the Rubicon’.
Lets us go back now to the concept of being civil. While you are working towards the eleven plus you still want your son or daughter to be civil to you. You can not demand your rights over your child otherwise you may provoke civil war. Your choices of school may not coincide with your child’s choices. You are going to have to be diplomatic and ask your child’s opinion. You are going to have to be civil to your child.
In the months leading up to the examination you will not be able to think about engagements, weddings, christenings or even death. It is funny how focused and single minded you will become. Your conversations will be directed towards `chances of passing’ and `standard scores’ and even `alternate angles’. You will stop buying clothes for fear of upsetting the Gods of Chance. You will always fold your arms twice to make sure that no evil sprits can enter your body. You will not step on any lines.
You see you have Crossed the Rubicon. You took that decisive and irrevocable step to enter your child for the eleven plus. Oh dear!
There is, however, one element that you still have control over. We understand that the river that Caesar crossed is now called the `Pisatello’. It is a river in Italy just north of Rimini. My brother and I crossed the Pisatello the year before last. There were mountains and deep valleys with trees. Julius Caesar was not running about with his legions.
So when it all gets a bit too much for you – phone a friend. Buy a ticket for two to Rome. Hire a Ferrari. Leave all thoughts of your family behind. Buy a case of deep red wine. Lie back. Forget about examinations for a few stolen hours.