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Friday, April 04, 2008

Bullying and the Eleven Plus

I was buying a pint of milk today.

There was a boy and his grandmother ahead of me in the queue. The boy was between thirteen and fourteen years old. The boy wanted a particular brand of cigarettes and the grandmother was not being quick enough. His three friends were standing a few feet away mocking him for taking so long. At one stage one of the `friends’ shouted: “Hurry up grandma!”

The shop keeper was patient. She understood that the boy could not make a direct purchase. She listened to the grandmother. She took the cigarettes off the shelf at the boy’s behest. Grandmother paid – but the boy pocketed the cigarettes. His friends left with him laughing and joking. The group went off in a different direction to the grandmother.

My grandparents had a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe. They grew a tobacco called `Virginia’ because it had a light colour. The leaves were picked in the fields and taken to the barns for curing. The tobacco was `flue cured’ – meaning that it was stored in a barn and heat was gradually added. The temperature in the barn had to be kept constant for days on end as the leaf slowly turned from green to gold.

The barn was allowed to cool and the tobacco was then taken to a grading shed where the leaves were sorted into different sizes and quality.

As the tobacco leaves rubbed against each other tiny flecks of tobacco fell to the floor.

Children dived under the table sweeping up and collecting. Naturally small bits of leaf also fell to the floor at times. These were hurriedly crushed and added to the dust.

Some tobacco was passed onto the adults – but some children kept little bags of crushed leaf. I suppose that only a person who has smoked a cigarette without a filter can imagine what a cigarette rolled in newspaper could possibly taste like.

I simply can not imagine any grammar school boy or girl bullying their grandparents in such a blatant manner. For this reason alone I hope your children do pass the Eleven Plus. At least you know that they won’t want to treat their grandparents badly.

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