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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Eleven Plus Blackmail

Some of the parents of Year 5 girls and boys may be looking ahead with some considerable anticipation towards the eleven plus examinations. These will be families who are pretty confident that their child will pass the eleven plus – and it is only a matter of time that this will be confirmed. The children may need to do a few papers but will not need to slog over the work.

Parents, however, will still worry. They may turn their attention to their child’s appearance – after all any self respecting mother or father does have to do something if they feel that continual nagging is inappropriate. Lucky the girl whose mother decides to do something about her complexion. (The complexion of the daughter – not that of the mother!)

There may be some self respecting mothers and fathers who will not want to start their daughter on commercial makeup.

“No dear. It is too early. Your Aunt Edna did not start on make up until she was married.”

(Daughter winces melodramatically.)

“We will use Grandmother Harriet’s concoction. It worked for her for seventy years. It should work for you.”

“Oh mum!”

“We can do this together.

We will mix four drachms of zinc oxide, two drachms of sulphur precipitate, four drachms of glycerine and add four ounces of rose water.”

“But mum I have never heard of drachms. What is it?”

“Of course the eleven plus does not use the old units. A drachm is about an eighth of a fluid ounce.”

“What is a fluid ounce?”

“A unit of liquid – often used by the apothecaries in years gone by.”

“I know what an apothecary is. I know how bad sulphur smells. I also know that precipitation is to do with settling or sedimentation. I know too what glycerin is – you use it to blow up bridges. Do you really want me to smear that on my face? Have a heart, mum!”

“Well dear, it does work. We will make some up and smear it on you face twice a day. We will first of all wash your face with warm water and oatmeal.”

“Mum, please I beg of you. I would rather do an eleven plus paper every day than put that stuff on my face. Please Mum. Please I beg of you. It sounds gross.”

“All right. All right. You can do an eleven plus paper every day. I will use the unguent on myself.”

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