EPISODE FOUR

My mum has her Kindle back and is deeply grateful and my dad is beginning to hate the Kindle more than he would ever have hated a micro pig because she’s spending more time with it and it means his dinners are getting rubbish.  He’s accusing her of having an ‘obsessive personality’ and she’s asking him who he thinks he is to talk to her that way.

And he asks her what’s so bleeding great about a Kindle anyway, and that’s where I come in.

In order to stop the arguing, and get my pudding in my plate not thrown across the kitchen (which is looking quite likely at this point) I say,

‘Mum, it would be really good if we could talk about Kindles and Culture and things this afternoon.’

It’s a Saturday and I can think of any number of things I’d rather do but I want my pudding and I want to get the essay done and I need my mum’s help and I’m helping her because if she throws the pudding at my dad’s head he might stick the Kindle in the cow trough as he’s just threatened to do and she might say ‘well none of this would have happened if you’d bought me a micro pig’ and I might end up with divorced parents and no more ‘close and loving family’ and still have another year at TattyBogle Primary to contend with and that’s all too much for me. I just want a quiet life. So I’m going to intervene. Create a diversion.  Step up to the plate. And I’ll do it by talking Culture with my mum. If I have to.

And mum is happy to have an ally for once and so she pats me on my head, while putting my pudding down Very Slowly and Carefully (just to point out to my dad that she could have thrown it at him with deadly accuracy if she’d wanted to but he’s not worth it) and says,

‘Thank goodness someone in the family shows an interest.’

Crisis averted.  Dad huffs and John sniggers but soon enough they are back out to work and I’m left with mum, Kindle and Culture. Which is not as good as watching sport on TV I can tell you. But sometimes you have to sacrifice your body for the team.

‘So what do you want to know, son,’ she asks me, cradling her Kindle in one hand. She’s not going to actually let me hold it yet I don’t think. It’s like a guitar, no an expensive violin, no more like a baby – I’ve not yet proved myself worthy of holding it. Imagine if I broke it.  I don’t really care. I’m not interested in the Kindle. It is what Uncle Tam calls ‘the means to an end.’ The end that justifies the means. Or something.

‘It’s about my project, mum,’ I say. And try to explain to her that if I can just get this essay right I’ll win the competition and everyone will be proud of me.

‘But there’s just one problem,’ I say.

‘What’s that?’ She asks.

‘I don’t understand,’ I say.

‘What don’t you understand,’ she says, because my mum is quite keen on making you think for yourself and express yourself clearly and all that.

‘Anything,’ I say. And I’m telling the truth.

‘Well, that’s a fine place to start,’ she says.

So I spill my guts and tell her that Mr EM has explained to me that it’s part of the Curriculum for Excellence where you have to tie everything in with everything else in everything you do. And I’m the boy whose going to tie us all up in knots.

And she laughs. Not at me of course, she’s my mum. Mums don’t laugh at you. It’s not allowed. So she laughs with me. Even though I’m not laughing.

But it’s a point of connection and we spend the afternoon talking about reading and literature and how Kindles have opened up a whole new world of reading for everyone.  I ask her are Kindles just for the digital masses or for the Cultural Elite and she looks at me strangely like I’ve asked a stupid question. Well, I mean, most of my questions are stupid. They have to be, don’t they? Just asking a question shows you don’t know something and not knowing something is stupid and if you know the answers and aren’t stupid what are you doing asking questions? Haven’t you got better things to do?

This is not so much a project as a punishment.  I mean, Curriculum for Excellence is all very well, though my dad calls it ‘Curriculum for excrement’ which is his way of saying he thinks it’s all shit, and I tend to agree with him now. Why can’t they just keep it in the schoolroom? I mean. We don’t need it at the weekend do we? Not in our real life. Any more than we need Culture. At the weekend we need Sport. Not Culture.

In TattyBogle the notion of excellence isn’t one that we bother about very much anyway. Well, when Show Day comes there’s a bit of argy bargy in the vegetable tent usually but that’s the incomers. They do like to ‘compete.’ And be ‘excellent.’  My mum says that’s because they think they are the ‘social’ elite and I wonder if that’s the same as the ‘cultural’ elite.  I think my plan to get my mum to help me may be a good one because what with her new found Kindle learning she seems to know quite a bit about reading, and besides that I’m desperate.  I need to have this essay in by Monday. It’s Saturday afternoon. And I’m as clueless as I was a month ago.  Which is not the way Curriculum for Excellence is supposed to work. You’re supposed to learn things aren’t you? And not just how stupid you are.   But I do know one thing.  I know I’ll have to ca’ canny because if she realises I’m only chumming up to her for her knowledge she’ll make me do it on my own. No, I need to make her think that I’m interested in learning and reading and all that jazz and the way to do that will be to tell her how great her Kindle is.

‘Mr EM says Kindles will Kill Culture, mum,’ I say, knowing that now she will engage with the battle.

‘What a remarkably stupid thing to say,’ she replies.

‘Yes, I thought so too,’ I say.

And we are off and running.

Mum has her dander up and we rush to the computer where I show her all the stuff about the Writers Conference and she looks at the ‘acclaimed’ writers and admits she’s never heard of most of them.  But that’s not going to stop us.

‘See,’ she says, ‘we can download them right here, right now. Without even going to the library.’

Which is lucky because in these times of economic austerity the library is shut on a Saturday afternoon in TattyBogle and anyway, I saw John use mum’s library card to clean the crud off the hoof of a calf the other day and I don’t think he Put It Back like he should have done.

So mum gets her Kindle out  -the weapon of truth – and she starts looking for ebooks to download.  It’s shopping without ever leaving home. She loves it. And we decide that if the acclaimed author doesn’t even have their book out as an ebook then they probably aren’t any good.  My mum explains the pricing structure to me. How some books are free and some are expensive and it doesn’t actually mean anything other than how the publisher is trying to rob money off you and so she prefers the cheap ones than the expensive ones. I know this isn’t what Mr EM tells us because he tells you that ‘you have to pay for professional culture’ but I’m not here to keep Mr EM happy (well, of course I am) I’m here to learn more things and this is something mum wants me to know: that the value of something isn’t always related to its price.  Sounds radical to me but it takes all sorts to make a world, doesn’t it?  And remember I did think before that maybe the value of the thing is in the thing not in the price someone charges. I tell mum this thought and she tells me I’m a very ‘insightful young man’ and she’s sure ‘I can win the competition even just to spite Mr EM.’

So now it’s really game on. And mum’s going to do all the reading for me on here Kindle as long as I look at the websites and tell her what questions we are supposed to be ‘addressing.’  Result.

Don’t forget to come back for the double length, final episode TOMORROW and in the mean time if you like Jack tell him.  (Ed)