LAST WEEK I was on a train. In the same carriage was a collection of object studies for parental hope and anxiety. There were the private-school girls in their blazers, box pleats and boaters, their silky ponytails unravelling. There were the labourers falling asleep, heads against the windows. There were the clerks and office workers, and a man in a suit speaking into his earpiece. “That’s the meeting that worries me,” he said, crossing his pinstriped legs. “Clear my diary for that one. It won’t settle. We’ll be going to court.” He must have had good marks at school, I thought. He got into law. And there were the junkies – three of them, clothes draped and belted over their bones. They were teenagers. They stank. One sat next to me. These are the hazards of public transport. Or public anything. You cannot choose your fellow travellers.
I think at heart I am scared, which is in keeping with the times. I am afraid of the future, afraid of difference and afraid for my children. The greatest fear of all. Our children make us hostages to fortune. Naturally we do what we can to bulwark them against risk. But I am considering doing something that most of my peers seem to regard as an unacceptable risk – I am thinking of sending my children to the local high school.
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