Al charged in, his usual happy investigative self this morning.
Within a short while he had surpassed himself by furtively setting up an experiment entitled: ‘What would happen if I broke an egg on the coffee table: and furthermore, how would Felix’s computer disc respond to the application of albumen?“
We wiped the egg up, and cleaned the disc, and the house found equilibrium once more.
Al brought me a pair of headphones. “I’ll put them on, you listen,” he directed. He put them on. I stuck the jack in my ear. “What am I thinking, Al?” I asked.
These aunts and their infernal questions: he confiscated the jack and disappeared in hot pursuit of I know not what.
A few minutes later, he pottered in with a large plastic robin, about the size of a small football. Over one eye it had a big hole. It was a broken robin.
But it was Al’s mission to make it better. He had found a small toy traffic cone which, if you put the pointy end in first, caught, and plugged the gap quite well. “Look, Auntie Kate! I’ve made Robin better!” he declared with considerable satisfaction.
He put the earphones on the robin and bustled about like a real veterinarian until it was time to go to school.
For the last time.
For the final fortnight of his time at nursery school, his mother will have finished working. There is no need, any more, for Auntie Kate.
And in September, Alasdair Shrewsday goes to Big School.
He had a trial run on Tuesday afternoon. All the parents brought their children to the door, and left them in a long line ready for their first session in Reception Class.
In line, he did the Falling Down For No Reason At All trick which goes down a storm with the children at playgroup. It met with silence. It was going to be a difficult crowd, Al decided.
When another little girl was asked if Mummy wanted to come through because she felt nervous, Al bellowed good naturedly: “I’m not nervous!”
His pre-visit has transformed his take on school. It is usually a trial to prize Al out of his office at the far end of my Mercedes estate to accompany the children to the playground. He is comfortable. He does not want to move his affairs at such short notice after the business day has begun.
Today, he was hammering to be let out, his knapsack already strapped to his back, and off at a pace down the path to school, his sisters and Felix running to catch up.
He rounded the playground and found the other pre-Receptioners. St Saviour’s is a school of around 240, ages 4-11, and each class has a morning line. The children walk across, put their bag on a line which represents their class’s queue, and run off to play.
Al and the tiniest kids played at Playing In The Big School Playground.
And then finally,in a move which made my eyes water and my nose run ignominiously, he solemnly took his rucsack, and found a Line which had been painted on the playground. He put his knapsack firmly on this self-appointed line. Al was here to stay.
It sat there: an aspiration waiting to be fulfilled. The perfect, positive beginning to a journey in education.
But it is a Rubicon. A line which, once crossed, will change things for all of us.
Al is leaving this time behind, as once Christopher Robin left the Hundred Acre Wood.
But a new story, I sense, is about to begin.