I have had plenty of warning about Indian Day at school.

Please, Felix’s upbeat princess-template teacher asked: might we send in some dress-up clothes to celebrate Diwali? They need not be Indian: just bright and colourful as befitted a celebration.

I was on the Indian clothing cybersites before you could say Jack Robinson. As I googled I goggled: the little emerald silk outfits would make anyone look like the prince of a faraway land.

Grand scenarios of ordering a kurta – the loose top so prevalent in India and its surrounds – were overtaken by common sense. This is not a fashion show, Kate, I admonished myself; rather, it is a celebration. Whatever the children wear will make them feel special.

You are not going to spend twenty quid so Felix looks the part.

The week has flown, and tomorrow I must send my son in with an outfit.

I arrived home late and flew upstairs to rifle through stashes of clothes. What I found was initially unpromising. I began to fume. The results were far from my vision.

By bedtime it was looking to be far from right as all my searches turned out were jewel-coloured t-shirts and a few set of leggings.

I was flying upstairs to a tired Felix in bed, saying “This? This is quite Indian, isn’t it?”

“Mum,” he rejoined levelly, “Can we just not talk about this now?”

I’d apologise, but five minutes later I’d be back with something else.”This?….”

He gave me a straight look.

Finally I found them: a long linen kurta-alike in my wardrobe: a pair of voluminous cricket trousers; a stole from an evening dress to make the whole thing look festive.

It was far from perfect: but it would do.

I hurtled upstairs triumphantly. “Eureka!” I waved the kurta through Felix’s bedroom door in triumph.

The duvet said: “We’ll talk about it in the morning, Mum…”

Wordsworth was right. The child is the father of the man.

Perfection: it’s a stick to beat oneself with, as those who helped form our electoral system, here in Britain found.

A survey in 1780 showed the electorate consisted of just 214,000 people: or three per cent of the entire population of eight million. While Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds thrived in these brave new industrial times, they had not a single Member of Parliament between them.

Conversely, Dunwich in Suffolk – with a population of 32 in 1831 – was sending two MPs to Westminster.

The working man was voiceless, it seemed.

But the air was filled with a new zeitgeist. France had come through its revolution filled with notions of equality, liberty and fraternity: Tom Paine had already ignited the heart of the common American with his words.

British men of power could see that their system was no longer in the interest of many.

But how to conduct change, under the commonsensical British way?

It is as well to remember that not so long before women’s’ suffrage, there were martyrs to the cause of a vote for all men.

There was the Peterloo Massacre: at a demonstration in St Peter’s Field, Manchester the local militia turned guns on the crowd, killing 11 people. And despite an outcry still, no-one seemed to listen.

Instead, in small steps throughout the nineteenth century, Britain edged nearer to representation. The first act in 1832 was a firefighting measure to prevent revolution. It accorded to men living in towns who occupied property worth more than Ā£10: effectively, only one in seven men.

It was far from perfect.

Next came votes for men in towns only: rendering two in five men voters.

The final act, steered through Parliament by William Gladstone, extended the vote outside the boroughs to men in the countryside who paid rent of Ā£10 or owned property worth Ā£10 or more. By 1885, according to the National Archive, slightly less than eight million people had the vote.

It was still imperfect, though.It was during his work on the act that Hansard records an observation made by Gladstone.

He told Parliament:” Ideal perfection is not the true basis of English legislation.

“We look at the attainable: we look at the practical, and we have too much English sense to be drawn away by those sanguine delineations of what might possibly be attained in Eutopia, from a path which promises to enable us to effect great good for the people of England.”

What might possibly be attained in Utopia: idealism.

Sometimes, said Gladstone, being perfect can draw one away from effecting good.

An excuse, or a pragmatic approach?

I opted for the latter. Why get hung up on a perfect vision of a small Indian prince when I could send my son into school with glad rags which will make him exuberant during the celebration with his teacher-princess?

Let us keep our eyes on the prize.

But meanwhile, we will look at the attainable: at the practical.


41 thoughts on “Flawless

  1. I love the Wordsworth quote. It is literally years since I heard it.

    Mothers never want to let their children down, especially in front of the teacher and his peers, but children take things calmly in their stride, Kate, especially when mothers fuss!

  2. ah Kate, a wonderful connected subject matter, from finding the perfect kurta-look, through to the vote for all, ( I just wish all who now had the privilege through others fortitude would use it!! ) you carried me along magnificently,…. the talking duvet had me from the start… and being a ‘google gurl’ too. my smile widened and I giggled. Keeping my eye on the prize I shall depart… stage left.. (or was it right? My sense of direction is a marvellous thing to behold. šŸ˜‰ ) … xPenx

  3. Reminds me of the linen sheets (thank you Red Cross) I sliced in order to make togas…

    I had to make two. one for a friend who’s Mum didn’t sew!

  4. ohh, don’t get me started! But I fully admit that I snuck away from work for an hour to purchase a tiara and a pink tutu that my little monster in the “skate or die” shirt could slip on top of his outfit. He was the bomb or the balm and that means perfect while effecting good.

    1. He is a humbling soul sometimes, Penny. I find myself struck dumb sometimes by a reply: and I am a voluble type, rarely silent, so it takes some doing to keep me quiet! However he has a huge self esteem and very male sense of entitlement, so I won’t alert the Pope just yet.

  5. Love it, and hurray for Felix. He kept his Mum rooted in reality. . .

    Of course, you know that “Taxation without representation” was one of the reasons us Americans no longer speak the Queen’s English. . .

    1. Yup, I do, Paula: at least America’s sense of fair play triumphed on that one….otherwise you’d still have the Queen coming over on state visits. The very thought….

  6. He is such a character your Felix šŸ™‚ I am convinced he was as splendid as any royal rajah – a little ambition does no haarm!

    1. He was as lary as a rajah, that’s for sure, Bandsmoke! He is has a tendency to play the crowd somewhat so I am fairly sure he would have been at the centre of goings-on…

  7. Young Felix continues to astonish me – practical to the hilt and yet with vision, I think. But I expect this combination is possible because of the way and by whom he is being brought up. šŸ™‚ And perfection (and I’m not sure it’s truly attainable) is best achieved by taking small steps toward a vision of how things could be… MO

    1. I’m with you on that, Ruth. That vision is important and I still can’t understand whether Gladstone was right, or whether he was justifying falling short of a vote for every man.

      I suspect the latter. But I love the words.

      1. I love the words as well, I meant to say in my earlier response. And given that he was a politician, I suspect there was a fair bit of justification there… šŸ™‚

  8. Did you ever dress Maddie in a similar fashion . . . or perhaps in a bright sheet-turned-sari?

    Sounds like Felix enjoyed the day, and THAT’s what matters.

    1. Maddie walks her own path with these things, Nancy: but I’m sure she would love to try sari fabric. Once I went to Southall with a friend and bought several kurta sets to wear around the house: sublimely comfortable, and beautiful too…..and yes, Felix had a wonderful time, thank you!

  9. what fun, dressing a child with flair!

    Are we in for more changes soon? the electoral systems have given many dictators, corrupt repeat electees because the alternatives don’t have the (corrupt) money to campaign. IS 2012 – 2014 the years of real change?
    Maybe those predictions did foretell something…………

  10. Such a hard balance to strike, sometimes: eyes on prize, hands doing the practical. And it’s so easy to get so stuck on perfection — or lack thereof — that you forget the purpose and pleasure behind it.

  11. Another great post! Did he enjoy all of the wonderful Diwali sweets? I remember sitting on a roof top in Delhi watching so many people celebrate in the festivities. It was a wonderful night to remember!

  12. I can just picture the innovation! I did laugh thinking of how many “research projects” I once did for just such school moments, and alas, mine were without Google…but if Felix is anything like my son was at this age, once returned to his school mates he was very pleased his Mum had been so thorough and involved. I hope he had a wonderful time. I also wish I had a stronger anchor on British history, but I love the wonderful references and I always have Google to get a quick refresher. I do hope the Princess appreciated your classroom support! Debra

    1. She did, and Felix and his class had a wonderful time šŸ˜€ I tend to dip into history and back out again: I’ll never know everything there is to know about it so I keep my blinkers on and look just at the part which is relevant to the family on any day. Gladstone said what I was thinking for this post!

  13. I am really sick of all this multicultural stuff. Hey celebrate your heritage and be happy but do I have to be invaded by everyone’s this or that? It is imposed on us teachers to incorporate it into curriculum here in Miami but kids not interested either. We often can’t even figure out our own identities. Beside as Miami is such an international and multicultural place to begin with what do they think they are teaching when we live in it anyway? I resent seeing the flag of all different countries everywhere but the US flag seldom except on municipal buildings.

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