stopped in front of us at lights on the way into Oxford yesterday.
Alan Sugar, Amish, apprentice wizard, besom, boot camps, dyslexia, Fantasia, given the sack, Goldberg, Harry Potter, internship, Lord Sugar, Mary Poppins, Mennonites, mysordering, Rechabites, Shakers, Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Apprentice, tough love, Ugg boots, University of York, You're fired!
Carrie sank into a leather sofa that was as distressed as she was.
What’s up now? I enquired, trying not to sound too unsympathetic.
Tiger-Lily is throwing her weight around, but because she is stressed
with exam preparation, we all have to tiptoe around her. It’s like
walking on eggshells.
But she’s going to get A*s for everything, isn’t she? So, what’s the
She wants to make a good impression so that she can secure an internship.
Unpaid work, I sniffed. It can be a con. Anyway, unless she is going to
work for Alan Sugar for some astronomical sum, she’d be better just finding
her own feet in her own time.
But sometimes I fantasise about getting her out from under our feet for
a while, admitted Carrie. She is driving her brothers mad.
That’s why young people used to be sent away, I said, browsing the
beverage menu and pointing out my tea of choice to a young girl who was
earning more in tips than any intern.
Sent away! I wasn’t meaning anything too drastic, recoiled Carrie.
Well, in 14th century Florence, Paolo Somebody-or-Other said: ‘Give your son
to a merchant or a close friend. He will not mend his ways while he is with
you.’ I read something about it on-line yesterday.
Hmmm. It’s probably true, Carrie granted, but who would take her in?
Don’t look at me! I said. It was somebody from the University of York,
possibly called Goldberg, who was saying that it used to be recognised
that people other than parents could teach unruly kids a thing or two.
Contracts were made with merchants and so on who would educate
youngsters and give them a trade. If they didn’t behave, the training
period could be doubled. It suited the merchants as they were being
paid and the kids were cheap labour.
How long were they away from home? Carrie looked interested.
Could be seven to fourteen years, it seems.
What kind of bad behaviour would lead to such a severe extension?
Gaming, cards, harlots and something vague called ‘mysordering’, I answered.
Carrie didn’t want to go there. ‘Mysordering’ was probably dyslexia…
..which apparently doesn’t exist according to the latest..I interrupted.
The firm line reminds me of boot camps on the telly- you know where druggy
brats are sent to live with Shakers- not movers and-..the other kind, in
America, Carrie expatiated.
The Shakers were kind to the kids they sent them as far as I remember,
I corrected her. Some of the young people were attracted by firm
boundaries and tough love. At any rate they respected their mentors. Maybe
their hosts were Mennonites, though. Or Rechabites. I can’t remember
The thing is, excused Carrie, Tiger is hormonal. If she didn’t have her home
comforts, she wouldn’t be able to cope.
Yes, but even boys in the 16th century were writing home to complain that
their washing wasn’t being done and the food was terrible. One mother is
recorded as sending her son three clean shirts in a sack. She suggested that
he should keep the sack to put his dirty laundry in.
I wonder if that’s where the expression ‘being given the sack’ came from?
What- being nagged by one’s mother?
No, being kicked out along with your laundry bag.
I think Alan Sugar would just point a finger at you nowadays and would utter
his immortal: You’re fired!
Carrie looked thoughtful. Tiger had the most awful tantrum because her
favourite top hadn’t been ironed. She’s a besom, as her Scottish grandmother
Besom? Isn’t that an old-fashioned word for a broom?
Yes. Maybe I should get her to sweep the patio for her impertinence.
Ah! recollections of Fantasia, I smiled. Maybe the brooms would subdivide and
youth and inexperience would be taught a lesson, as in The Sorcerer’s
A bit like Harry Potter being an apprentice wizard who can’t control the magic,
I warmed to the theme.
Agreed, nodded Carrie. These kids still need their elders and betters to take
charge, no matter how sophisticated they THINK they are.
So, you’ll ignore her slamming the doors?
Just until the exams are over, Carrie said, and then I will be slamming some
myself and if she doesn’t wisen up, she’ll be visiting Amish for a long vacation.
Is that her Scottish uncle? I wisecracked.
No, you know what I mean perfectly well, Candia. I mean that she’d better
not be getting too big for her Ugg boots, because she’s about to find out, in
the words of Lord Sugar: Mary Poppins I am not!