An unfortunate event
Your new correspondent

Your new correspondent

Hi, this is Natasha. Dad, the Sad Mad Bad Lad, has suffered an unfortunate event. Not quite as unfortunate as some of the events that Lemony Snicket writes about (where houses get blown up, children get snatched and that sort of thing), but unfortunate nonetheless.

I’ve just read all eleven of Lemony Snicket books. They’re hilarious. I like the way he tries to tell his readers not to read his books, when he obviously really wants them to. I’ve suggested that the Sad, Mad, Bad Lad might try this with his e-mails from America. He could put a warning on them that says, ‘Do not under any circumstances read this e-mail’. That might get people to think twice before deleting them. They might even read them.

I haven’t said anything to him, but I feel his e-mails are getting a bit self-obsessed. He keeps going on about his car and his various ailments. Maybe all forty-two year old men are like this. He’s started claiming to be the answer to life, the universe and everything, simply because he’s forty-two years old, wears number forty-two for his football team and has recently seen Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. The best bit in that film is Marvin the morose robot with the huge brain, “I want you all to know that I’m feeling very depressed”. It’s hilarious. Maybe all men are self-obsessed. What a terrible thought. I can see why Mum’s such a feminist. And I sometimes wonder if the Sad Lad is a bit misogynistic. Count how many times I’ve featured in his previous e-mails from America and see how that compares with the mentions that Jay has got.

The event that has befallen my poor unfortunate father is that I’ve relieved him of his responsibilities of writing this month’s e-mail. They need freshening up, a little more colour and some pictures. And he needs to get out more. He needs to walk the dog. Bronte, incidentally, has turned to the dark side. The effect of having been neutered at a young age, transplanted to a strange country and not getting enough exercise made our impressionable little Yorkshire Terrier vulnerable to the promptings of the Sith overloads. We’re hoping that Splodge Gravatt, our Guinea Pig, and Honey Gravatt, our Hamster, stay on the straight and narrow, but these are tough times. The forces of evil are strong.

The sad mad bad lad with dark side dog

The sad mad bad lad with dark side dog

Fortunately evil doesn’t get a look in at my school. Pear Tree Point doesn’t have a disciplinary procedure. It doesn’t need one. If Anakin Skywalker had been educated by Mr Trigaux, rather than Obi-Wan Kinobe, I doubt we would have had Darth Vader. It would have been all over with the third episode.

Pear Tree Point is a good school. I like it because I don’t have to have my hair tied up all the time like I used to have to at school in London. I’m going to grow my hair to my waist. I figure it will compensate for folical deficiencies elsewhere in the family, proving dear Dad and his premature baldness to be the genetic mutant in an otherwise unblemished genealogy of hirsuteness. I also prefer having a dress code rather than a fixed uniform. I like choosing what to wear, rather than having to wear a uniform like Mum has to wear for work. She has to wear black. Apparently everyone in advertising does. I’m going to hold off black until I hit my gothic punk phase. It should set off the pierced tongue real nice. To tell the truth I can’t ever see myself wearing black (dark blue maybe, but not black), but the Bad Lad insists that I will. He seems to think he can see the future (when, in fact, he’s looking back at the past).

My brother is now a teenager. He keeps making a big deal about his adolescent entitlement to be moody and difficult. I’m not at all sure about this, it sounds like encroachment if you ask me. Sulking surely is the right and privilege of the youngest. Mum and Dad struck a deal many years ago, whereby Mum was responsible for discipline until we became teenagers, when the Mad Bad One takes over. He’s taking his new responsibilities very seriously. Twenty years ago he used to go to rock concerts, ten years ago it was talks by young trendy writers, now he’s going to lectures by Harvard child psychologists. I was really worried before he went off to his latest talk, entitled ‘Raising children of character in an indulgent age’. Beforehand he was full of it heralding a new punitive era of austerity and household chores (I must remember to ask Grandpa Gravatt if Dad really did have to clean out the coal cellar with a toothbrush and wasn’t allowed to speak until spoken to). But, to my great relief, the lecturer was a softie liberal and came up with some sweet suggestions. One resulted in the quadrupling of my weekly allowance (to receive the dollar equivalent of my age, so long as I split it into five pots: a spending pot, a saving pot, an investment pot, a present pot and a charity pot. I’m not sure how I’m going to do that, we haven’t done fractions at school yet).

One of the main differences between school in London and America is that over here they make you believe you’re a genius, whereas back home the emphasis can err towards what you’ve got wrong. The simple reason Gene Kranz said that failure was not an option for Apollo 13 was because failure’s not part of the American curriculum. Unlike us Brits, who wallow in post-Imperial gloom, all too aware of our inadequacies and what we’ve lost, my new buddies are fed a constant diet of positive re-enforcement. In England I was considered dyslexic, here I get 103% in my spelling tests, demonstrating not only different orthographical standards, but also a somewhat shaky grasp of fundamental mathematical concepts.

Math they call it. It really is a different language. I’m can legitimately now claim to be fluent in two separate languages: English and American. Cookies, pants, sneakers, cell-phone, ten-of-nine, dude, I understand it all. I’m also learning the local language, Spanish. I guess that’ll make me tri-lingual.

It’s weird how, over here, the word ‘sick’ has three different meanings: cool, gross and ill. I was pretty sick (ill) last week, with some mysterious illness that required me to go the doctor’s for three consecutive days and then spend seven hours in Emergency as they tried to work out what I had. It was sick (cool) – I had a drip to re-hydrate me and an all body X-ray. They still couldn’t really work out what it was, but think it might have been a variant of Lyme disease, which you catch from the ticks of deer… pretty sick (gross).

I’ve no idea how I could have picked up such a thing, as we’ve recently had our garden treated against it and the deer won’t let me get anywhere near them. Maybe Bronte cast one of her dark art spells on me, although I don’t see why she would want to do such a thing. Perhaps she was jealous of my two new goldfish. I’ve called them Whitey and Brightey (ignoring Dad’s frankly silly suggestion that they should be named Fried and Grilled).

I might not be able to get close to the deer, but I’m finally back on the horses. I rode in my first gymkhana last weekend. It was one of my best days ever, there were loads of people watching and I got three rosettes. I was riding ‘Blackie’. My friend Sydney was there too.

We had Teacher Appreciation day the other week. Not as bad as Mum who had an Administrative Staff Appreciation Day. You should have heard the fuss she made about it. She wants to know when Global Business Director Day falls and the Mad Lad thinks there should be a Work-at-Home Consultant/Writer Appreciation Day. His new book is out on August 5th. Well not his really, he’s only a ghost. Well, a semi-transparent ghost as his name will be on the cover. It’s about retail branding, whatever that may be. Dad says he’s buggered if he knows what it’s about, even though he’s been working on it for the last fifteen months. I have to say it doesn’t sound quite as good as Lemony Snicket. Or Harry Potter.

I hope we’ll get two Harry Potter books when they come out. But Mum (Dad says she’s Mum the Dumb Bum, then denies it when she gets home from work. I’m Tash the Bash. Jay’s started going around claiming to be Jay the Fey Gay. I think Dad’s latent transvestitism is rubbing off in a slightly unsettling way) is going to Brazil that week. She’s sure to want to take The Mud-Blood Prince with her. So unless we get three copies I’m going to miss out again. It’s so unfair. The Sad Lad says the world’s not fair anyway, but I don’t see why I have to wait until after everyone else to read all the good books.

I’ll just have to put on my sad eyes and call Mum ‘Mumberly.’ That should do the trick with Harry Potter, but Lemony Snicket will be trickier. Jay contends that because he’s got the previous eleven that he should obviously have the next one to continue the collection. I don’t think it’s obvious at all and so I came up with a great idea. I said that he can have it if I can read it first. Jay didn’t think that was a good idea. He wants to have it and read it first. It’s tough being the little one. Maybe, if I play X-box with him, Jay will see reason, but I doubt it, he is a boy after all. I’ll be left with no choice, but to make a huge scene over it. Whining really gets to them. I’ll whine and whine until I get equal rights. I’ll go ‘Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmm’

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