The market, Salonica

The market, Salonica
The market, Salonica

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Sixty minutes of your life

When I arrive for Kirin’s lesson, and Mummy isn’t home, I may not see him at first. He’ll be underneath the table, hiding. He keeps me waiting a minute (he knows about suspense), then jumps out as if he’s going to bite me.

I think he has shark DNA. He can’t stop talking about them. He told me how a dozen sharks came through his bedroom ceiling, wearing jet packs. He’s very fond of hammerheads.

“Isn’t broom head more appropriate,” I said, “or vacuum-cleaner-fitting head? Show me your teeth.” He’s growing adult ones. “You look more like a shark than they do.”

He asked about Douglas, a boy I once tutored. They’re the same age. Like Kirin, Douglas hid when I arrived, but he wasn’t playing. He screamed when I rang the doorbell, crawled behind the sofa, and wouldn’t come out.

“Did you like him?”

“No. I like you better. He did hug me once when I was going.”

“So, he liked you.”

“He liked me when I was going.” 

I glanced around. The lesson was half over.

“You can have a comfort break.”

“I don’t need one.”

“I need a rest, so have one now.”

He went upstairs. Mummy had just got home.

“Kirin!” she called, when she heard him in the passage.

“He told me to go to the toilet,” Kirin said, a bit surprised at what he was saying.

Now and then, I let him play, for half a minute, while we’re sitting at the table. Today, however, he’d been playing non-stop. There was always something in his hand – a car, a ball, a jigsaw piece. He was exaggerating. In the end, I got cross. Kirin pointed out, sadly, “Sometimes, I don’t like it when you come.”

“You go on too long. I don’t like being cross. If I liked being cross, I would have been cross an hour ago. Mummy is paying a lot of money for this lesson, and we’re not doing any work. One day, I won’t come anymore. Nothing lasts forever.”

We looked at each other. I looked down. It was too late. I had said it. Kirin thought a moment.

“Something lasts forever.”

“Do question three.” A short silence, then I looked up, rather sheepishly: “What lasts forever?”


“I meant time. But you’re right. Most stars are so far away, the distance is measured in
years – how long it takes for their light to reach us. You know how fast light is.”

“You see the lightning before you hear the thunder.”

Kirin had been listening politely. But I knew what he was thinking: Nothing lasts forever.

We did some more questions. At the end of the lesson, his mother came in.

“I could hear you being naughty.” She meant Kirin.

“Near the end,” I said. “He was letting off steam,” I turned to Kirin. “You did get up and run around the room.”

He grinned. I said to Mummy: “He’s come a long way.”

“He said he wants to do an extra hour with you.”

We were doing two already. I turned to him again: “That’s sixty minutes of your life.”

He went solemn, then walked across to Mummy, and whispered in her ear. She didn’t answer, but spoke to me.

“Is he improving?”

“Yes. He wrote some excellent sentences today.”

Kirin ran for his book, found the page with his similes, and read them out, still grinning.

“The grass was as soft as green cotton wool.”

Mummy smirked.

“The lightning struck like dragon’s fire.”

She stopped smirking, but still didn’t speak. She's never short of words. She just prefers to think before she says them. Some, she avoids completely, like Well done or That’s fantastic! 

This time, she said, “You can do three hours.”