After the first protests about the education cuts, I question teen son about why all his friends went and he didn't. 'I had media studies and I thought you would be annoyed if I skipped school'. Clearly I have done my job so so well and so so badly. Cue long talk about the right to protest, the Tories, cost of education, etc etc.
'I didn't realise you were so radical mum' he says, ' Son' I say, 'We had striking miners living in our house for months when I was at Poly (insert explanation of a poly!). Actually, I was more worried about what I was going to wear to see Culture Club at the poly disco, but credit where credits due, I had radical friends and cooked the miners a lot of brown rice and vegetables!!
So on Wednesday when he tells me he's going to Trafalgar Square to protest, I warn him of the dangers but wish him well. I wish I had been more political when I was younger and am glad that he cares, even if, for some, it's a good excuse to skip school for the day.
I had watched the new education secretary Micheal Gove on breakfast TV that morning and was incensed by his inability to see how far state education has come in the last ten years. My children attend inner city comprehensives, one of which which has recently had millions of pounds spent on it. It is a great school with committed teachers and more than its fair share of children from under privileged backgrounds, ethnic minorities and special needs. Every penny spent on that school and others like it, is an investment in the future of our society and money well spent. As is the EMA money that they are also about to cut. This enables so many children to continue into higher education that may not otherwise. So I am proud that my son and his friends are at last getting off their PS 3's and making a stand.
The great thing about this generation is they have the ability to create groups, stage protests and talk to thousands of people, without even leaving their bedroom. They are the Facebook generation and are going prove difficult for the government and police to control. Instead of making online groups like "I hope I live to see the end of the DFS sale' and gathering flash mobs to rave at Liverpool Street station, they will be able to spread the word, create chaos and make themselves heard, with the click of a mouse.
I text him at 2pm. 'Everything ok?'. An hour later he texts back. 'They wont let us out.' He is a boy of few words when it comes to texting. He once went to a four day festival and the only text I got all weekend, after repeatedly asking if he was alright, was, 'K'!!!
It is freezing cold and as we had the 'that coats not warm enough conversation that morning', I start to worry in a 'mum' way. But I tell myself he's doing the right thing and it's a great experience.
Four hours later, they are still there and I am on the point of stomping down to Whitehall, waving my brolly, shouting 'excuse me officer, you've held them here for 6 hours, its freezing cold, they haven't eaten and he has homework'. But decide this may not be such a good idea. I've been obsessed with Twitter all day, as its been my only way of knowing what's going on, and it seems there are lots of other mums feeling the same way too. They are children after all and its freezing.
He eventually gets home around 9pm, cold and and tired and wants to watch the news!! We spot people we know and discuss the day. It has been an experience for all of us and I'm not sure he wants to go again (the kettling tactic clearly works – bore and scare them into submission!!) but I will encourage him all the way. It's his generation that can make a difference and there's a big part of me that wishes I'd taken more notice of those miners. But sadly, I was too busy crimping my hair!!