RICHARD MADELEY AGONY UNCLE
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than type “grunt” or “uhh?” as he emails or googles whoever or whatever claims his attention. So we can infer he has the basic capacity for dialogue.
Suggestion one. Impose a mobile phone ban when he and your daughter visit. House rules. All devices to be switched off and left on the hall table. No exceptions, no debates. Ditto television. If necessary, remove the batteries from the remote before he arrives and tell him the TV has stopped working (which will be technically true).
Suggestion two. Ask your daughter what rings this guy’s bell. He must have some interests – does he follow a football team? Is he a fan of a particular movie genre? Bone up on whatever it is and hit him with it. Don’t be afraid to wind him up. For example, if he’s a Manchester United fan, say something like: “I see the Reds’ new manager is on a roll.
Total fluke; won’t last. He’ll be out on his ear by March.” If he’s obsessed by the Jack Reacher action films, tell him you think Tom Cruise is ridiculously short to play the 6ft 6in lead character.
This isn’t conversation, it’s electroshock therapy to galvanise the guy into communicating. Power on! Clear! ZAP!
Good luck. Let me know if you get a coherent sentence out of him.
Our son chose to study at Bristol because there is a thriving street art scene, or “graffiti” as we used to call it, there. His work has started to win recognition and has featured in magazines and blogs. My husband and I have mixed feelings about this.
On one level, we’re hugely proud. But on another, we wish he could divert his talents in a more constructive direction. We understand that a small number of these artists win lucrative commissions decorating the fences around unfinished building developments, or the interiors of restaurants and bars; but most of them do it for love.
What’s more, there are legitimate issues around safety and legality. His grandfather is disgusted by what he is doing, not on aesthetic grounds but because he is foisting his work on people who have not asked to see it – in fact he gave him a bit of a telling-off about it at a recent family gathering.
Lastly, I am not sure a nice middleclass boy from the West Country has any business styling himself as a member of some criminal subculture, with hoodies, low-slung jeans, a monosyllabic conversational style and so on. How can we gently steer him away from this path? And should we?
Firstly, grumpy grandad needs to button it. He’s not even making any sense: all public art is “foisted” on us, isn’t it? And all art is controversial; as Mr Burns succinctly says in The Simpsons: “I’m no art critic, but I know what I hate.”
I suspect you secretly hate “street” art. Fair enough. So do I. But you mustn’t try to “gently steer” your son away from his calling. He’d simply ignore you and he’d be hurt, too.
It’s a blessing to have a child who’s found his path. Your son may never bank Banksy’s squillions, but he’s found fulfilment. That’s worth rubies. Be happy for him.