This is how I spend my time.
Today, at work, I sat in a shuttered meeting room in front of a neat line of empty chairs and a tripod-shaped phone that squatted on a polished table like a robotic claw. I took off my watch and regarded it, aware of my empty desk elsewhere in the building, an abandoned chair and an impatient flashing cursor at the top of a blank screen. I decided I had ten minutes to complete the task I had set myself before what could pass for a wee-and-a-cup-of-tea break started to look like a more suspicious dereliction of duties.
On the table in front of me there was another report bearing my daughter's name and the stamp of the local borough and a long list of names of those who had been sent copies. The report was seven pages long and it said that on top of the recommendations of the last two reports (to whit: assess my daughter for dyscalculia; call in the local authority's anti-bullying sub group; provide a safe room to which she can go when she needs to; give her extra time for tasks but keep subjects to a 15-minute limit; review class social dynamics and underscore positive peer reactions to her) we should also now refer her to occupational therapy to look at sensory issues and how they might be affecting her work and behaviour. The woman who wrote the report suggested that certain hypersensitivity to touch and noise was at play in Grace's underperformance and disruptive behaviour, and also some hyposensitivity. I didn't know what that meant.
On another page, the assessor had written: "There may also be issues with her vestibular and prioprioceptive senses."
I didn't know what that meant, either.
I scanned the front page of the report again. The author's name was written there, and her title. There was no contact number, no address. I rifled quickly through the pages again. There was no contact number anywhere.
So I started by telephoning the council switchboard (using my personal mobile phone, not the claw) and asked to speak to the author of the report.
"We haven't got anyone of that name listed."
"She's written a report about my daughter -- "
" -- Putting you through to Childrens' Services."
"Hello, Childrens' Services."
"Hello, I'd like to speak to (name)."
"I don't know her. Hold on, I'll look her up."
"I think she's on the advisory team."
"I've found a number for her -- here it is --"
"Could you put me through please?"
"Could I? Oh. (Doubtful) Er. Hang on."
New voice: "Hello?"
"Hello, are you (name)? I've got your report about my daughter."
"No, I'm sorry, I'm not her."
"Ah. I was put through to you by Childrens' Services."
"Sorry. What's the name of the person you want? I'll look her up."
"Here she is. Ah, no, that's my number. They've put my number here. That's why you can't find her."
"Right. She works for the advisory team. Do you know that number?"
"I can look up someone else on that team. Perhaps they can help. Maybe she's left or something."
"Ah. Ok. Thanks."
New voice: "Hello?"
"Hello, I'm looking for (name)."
Muffled discussion in the background. I heard the name of the woman I was seeking being said by several voices in varying questioning tones. Then one exclaimed: "Oh!" and pronounced the name in recognition. My shoulders sagged with relief.
The voice came back to the phone: "She's not based here. I'll have a look on the system."
I waited in silence, the minutes passing.
"Are you there? She's at (this) school. Call this number."
I hung up. Eight minutes had passed. I redialled.
New voice: "Hello?"
"Hello? I'm looking for (name). She's written a report about my daughter but I can't seem to find her."
"Can't you? Awww. She's here. Hang on."
I waited in silence and as I waited I thought of Grace's face looking out of the car window in profile against the peachy dusk as we drove home last night. I thought of her saying blankly, still gazing out, apropros of nothing: "I don't deserve my friends Mummy. Because I get all cross and I lose my temper at them and shout. And they're just nice."
When the new voice came on and said: "Hello?" I breathed in and forced a friendly, all-the-time-in-the-world, polite tone into my voice and said:
"Hello? (name)? I've got your report about my daughter and I wondered whether you might have a few minutes for a chat. I've got some questions, you see."
The next report is due in my email inbox tomorrow.