It's almost Halloween and there's not a pumpkin to be seen in the bay windows of Southeast London. No skeletons on porches, spiderwebs on trellises or fake gravestones in front gardens. I've seen a few tired looking gourds being marketed as "Halloween pumpkins" in Tesco, but there's no pumpkin patch where we can go and select the choicest specimen to carve for the 31st.
The only people who have asked me about costumes are 1) Iota and 2) my German friend - and both of them were being ironic.
Despite this, I have (rashly) promised the Littleboys trick or treating at Halloween, and have even possibly persuaded a fellow Mum at school to join in. While clearly it won't be an American Halloween, with a costume parade in the school playground, I think going from full on Halloween to nothing would be a bit of a shock to the system for the boys (not to mention myself).
One thing that happened in America was that on every celebratory occasion (Halloween, Valentine's Day and so forth) there would be certain parents that would wrap up a little bag of treats, including pencils and rubbers, for every child in the class. Consequently we now have hundreds. I noticed Littleboy 1 filling up his school bag with rubbers (that's Brit-speak for erasers, for the shocked Americans among you) the other day. When I enquired why, he said: "Well, everyone is always asking me to borrow a rubber, because I have quite a few, and they don't have any. And it's really annoying, so I'm just bringing lots to school and handing them out."
Rubbers, the vestiges of an American education.
We are almost at half term and one thing that has become apparent is that he doesn't know how to do joined up writing - unlike the rest of his class, who have presumably spent years perfecting it. (Littleboy 2, in year 2, seems to have thrown himself into learning this skill very earnestly and practises it every night, writing sentences such as "Mummy is cool" in beautiful script).
When the teacher mentioned his messy handwriting at a meeting, I had to point out that he'd never done it before. And I started to wonder - do we really still need to be teaching children beautiful joined-up writing? After all, by GCSEs surely they're going to be writing everything on a computer. Is it actually a redundant skill in this digital world - or something to be done as a hobby, like painting or sewing? Thoughts, please.
One last cultural difference I've noticed. I went to an assembly at one of the schools yesterday, where the children performed a play. At a similar event in the US, I would have turned up on time to find hoards of parents already there, having bagged the best seats, and would have hardly been able to turn my head for enormous video cameras. In London, as I filmed the performance discreetly on a digital camera, I noticed virtually no-one else was doing so. It couldn't have been more different.