Yesterday morning when our cleaning lady came I asked her to wait with the vacuum cleaner because I had a teenager asleep in the guest room. Her reaction, when I explained the circumstances, was perplexing: "So you are taking her shopping?" I decided I'd better not dicuss the plans I had for my teenager. But apparently it was a typical reaction since later the same day I asked a colleague with a number of kids of relevant age what a fifteen-year-old might want to do in Cambridge and got the answer: "Sleep and shop".
What we did yesterday, my teenager and me, was visit King's Chapel with a lengthy discussion of fan vaults, Christian motifs in stain-glass windows and the symbolism of the red and the white roses; we studied the architecture of Tudor houses and the advantages and disadvantages of half-timber structures; we visited Clare Fellows' Garden, we went punting where I learned some new stories (all punters tell different stories and assure you that they are absolutely true), and generally had a pleasant and mutually enriching conversation. In the evening we went out for a fancy meal.
I am not at all surprised - although I realise now I should be - because I was like this myself once upon a time in Stone Age. I was curious about almost everything and appreciated being taken around on trips. Don't misunderstand me now: I was also a normal teenager with horrible moods, rude and unhappy, and the only reason I didn't enjoy shopping was that there wasn't much to shop for when I was growing up.
Our further plans include Ely Cathedral, Anglesey Abbey and Lode mill, the medieval town of Lavenham, Shakespeare in the gardens and a highbrow movie. We will go shopping too. We are in urgent need of Philip Pullman's most recent book. But she also gets up late and spends hours in the shower, so I am not worried about her.
I am very proud of my teenager.