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My room faces the sun in the morning and on clear summer mornings it wakes me up bright and fresh, no matter what time I stayed up till. I get up and make breakfast, watch TV, have a shower. If it’s before six in the morning, I usually have a cup of tea and go back to bed where I’ll doze until seven. If I stay at my sister’s, I sleep until the kids wake me or until she comes rolling in, poured from the back of some taxi, whichever is earlier. I’m an early riser, and a dead sleeper.

This morning I wake up with a twitch, like the alarm clock in my head has given me a little electric jolt. It isn’t sunny outside. I pull back the curtains and the sky is dark grey, the same colour as the sea and it looks like the sun won’t appear before tomorrow. Today is Dad’s birthday. Every year on my Dad’s birthday I draw a picture of him and each year he looks a bit different. I’m an artist. There, I said it. It’s not that I draw a straighter line or a truer circle, as they try to teach us to do at school. I just get the message across more clearly than other people. More truthfully. I know it.

I read a lot of books too, mainly about artists, and I go through phases when I like a certain artist or a movement. And I try to paint like them. When my dad comes back, I’ll be able to say ‘this is you when I was twelve and I was in love with Monet’ or ‘this is you on your thirty-eighth birthday, when I was fourteen and I wanted to paint like Dante Gabriel Rossetti.’ And he’ll look at each painting and know that I loved him and never forgot him.

At the moment I’m into lines, simple lines. It’s a development of a six month obsession I had with calligraphy, which came out of a phase I had with cartoons, which came from Liechtenstein and Warhol, and so on all the way back. So I get out my charcoals, and a couple of sticks of chalk and I pin a heavy sheet of grey A3 paper onto a board and rest it on my knee as I sit on the bed.

On Saturday mornings when my Mum worked, he’d take me to town and I’d drag him around the art shops. On my eighth birthday he bought me an easel, a real one, not a kiddie’s. On my ninth birthday he bought me oils. On my sixth birthday he bought me a box of 99 crayons. ‘Draw me,’ he’d say. ‘Oh, Dad, I can’t.’ Some mornings I’d wake up and there’d be a book on my pillow about Picasso, or Chagall.

I should go to school, I really should. I’m not one of those kids who are scared to go. I don’t get bullied and I’m not thick. I just can’t find a good reason to waste my day in a classroom studying physics or citizenship or Buddhism. I could learn them in the library. Phil, the head of year eleven, will bollock me for it tomorrow, if I go in. I’ll tell Phil the truth, it was my Dad’s birthday and I spent it with him.

So I spend some time thinking about his hair, which I think is probably no more grey than it was last year. I know hair doesn’t age at the same speed every year, but I make his hair longer this year. And in my mind’s eye I give him an extra few pounds too. But I keep the smile fixed in my head, maybe a little muted, like it is when he’s happy but distracted, or trying to understand me when I’m babbling to him.

It’s head and shoulders, so I’ll put him in a T-shirt that shows his neck and throat and how strong he is and how his eyes sparkle and how his eyebrows are dead level straight and still black. I try to think of how much I want to show and how much I want to tell. Then I pick up a charcoal stick and do it. I pick up a chalk to add a suggestion of colour to his eyes, then another chalk for his mouth. And there he is. Dad.

ВОПРОС 1: That morning the narrator was woken up by
1) the kids.
2) his sister.
3) nobody.
4) an alarm clock.

ВОПРОС 2: The narrator considers himself to be an artist because
1) he can draw a straighter line and a truer circle.
2) he gets lots of messages from other people.
3) he can speak to people more truthfully.
4) he is able to convey his ideas better than other people.

ВОПРОС 3: The narrator’s manner of painting
1) is similar to Monet’s.
2) is like Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s.
3) comes from Liechtenstein and Warhol.
4) is constantly changing.

ВОПРОС 4: The narrator was encouraged to paint by
1) his mother.
2) his father.
3) his brother.
4) his friend Phil.

ВОПРОС 5: The narrator doesn’t want to go to school because
1) he prefers to study on his own.
2) he doesn’t like some subjects.
3) he is bullied at school.
4) he is scared to go there.

ВОПРОС 6: In paragraph 6 ‘I’m not thick’ means that the narrator is
1) healthy.
2) clever.
3) strong.
4) hard-working.

ВОПРОС 7: Compared to the previous year, the narrator’s father
1) has much greyer hair.
2) has a happier smile.
3) is a bit fatter.
4) is much stronger.

ВОПРОС 1: – 3
ВОПРОС 2: – 4
ВОПРОС 3: – 4
ВОПРОС 4: – 2
ВОПРОС 5: – 1
ВОПРОС 6: – 2
ВОПРОС 7: – 3