Alan and the girls returned from Latitude Music Festival as gentle as lentils: ‘That was cool, man.’ The girls demanded a further unauthorised absence from school to recover horizontally from doing nothing all weekend, but Alan shot into work before his tan faded to model the designer stubble which was just too much hassle to remove until a straight-talking first-born said ‘I didn’t know you were going grey’, whereupon it disappeared pretty much immediately. ‘No ponytail, absolutely not’, I said, ‘it wouldn’t match your brogues, and the smock – bedwear only’.
Josie had a heavenly glow about her and I knew for sure she’d had an amazing experience: I was right – she’d borrowed her friend’s leggings: ‘They were so soft!’ She put her arm around forlorn me, ‘But don’t worry, Mummy, I don’t know how people stop their washing being rough and hard either’. Maddy and her mates were escorted back to Alan, lying down in his tent, by a security guard, who'd found them in the S&M tent. Glad some-one was keeping an eye out.
One more week of learning before the Summer Holidays! By Tuesday, ALfie and Bonnie were bug-eyed with film-watching while their teachers hid the best rubbers for next term. Teacher presents! I'd planned to give the teachers ice-cream, but Bonnie was on it:‘You are no way giving boring ice-cream to my teacher, that sucks’. I searched the emergency presents drawer. It was the last day of term. 'What about a fluffy Winnie-the-Pooh hot water bottle, Bonnie?' I said, but it was ‘Oh man, are you kidding?'. A football motif whoopee cushion and a glow in the dark IKEA toilet bag rounded up the selection, the latter winning by a whisker. That meant that Alfie’s very un-fluffy teacher would get the fluffy Winnie-the-Pooh hot water bottle – it could double as a missile when she was breaking in her new class. 'What do you think, ALfie?' I said 'Biff boff' was the reply, so that was decided. I was imagining my dreadful presents lined up alongside the organic chocolates and Estee Lauder, but Alan put me straight: ‘Don’t worry, those teachers must get all sorts of junk’, which made me feel alot better, I think.
I wrote the last crawling notes of apology to the girls’ teachers with some relief: ‘Dear Miss, Maddy couldn’t do her homework and watch Hollyoaks, Misfits and The Apprentice, so she prioritised the good TV. She is so very sorry and will never ever do it again, Yours Sincerely, Sucker’; ‘Josie has no tie, I don’t know why, Where can it be? She should have three!’
Maddy tumbled in after school with her friends in a 'school's finished hysteria' throwing together a pancake mixture, pink this time, some of which made it to the kitchen table where it was eaten off the large sheet of paper I had stuck down to encourage everyone to draw their vision of the holidays to come (I am the sole contributor so far). The rest of the pink gunge was welded to areas of high use – the kettle, door knobs, microwave, cutlery drawer, and the bathroom sink where they had thought to wash their hands so's they'd be clean and comfortable. They kindly moved up to our bedroom so that the cleaner (me) could get started on the kitchen, and they could eat crisps on my bed and discuss how annoying mums are. I quite like it when they're at school.
Later, still grumpy from spring-cleaning the kitchen and not being able to shout properly until Maddy’s friends had left, it seemed like the perfect moment to announce my holidays rule, with effect from the next day: ‘No screens until 3pm - you are not zombies’. The obligatory caterwauling ensued, all of them placing bets, once my back was turned, on how long I’d last if they kept to their rule of continuous aggravation by all and any means, though they did expect a better effort than 12.45pm the next day, by which time I had the mother of all headaches, and was turning the wii remote over in my hand saying ‘this looks intriguing – what is it?’ until they got the hint and asked please to go on it. ‘Just this once’ I said. ‘BIFF BOFF!’ whooped my boy.