Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snowmen in the Sunset

That dreaded time of year is upon us again, the time of year that induces tears, fury, jealousy, and tantrums in most parents. That's right it's the Christmas School play season. The time of year where patient Mothers turn into impatient seamstresses, and weekend Fathers show their faces, and their suits, in public. The clever pushy Mum's who know the score, spend the whole of November cozying up to the Teachers, hoping to land their kids the plum roles. The political hierarchy of the Yummy Mummies comes out in full force, and the in-house cat fighting begins. I'm sure it's just a coincidence, but the Mum who organised the Teachers Christmas pressie (£5 per child, 30 kids in the class, you do the math) is also the proud Mother of this year's Virgin Mary.

The powers that be, wisely decided that my help was not needed in neither the costume nor the scenery department, so all I had to do was just turn up on the day and enjoy. Although that is easier said than done, if you get there too late then you won't be seeing much of anything. Promptness is King.

Bearing that in mind, the wife sent me ahead and I got there 25 minutes early. I still managed to find myself 20th in a queue that was starting to get ugly, and I mean really ugly. The heat in the small reception room was making all the heavily applied mascara run, and the combined smell of the House of Frasier perfume counter was a becoming a bit overwhelming. When the door was finally opened, I was told that prams were not allowed in and had to be left outside the reception. Gee, thanks for the advance warning Ms Frosty the Receptionist. I battled my way outside, got Mate out of the buggy, and battled my way back in. This obviously left me way back in the line and way back in the 7th row. I got the traditional 'Why in God's name are we sitting there' look when the Wife did show up, but I had started to learn how to deflect those. Years of sitting on the wrong side of church during various weddings had taught me that much.

I looked around and watched all the middle class Dads have their 'who has the biggest camera lens' battle. The kids were going to be facing greying, balding, paparazzi when they eventually set foot on the stage. The Headmaster stood up and announced that, due to Health and Safety reasons, all photography was prohibited during the performance. For parents that had sent their kids to a Catholic school, there sure was a lot of blasphemy in the air. The Dad sitting next to me promptly got his Blackberry out, and fired of an email to his Solicitor. The jist of which, was to see if he could get a quick injunction against the school for Copyright infringement.

I had initially worried when Katy came home from school saying she was going to be a snowman in this year's play. It couldn't be that big a part, as I was fairly sure there wasn't much snow around Jerusalem, and in no bible I had ever read, had it mentioned the 3 wise men making snowmen and having a snow ball fight. When I saw the play was called Snowmen in the Sunset though, I started to imagine Oscar glory for her after all. Unfortunately towards the middle of the 1st act, the sun came out and melted all the snowmen, leaving us to ponder the real meaning of Christmas and the traditional nativity scene. I have to say though, Katy's head did look good for the 2 minutes she was on the stage, but I do wish I had remembered to comb her hair that morning.

The play went without much of a hitch, until one of the kids in their excitement knocked over one of the huge floor microphones. The resulting feedback screech and boom was deafening. This caused quite an upset to the children, and the air was full of the smell of tears and soiled under-garments. The teachers calmed them all down eventually, but by the time the performance was over, it wasn't just the reindeers with red noses.

The play finished at 2.30, but we were told we couldn't pick our offspring up until 3.15pm. I had no idea why, maybe they were having a wrap party? This left us with time to kill in a very cold playground. One of the more adventurous Mums suggested we walk around the corner to the nearby builder's café, and a few of us agreed. On the way there my wife remarked that to expect us to just stand outside doing nothing for 40 minutes was "Too hard." My unwise retort to which was, "Tell that to the five year old Indian boy in Delhi, knocking batteries apart for the chemicals inside." Whilst this raised a chuckle among some of the men folk, it also earned me a 'you wait till we get home look'. The ferocity of which had not been seen since I inadvertently let slip in front of the other Mums, that her Prada clutch bag was actually a fake. It's not, but I had consumed a few beers, and her genuine argument to prove it wasn't, only made her look guiltier. Actually it was after that weekend that I decided to buy a less drafty shed.

The highlight of the day came when Posh Mum and Even Posher Mum ordered themselves a Costafrapachino and a Mocahontas. The horror on their faces when told their options were black, white, sugar or not, was a joy to behold. Both sides of the counter examined each other as if they were an unknown species. The coffees were quickly consumed, and a hasty retreat was beat back to the school.

We arrived just in time to see a triumphant Katy bounce out of her classroom, arms, legs, costume and uniform akimbo. "Did you see me, did you hear me, wasn't I good." Not a question, just a statement. It was very hard not to agree with her, she was brilliant.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Man Flu

It all started as a normal day, it had all been pretty uneventful as far as Thursdays go. I only had to remove one crayon from Mate's nose, which was an improvement to the norm. I had picked Katy up from school, and had decided to sneak in some twitter time whilst the kids watched Scooby Doo. Not the old one that we used to love and enjoy, this new fangled abomination bears as much resemblance to our version as an acorn does to an oak tree.

Anyway, all was well in Casa Gooner until I started feeling a bit cold. I even remember tweeting "Have had to put a hoody on as I'm so cold. May go and mug a teenager and teach them some irony." That tweet marked the beginning of 5 days of sheer torture. At points in that period I half expected the CIA to come knocking, asking me to threaten to breathe on some detainees in Guantanamo Bay. It would have been far more effective than water boarding, although I'm sure The Hague would have taken issue with it.

Before an hour had passed I was laying on the sofa, shivering and wishing I still lived at home so my Mum could look after me. The Wife got home eventually, took one look at me and with a worried voice said "Did you manage to prepare dinner before you got ill?" I didn't have the strength to throw anything at her so I aimed some toxic breath her way. Luckily the family was spared the prospect of Chicken a la Burnt as I had already made something.

As the night progressed I went downhill rapidly. My body was freezing and yet I was sweating from everywhere, even my fingernails. I was perspiring so much, it was like the collective sweat of a weight watchers meeting held in a cake shop. I made myself a Lemsip (couldn't trust wife not to burn it) opened up the sofa-bed, snuggled under the duvet and drifted in and out of a sleep-like state.

Of course being ill and laying down meant I had to relinquish ownership of the remote control. I'm not sure in what world making an ill bloke endure a double episode of Ugly Betty is considered a helpful thing, but it sure isn't the one I inhabit. I'm almost certain that listening to her nasally whiny voice for two hours is what caused the four day headache that followed. I also had a very restless feverish night, full of dreams where I had to write a daily blog for a failing fashion magazine. Damn you Ugly Betty.

I woke up the next day feeling even worse, something I had not thought possible the night before. My Wife was unwilling unable to take the day off work, so I was forced to endure the school run. The school caretaker took one look at me, and covered his face with a dubious looking handkerchief. I half expected him to get his bell out and start tolling it to the shout of UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN. I managed to dump Katy and escape from the barrage of suggestions from the well intentioned, but know-it-all Mothers. Not one of them suggested I curl up and die, but that was exactly what I was going home to do.

Upon returning home I garnered the last of my strength to grab a load of Mate quietening treats, and my Indiana Jones DVD box set. I had decided that Mate should become an archaeologist and today was as good a day as any for him to start swotting up on the subject. Grabbing the duvet and another Lemsip, we retired to the sofa and started to study. I must have fallen asleep during the film for I woke to a loud BANG and the mother of all headaches. BANG. There it went again, I looked around for the source of the noise. BANG. Oh my God I thought my head was going to explode, please let it stop. I spotted Mate picking up a feather and dropping it, BANG. I coughed and the noise sounded like a tantrum of teenagers playing drums in my head.

I dragged myself to the kitchen to take some of my migraine tablets. When I swallowed them it felt like I was swallowing barbed wire. I poured a cold glass of water to help soothe my throat and even that was painful. How in the name of all that's unholy, can water feel spiky? I struggled back to the sofa, threw Mate an apple, and covered my head with a pillow. I may have cried, I really can't remember, if I didn't then I definitely deserved a Mummy's bravery reward.

The wife rang late in the afternoon to enquire after my health and to remind me she was meant to be going out that night. I lied and told her I was starting to improve, and that she should go out. The thought of her in charge of the TV remote for another night was too much to bear. The kids got fed junk food that evening. There were a few complaints about the frozen peas, but I passed them off as mini vegetable ice lollies. I packed them off to bed without a bath, I couldn't smell anything anyway, and then I settled into the sofa bed for the night.

At around 9.30pm I had a brainwave, and decided that gargling with wine may help the pain in my throat. It didn't, but by the time the bottle was finished I didn't much care anyway. I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning, caught between sleep and pain. The wife eventually returned at 3am full of remorse and Pinot Grigio. I endured her apologies for as long as I could, which was 10 minutes, before I sent her and her KFC upstairs.

Revenge was mine the next morning when the kids woke up. I reminded her hung-over self of my terrible illness, and sent her downstairs to deal with the kids. Saturday for me was spent in bed with the door closed, and a towel at the foot of it for sound proofing purposes. I could vaguely hear the screaming and shouting, I could also hear the kids, and for the first time in three days I smiled.

Saturday morphed into Sunday and everybody seemed to survive the weekend. The kids now looked like Augustus Gloop and the treat cupboard was empty, but what the hell, the house was still in one piece. Monday came around, and thankfully most of the symptoms started to disappear. I emerged from the dark side lighter (whoop whoop), and with the knowledge that nothing could possibly be worse that what I had just endured.

Three days later I discovered something worse than Man Flu, Wife Flu.