In the sticks: Yes, children, your mother is a bag lady
Monday 21 September 1998
However, in my unmarried incarnation the skills of advance uniform preparation have dropped away. So this year, we have spent the summer in our little island of fields and garden without a thought for the coming term and the morning routine of public appearance in the village. School, shop and other parents have seemed as distant as the Antarctic, which is how I came to start pre-school preparations at 8.03 am on the first day of term.
Skirts, trousers and shirts were easily tracked down, in a ball in the same bedroom corner where they'd spent the last two months. It was the smaller items, which have lives aside from the sartorial, that were more tricky. Shoes can be goalposts, missiles or marble boxes. Ties can be garrottes, climbing equipment or skipping ropes. In this instance Buster and Bunny's knotted ties were holding up a corner of the tent in the garden. Their spectacularly unpaired school shoes were: 1) under the dresser with a mummified orange and a set of fairy lights; 2) in the dog's mouth; 3) on top of Bunny's wardrobe after a fight; and 4) in a patch of nettles. Both sets of plimsolls were at the bottom of the pond following a re-enactment of Titanic (Barbie as Kate Winslet and a small earless teddy as Lennie the heart-throb).
Yet in spite of these seemingly insoluble problems we made it to the school gates on time, and the only real blots on the uniform horizon were the squelching noise that Buster's left foot made (the shoe having been in the nettle patch for some time) and the hole in Bunny's skirt where the nail-varnish remover had removed the material as well as the green nail varnish.
I'd been so absorbed that morning in my children's relaunch into the village school scene that I'd forgotten about my own own new role on this stage. As of the start of term I am secretary of the PTA. I was supposed to be standing at the door of the school, casual yet efficient - clean at the very least - with a letter of welcome for all the new parents and a cheery reminder of the date of our first meeting of term. I hadn't done the letter, I couldn't remember the date and, as for standing at the door, I was wearing a pair of Doug's boxer shorts and a jumble sale T-shirt bearing the encouraging logo "Suck This".
From the cover of the car seat I looked out at the other mothers - clean and efficient to a woman - with their neat and name-taped children. I felt my mother spinning in her grave and my former husband spitting in contempt.
I snuck back through the lanes determined to word-process letters, mail- order grey skirts, pair off socks and put on some real clothes. But it was such a lovely day, sky the colour of faded denims, and Doug was already potting and digging and mulching to full-on Radio 1 . So instead I wrestled with the bindweed in my borders, swore at the nettles and held bits of wood together for Doug to nail. It should have taken just a couple of hours, but then I heard the weather forecast and realised this could be the last blackberry-picking and lawn-mowing day for some time. I did get as far as the real clothes because I needed protection from bramble thorns, so I had my own jeans and one of my dad's shirts on when I picked the kids up at the end of the afternoon.
Sadly, I'd forgotten something else. Outgoing PTA secretary Carrie and her Polaroid camera. She handed me the two Tesco carrier bags of PTA paperwork. "Just stand against the wall over there." she said. "Look I know I'm not quite up to speed, but a firing squad is a bit premature," I said. "In that patch of sun. Lovely. This is just so that new parents know who to ask about PTA stuff." She beamed, cleanly and efficiently pinning the new photo to the parents notice board.
So, new parents, the bag lady with the green and purple blotches, the section of straw bale on her head and the buttonless Fifties dress shirt is your new PTA secretary. Welcome!
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
- 2 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Poldark star Heida Reed says show is not that racy: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
House of Cards season 3: Claire Underwood is based on an eagle, says Robin Wright
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut