"They really do grow up fast..." Experienced child wranglers often delight at dropping these incendiary bon mots into casual conversation with wide-eyed mothers and fathers. And I - like many other new parents I'm sure - have been quick to dismiss the phrase as another cliche tossed around by sour-faced folk with brains reduced to jelly by their burgeoning broods. But, as I sit and write this column, I really do find it hard to come to terms with the fact that my little boy Krishan will be starting primary school at the end of the summer.

Sure, there's a good few months of fun and frivolity left before we wave the little man off in his school uniform (I'm sure without a dry eye in the house), but it really does seem like only the other week that I was changing his nappies with a muslin cloth permanently draped over my shoulder.

To be honest, the whole process of preparing for primary school has had me and my partner as shaken and stirred as we were at our first sight of the dreaded meconium.

Don't get me wrong: we were under no illusions that applying for secondary school would involve fighting over a handful of places for our institution of choice. But planning way in advance for a primary school? For a tiny three-year-old?

In fact, I'm now convinced that there's a sort of virus-like hysteria that rapidly spreads through nurseries the length and breadth of the country as the deadline for making school choices looms ominously over the horizon.

Towards the end of last year we found ourselves being escorted around various local schools with groups of other expectant parents, swotting up on primary school tables and poring over Google maps to see which schools we were close enough to apply to.

For one brief moment we even considered moving house to get within the catchment area closer to a school - before thankfully coming to our senses. Did you know that, for some of the more popular schools, if you live more than 0.2 miles away (that's 321 metres!) then your chances of landing a place there are absolutely zero?!

I am utterly bewildered by the notion that competition for places and schools seems to be the norm for such young children. Surely this wasn't the case when I was a child? Aren't primary schools the places where children simply learn to read and write and get on with their fellow pupils? Can there really be so much of a difference between institutions?

In the end we sent the forms off with our choice of five schools - and now it's a case of waiting until the council's decision lands through the letterbox in April. Fingers crossed!


Regular readers of this column may have read my last piece about Krishan's growing obsession with cars. Well, this has shown no sign of abating; in fact he seems to have roped me in as a paid-up member of his miniature automotive kingdom.

For Christmas one of his uncles bought him a pile of plastic track with all manner of twists, turns and tricks. Suffice it to say, the lounge at one set of grandparents now resembles a spaghetti junction racetrack whenever he visits. Adults have to step over or duck under the latest creation - and move it at their own risk.

And what happens when he returns from a post-nursery afternoon of track action at the grandparents? That's right - he wants to recreate the same thrills and spills in our lounge.

So, rather than shell out on another set of sophisticated, purpose-built, super-fast injection moulded plastic, I decided to construct our own raceway. From cardboard.

At first this was fairly easy. A few roughly cut pieces of thick card stuck together with sticky tape draped over various pieces of furniture created a decent enough track. But things have snowballed in recent weeks.

There are now tunnels - including a clear plastic one fashioned from a tube that contained bath toys - and a loop the loop. Yes, that's right. I spent most of a weekend fastidiously fashioning a cardboard loop from an old cornflakes box.

Late on Sunday afternoon Krishan's mum was in the kitchen when she heard a massive cheer. The loop had worked! And the cheer? I have to confess, dear reader, it was yours truly. On this evidence the adage about men never growing up appears to be true.