I loathe clothes-shopping with Phoebe and I can see why the feeling is mutual. She still winces at the memory of that terrible Saturday afternoon when I sat on the floor of Gap Kids and shouted "I want to go!" I always feel like a hen-pecked husband, dragged along to pick up the bills. Even when I take comforting sandwiches to eat in the changing rooms while Phoebe tries on a million and one outfits I still get bored and cross. I sulk in there, willing the store to open a nice, cosy creche serving wine and crisps for weary parents like me.
Knowing that the school half-term could herald the threat of a stressful London shopping trip, I read with interest the brochure from children's department store Daisy & Tom. They maintain that "shopping is fun at Daisy & Tom" and offer to make your visit "as enjoyable as possible". There was no mention of a parents' creche to lure me but, last week, in honour of the clothing industry's first "Week In Kids' Fashion", Daisy & Tom were doing children's makeovers - Phoebe's dream come true. So style-bypassed mother and tastefully attired daughter decided to give it a go.
Phoebe was chuffed about her impending transformation but I was a little wary. Whatever was the world coming to? Kids' makeovers? Kids' fashion week? When I was 11 I enjoyed flower- pressing, read Princess Tina comics and wore hand-smocked dresses made by my grandma. Phoebe flicks through Mizz and J17 ( I rip out the problem pages), can reel off designer names with alacrity and chooses selected items from the Muji catalogue for her Christmas wish list.
She is obviously one of those "tweens" - caught between childhood and the teenage years but with a clear idea of who she is and what she wants. And she has a host of friends just the same. No wonder they've been designated their own fashion week. Call me Milly Molly Mandy but I was clearly out of my depth.
As well as selling clothes, Daisy & Tom, we discover, also has a working carousel, a puppet theatre, a soda bar and a hair salon. It even runs a programme of special events. Just recently a real-life Barbie had been in-store and today Wally from the Where's Wally? series was at large. The shop is given a certain gravitas by the presence of an excellent book room and visits by storytelling authors. I wasn't surprised to learn that its proprietor is a Mr Tim Waterstone.
"It's lovely," said Phoebe as we wound our way between Chelsea nannies and designer-clad infants to the hair salon. "You could spend hours in here because everything's under one roof." In the salon Kim the hairdresser was on hand to whisk up a new style. She'd been at it all week, offering hints and tips to juvenile makeover victims. I haven't been allowed to do Phoebe's hair since she was five and became a dab hand with a brush and slides. Now I watched in awe as Kim manipulated Phoebe's tresses. "Like this? Or like this?" she enquired. "If you don't like it I can start again." I was worried the French braids style might be deemed a bit soppy but apparently it's all the go at the moment.
Up in the clothing department, Phoebe's face fell a mile when she saw teeny Osh Kosh swimsuits with flounces and tiny dresses with fairy wings. Luckily, good old French Connection saved the day. "I love French Connection," she enthused, sweeping up armfuls of tasteful blue, white and grey garments. D & T staff were on hand to advise her but, before you could utter Clueless, Phoebe was putting together outfits while I slumped in the changing room as usual. "French Connection is so smart," she told me. "And I love these colours because they don't draw attention to me but still look nice. They go well together."
"Wow, I'm impressed," I said just as a giant Wally lumbered past. "Perhaps you should be doing makeovers." The clothes looked just right and the hairstyle was great. "It's really cool. I've enjoyed it," said Phoebe as we sat in the Soda Bar later. "Have you?"
I wasn't too sure that I'd had such a whale of a time. Then, opening the menu, I chanced on the magic words "Cabernet Sauvignon". A result! Red wine on sale in a kids' clothes shop - for over-18 diners, of course. It wasn't quite a parents' creche, but it's the closest I've got to finding one.
Daisy & Tom, 181 King's Road, London SW3, and 118 Deansgate, Manchester M3.