Diary of a Primary School Mum: 'For parents, 'tis the season to give, give, give'

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The Independent Online

On the way to school the twins and I count 19 red elastic bands on the pavement, dropped by the postman. Pushy Mummy (Reception class's PTA rep) hands me a poster. "Thank you," I say, thinking Christmas has come early. "By the way," she yells. "That'll be 7, plus donations."

I find this exchange more irritating than the 20th rubber band I spot on the way back home. The poster a collage of photos from the class Hallowe'en party, featuring my little vampire and my little devil is actually rather sweet. That, though, is not the point. I didn't ask for the poster, I was forced into buying it.

A few days later it transpires that Pushy Mummy is the talk of the playground. Many parents have been similarly duped. These underhand techniques are common when it comes to fundraising at the twins' school. The only cause for which I've so far been happy to dig deep has been the Christmas cards, designed by all the children, but even this is looking dodgy because the cards might arrive too late to send (not the postman's fault, this time).

One fundraising project peaks highest on the Richter scale of irritation. My cooking is bad enough to make a greasy spoon look Michelin-starred. Nevertheless, all parents were asked to contribute a family recipe for a special school Christmas cookbook.

"What food do I make that you most like to eat?" I asked the twins.

"Honey cake," Oliver said.

A good choice, only it's a recipe from a book and won't count.

"Something savoury," I suggested.

"I like your meatballs and gravy," offered Claire.

That's a jar of sieved tomatoes poured over Waitrose-own beef balls no, that won't count either.

"What about my fish pie?"

The twins' faces turned blank. "What fish pie?"

Despite making this for grown-up friends ad infinitum (it's my only signature dish) perhaps the children have never had the honour. How remiss. Take fillets of cod, cover liberally with creme fraiche, fried leeks and grated cheddar, bung in the oven for an hour and hey presto!

Rich and creamy and absolutely delicious, the twins' five-year-old palates are sure to love it.

The next day I make it for their tea. I sit back expectant as they try it. Their cheek muscles twitch as they chew everything goes quiet. Suddenly plates are pushed into the middle of the table and bodies are flung into the backs of their chairs. "I don't like it," says Oliver. "Me neither," adds his sister.

It's deadline day for the cookbook. I'm crushed and eager to pen some snide e-mail saying "I have no contribution to make to your cookbook". But that would show less spirit than Scrooge. So I dig out the recipe for honey cake and shamelessly plagiarise, adding an extra line for authenticity. "This recipe has been handed down in my family for generations..."

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