Picking kids up from school is a tricky business. If I'm writing at home then I enjoy doing it, as it's a welcome break and an opportunity for me to stretch my legs and chat to a couple of parents. When I say stretch my legs, I don't walk there, despite it being quite close. I join the procession of four by fours blocking the Cotswolds lanes between four and five every afternoon.
The irony is that most of the owners of these vast vehicles don't seem to know how to use them. The moment any snow falls down here, they are nowhere to be seen. "We were tooootally stuck," they will tell you three days later in dramatic Sloaney tones. I live in a valley and when snow comes we do get pretty stuck and, until recently, had no four by four to rescue us. Determined that this not happen to us this year, I have purchased an old ex-army Land Rover. My boy now insists that I come and pick him up in this vehicle every day, whatever the weather, as he can bounce about in the back and make rude faces at all the yummy mummies driving behind us.
My daughter however, is fast approaching the age when everything I do is embarrassing and she has decided that my arrival in an army vehicle is not on. She hides for as long as possible and then scuttles into the front seat just as I pull away. To be fair, I think that the appeal of the Nato-green, army look is probably mostly male.
Last week I went one further when I had the use of an American cop car for the day. My poor daughter had no idea that I had this thing, and the look on her little face when I sped up the school drive, lights flashing, me bellowing on the outside intercom, was quite the picture.
Everybody else loved it and I gave lots of children their first taste (of many) of the back seat of a police car while my boy played with the handcuffs that came with the vehicle. This went a bit pear-shaped when it turned out that there were no keys to said cuffs and he had to spend the next four hours handcuffed to a livid sister. To say that this didn't go down very well is something of an understatement.
Probably my best school pick-up ever was when I was doing a piece for the television programme Fifth Gear. They gave me a roadworthy tank for the day, and obviously I wasn't going to not pick my kids up in that. I powered up the school drive gloriously unaware that it was spewing oil all over the place. Once parked right outside the classrooms I waited for their reaction. Predictably, my girl opted for a lift home with friends, but I took my boy and a friend of his with me in the tank and we had a blast. My favourite bit was spotting a tractor and plonking the tank right in front of it and starting to trundle along at a snail's pace. The tractor driver went mental and vengeance was mine.
The next day, it was business as usual at school. I was driving a pick-up truck at the time (don't ask – I'm not good with cars) and I pootled up and parked in the usual place. The school bell went and my boy rushed out of the school, his little expectant face looking around desperately for the tank. "Where's the tank?" He asked, his bottom lip quivering. "It's gone back," I said sheepishly. He burst into tears, absolutely beside himself that we no longer owned a tank. I tried to console him by offering him an illegal lift in the back of the pick-up truck but he wasn't impressed. There's a mini hovercraft that I've got my eye on, however. That might do the trick.