Help me, please: I'm a stranger in Mummyland

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The Independent Online

I find my life is very mixed up. One minute I'm being whisked around doing exciting showbizzy things and being generally treated in a manner which I don't deserve but quickly become accustomed to; the next minute I'm dumped back home where I come about equal seventh with the rabbit on the importance register – actually, I think the rabbit edges it, but big ears can't speak so who cares?

Yesterday, I had a day off and was looking forward to settling down to a new video game in which I play a sniper, shooting my way through about 1,000 Germans an hour. If my kids wander in, I have to stop as the German-killing is quite graphic. In the kids' minds, I play a game where I climb tall buildings with a rifle on my back and then admire the scenery. They soon get bored and wander off.

Anyway, I was hoping to play this, but my plan was kyboshed by the boss. I was on a three-line whip to go and watch my eight-year-old son have a swimming lesson in the local leisure-centre pool. This always fills me with dread, because I am usually the only dad in an observation deck full of mothers who spend the half hour staring at me suspiciously as though I'm some form of predatory spectator. To counter this, I often over-compensate by shouting encouragement at my boy. Sadly, it always ends up being the wrong child, as small boys look very similar when they are almost entirely submerged in chlorinated water. I started to think about forcing Jackson to wear some kind of fluorescent swimming cap so that I could spot him, but the poor boy suffers enough already and I quickly abandoned this idea.

I also had other problems. A little girl, about six, had wandered over to stand right by my chair and stood there crying. I did the decent thing and tried to ignore her, hoping that her mother would soon come and deal with the situation. But no one arrived. Surrounding mothers now started to stare at me as though I was the cause of the little girl's unhappiness.

Eventually, I could no longer ignore the situation, and I asked her what was wrong. She bawled even louder, and several mothers, seeing me say something to the little tear-machine, assumed that I had exacerbated the situation. As is usual in these gatherings, nobody actually said anything: there was just a lot of audible tut-tutting and shaking of heads and staring.

"Where's your mummy?" I asked the sobbing child. She just howled even louder. I looked at the maternal jurywith a look that said: "I need both help and sympathy." It didn't work. I sensed a lynch mob forming. Again I turned to the girl and tried again, only more loudly: "WHERE IS YOUR MUMMY?"

She started howling and stamping her feet. One of the swimming instructors looked up. If this carried on, I would soon be the subject of a local newspaper exposé.

Suddenly a woman appeared from the other end of the gallery and grabbed the little girl, looking at me accusingly at the same time. I didn't bother to say anything. Resistance is futile. Tomorrow, I'm in a car on my way back to showbizland, where I at least understand some of the rules.