Iam sick, SICK – I’ve written that word twice, the second time in capitals no less, in an attempt to demonstrate just exactly how sick I am - of spending half my life at children’s playgrounds.
(Before we go any further, it’s important to point out I do have a child of my own, or else that previous disclosure would look somewhat dubious).
What I didn’t realise when I had a baby was just how quickly after arriving on the planet she would develop an addiction to playgrounds.
Maybe because I’m 42 and haven’t been on a slide, swing, roundabout - or any of the other bewildering array of space-age looking equipment they now have at playgrounds - since the age of eight, I had forgotten how much children adore them.
When I take Mary out in her pram it’s as though she’s fitted with some sort of sensor, for if we tread within 200 yards of a play area, she sits bolt upright, points in the direction of the swings and begins to scream so hysterically it’s as if I am whacking her around the face with a fish slice.
It leaves me with no other option than to traipse over to the park in question with a very heavy heart for I know that this is where I’m destined to spend at least the next two hours of my increasingly depressing life.
It’s difficult to imagine now but once upon a time I did what I wanted, when I wanted. If I wanted to go for a walk I did it. If I wanted to go rock climbing I did it. If I wanted to go naked water-skiing, I did ... actually I never did that, though never say never.
But now my life Is ruled by my child.
And here’s the thing about the playground: it’s never a quick visit. We don’t pop there for five minutes and move on. No, once we’re there, we’re there indefinitely, for she never seems to tire of it.
The swing is her favourite. Last week I pushed her– and I know because I timed it – for one hour 13 minutes. I stopped on several occasions, mainly because I had violent cramp in both wrists, but each time she began bawling so loudly several other parents rushed over as if suspecting some sort of abuse had occurred.
Faced with a vigilante mob and the wrath of my own offspring, I had to start pushing again. When we eventually got home, I lay prostrate on the settee with a bag of frozen peas strapped to each of my inflamed arms.
What really infuriates me is that despite all these repeated trips to the park she still hasn’t learnt how to use it properly.
Take the slide. The concept is simple. You climb the steps, sit, and slide to the bottom, then repeat.
Mary, however, possibly because she’s the adventurous type but more likely because she’s thick, attempts to walk up the slide. While I applaud her sense of daring and anarchy, what she doesn’t realise is that she isn’t capable of doing this and halfway up – about six feet above the ground - will inevitably topple sideways and plunge headfirst towards the concrete below. I have lost count of the number of times I have saved her life. As I catch her before she hurtles towards her death, like Superman saving that kid who fell over Niagara Falls, she doesn’t thank me but instead glares at me, tuts and shakes her head as if to say, ‘why are you spoiling my fun?’
It’s becoming harder to resist the urge to let her drop to the ground and smash her head open, just to teach her a lesson.
I have warned Mary about this behaviour but she isn’t taking my words on board.
Which leads me to another thing - she doesn’t seem to be developing very quickly.
It’s disappointing for I’d hoped to raise a child genius. Mozart, for instance, could play the piano at 18 months old. At the same age my daughter is still trying to eat the cat’s food from its bowl.
Mrs Canavan, bless her, continues to labour under the illusion that Mary is somehow gifted and advanced. She’ll say things like, ‘the staff at nursery say she’s excellent at animal noises. When the teacher said sheep, Mary was the first to go baa’.
What she doesn’t take into account is that all the other children can not only put full sentences together but can discuss the implications of a Soft Brexit, and recite Romeo and Juliet backward. Meanwhile Mary spends her days imitating farmyard animals. It’s getting embarrassing. Less time on the playground and more time reading is the answer, if only I could get her off the damn swing...
Lifting lid on
As I was strolling through town the other day I could hear the unmistakable sound of pan-pipes drifting through the air.
On a street corner stood a man dressed in an outfit that I think was meant to be traditional Peruvian costume but looked more like something his four-year-old daughter had made in a school craft lesson.
He had a big speaker system set-up on the pavement and while I’m not particularly a connoisseur of pan-pipe music, I have to admit that he was pretty good, playing flawlessly.
So impressed was I that I was contemplating buying one of his many CDs to give to an aunt in Rochdale who I’m not keen on, when, suddenly, he got a coughing fit and stopped playing.
The beautiful pan-pipe sound, however, did not stop but continued. He had been miming the whole thing and it was a backing track that was playing.
He knew he’d been caught out for he looked around in mild panic as he scrambled to get the pipe back to his mouth and continue the façade. He caught my eye and I gave him a knowing look. I could have shouted fraud and confronted him but I figured a man who has to spend his day on a street corner, wearing a daft costume, and pretending to play pan-pipe deserves a break.