Note. For privacy reasons, I now refer to my two kids as, Hall & Oates. Daryl Hall is a 12-year-old boy and John Oates is a 7-year-old girl.
My 7-year-old daughter, John Oates, is starring in a play at primary school in 30 minutes and I’m stuck in traffic on the other side of town.
My phone rings.
“I want you inside me now,” whispers a voice through the speaker.
“Who is this?” I reply.
“I’ll give you a clue. I’m not a blood relative.”
“Are step-cousins blood relatives? I can never remember.”
“Stop ruining this. I’m trying to do sex talk.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m in the school playground.”
“Sacrilege! You can’t talk dirty on school property. They mentioned it at the PTA meeting.”
“I want to tickle your balls.”
“Aaaaagh! Stop it!”
“And you know what else? I’m stood with other parents. If I say, ‘I want to tickle your balls’ again, they might be able to hear me.” She sings the last two words.
My wife is tapping into my irrational fear of being ridiculed by other parents. It’s a particularly useless phobia because I’ve only been publicly mocked once in the last five years, and that was by 6 teenage girls on roller skates. They called me a ‘fat, bald bastard’, and then fled, but it was their first time on roller skates, so they escaped really, really slowly. It was the UK’s slowest roll-by attack.
“Are you going to make it?” she asks.
“That’s a real shame. These moments don’t come back. It’s her first speaking part.”
“But she’s playing a donkey.”
“The drama teacher’s from Spain. What can I say.”
I’m sat waiting patiently in heavy traffic caused by road works. The car behind me isn’t. I look in my rear view mirror and I can see the car is full of teenagers; heads bobbing around all over the place. Suddenly, the car drives around me and along the cordoned-off lane. If they can break the rules just because they want visit KFC or pick up some drugs, then I can do it to see a talking donkey.
I activate my hazard lights and follow the chicken-loving druggies. The rush is amazing. “I’m coming little donkey!” I shout.
The passengers in the stationary cars look at me in shock but I don’t care anymore; I’m a risk taker now. I even turn off Radio 2 and put on a commercial station. It’s playing the same song over and over again, interrupted by adverts for Autoglass, but that doesn’t bother my new, more confident alter ego, who I have named, Sir Charles Baskham. Royal dandy by night – disregarder of traditional road etiquette by day.
I have ten minutes to complete a fifteen minute journey, but I have faith in Sir Charles’ intimate knowledge of the short cuts around Lower Wortley.
Sir Charles jinks through the rabbit warren of terraced houses and onto the home straight. He reaches the school and screeches to a halt. By screeching to a halt, I mean parking safely, well away from the school no parking zone.
I get out, rush to the gates and press the buzzer. It doesn’t seem to be working so I press it multiple times.
“Can you stop pressing the buzzer?” asks the voice inside the speaker.
“Hi, can you let me in?” I ask.
“Who is this?”
“I’m the father of John Oates. She’s in year two.” The speaker falls silent. I press the buzzer again.
“Can you stop pressing the buzzer?”
“It wasn’t me. It was Sir Charles Baskham.”
I hear the lock click open and the gate swings wide. I run to the entrance. The head master is stood at the inner door, waiting for stragglers.
“Ticket please,” he asks. I empty my pockets. No ticket.
“Oh no,” I say. “I don’t have it.” He smiles and let’s me in. Which I think is good, but also a drop in standards.
I shuffle along the back in the dark. My wife is sat on the front row. She hears me ripping apart the Velcro on my big bubble coat, as do all the other parents. They all turn around, my wife raises her hand and mimes tickling my balls. Then my daughter trots on to the stage to a fanfare of maraccas.