We’ve followed our columnist Claire Bates through the tears and tantrums of raising three boys. Having waded through a sea of blue, balls, bugs and bogies, she now gets her chance to go all girlie. There may be trouble ahead……
There comes a time in every mother’s life, surely, when they have to accept their little girl is crap at ballet. Trust me. I used to teach it and there were some shockers. Round, flat-footed tubbies in tutus.
I could see it, the scary competitive mums could see it, jeez, the caretaker at the village hall could see it. Sadly, their mums couldn’t. Back then, a childless, single, Chardonnay-swilling, M&S ready-meal pinging career girl, I regularly discussed it with the other Bridget Jones’ in our group. Did I take a deep breath and tell the pushy south London yummy mummies that putting their largely unenthusiastic protégés through the indignity of podgy pliets, and lardy leotards twice a week in a draughty scout hut was not great for their ego and self esteem (theirs, or their kids)? Or, did I go all Lib Dem and accept that everyone was entitled to a chance in this all-encompassing, PC world we were living in and put up with the thudding, three beats behind the music? Bear in mind I’m the kind of Mummy now, who can’t allow a child to ice their own cupcake (seriously, they let the sugar strands fall down the edges and the silver ball is never exactly in the middle – why would you?), back then I was even more controlling. Crazy, some said. “Exacting,” I preferred. So…..I told Araminta’s mum the truth. Big mistake. Huge. She cried – Araminta’s mum – and the emotional cup did overfloweth.
Apparently she – the mum – was bullied about her weight all her life and ballet had been her only ‘escape’ so when Minty (Araminta, keep up, dear reader) developed a midriff mini muffin, Mummy thought ballet would be the perfect way to humiliate her further, sorry, I mean of helping her express herself. It hadn’t worked. Araminta wanted to be a welder. She told me when she brought in an actual welder’s mask for the Flashdance routine we were doing for the spring show. She hated ballet and purposely ate too much in the hope her mother would stop sending her. It doesn’t take Freud to work out that these two weren’t communicating, so Oprah-style, I sat them both down and talked to them. Minty is now a dress designer and her mother very proud. She doesn’t cry much these days either, despite her husband being a Labour spin doctor.
So, it was with interest that I went along to my Goddaughter’s dance show last month. Amy, naturally, is brilliant (I’ve been tying her toes together since she was a month old, she ought to be) so I had no worries there, but it was with much curiosity I went along to see the others – and for a whiff of nostalgia. Whiff was right. It was the hottest evening of the year and too many parents were crammed into too small a space. I had thought we were there just for Amy’s class to perform but no, the entire dance school was putting on the ritz. All two and a half hours of it.
Having left my three boys with Bloke, a Disney/Pixar merchandising tool, forgive me, I mean a movie, and a party bucket of popcorn, I roared into the village hall car park with two minutes to curtain-up on two wheels of the Noddy car. OK, so it’s a Smart car but with its two seats and not a lot else, the boys very quickly Christened it the “Noddy car”. Look, it’s made by Mercedes OK. Why would I want to take the seven-seater Chelsea tractor everywhere? The Smart car has satnav, tiptronic gear-change, aircon, panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth, a partridge in a pear tree. It’s cool OK. OK??????!!! I park it and already sweating, screech to a halt on the seat Amy’s mum had saved at the front when she got there on time.
I look back smugly at all those late people who were forced to squeeze at the back. Tsk. It’s so rude. So rude. Why couldn’t they get there in plenty of time…..?
Just before we smell the greasepaint, there are the usual ‘parish announcements’ from Angela, the earnest dance school proprietor/bursar/“director of dance”. She’s wearing leggings and tap shoes, though never does so much as a shimmy the entire evening, so it was all a bit showy if you ask me. Were we supposed to believe she wore them 24-7? Did she dance all day in her house? Was the music in her?
She thanked the usual blah blahs, jollied us up for the raffle and reminded us a reasonably-priced DVD of the whole event would be available to order from the interval at 9pm. NINE O’CLOCK? INTERVAL? 9PM? 2100HRS??? Strap yourself in Claire….
Then, there was one last thing – “Could the owner of the teeeeeny, tiny little black car, not sure of the make, it’s a funny little thing, registration number R something, Y something, please move it. It’s ILLEGALLY parked.”
Oh dear god. This place is packed with Boden-wearing, Annabel Karmel home-baking, Cath Kidston oil-clothed woman and men in pink cords. I can’t stand up. Why am I at the bloody front?
I briefly contemplate sitting still and tutting under my breath like everyone else at the irresponsible person in the teeny weeny car, then I know I have to front it out so we can get this show on its very long road.
Standing up as tall as I can in my battered Converse (they’re all in kitten heels), I confidently stride to the back with various “sorrys” thrown in all sorts of disapproving directions.
I can see Amy in the wings wishing her Godmother had brought the seven-seater, or even got the bus – infinitely less embarrassing than the Noddy car.
It turns out I’m parked over a water hydrant. I didn’t even know that was illegal. I’m thinking of writing to my MP. He drives a Hyundai so is used to shameful car moments.
His daughter, oddly enough, also goes to the same dance school as Amy and does a perfectly wonderful solo version of A Spoonful of Sugar. Not as good as Amy though, who has a touch of Darcy Bussell about her. I’m not biased. I have certificates and know these things….
As the clock strikes midnight, or thereabouts, the curtain falls and I dry my tears.
No irony, no jokes here. Confession time: It was fabulous. In all honesty, I love to watch children – girls and boys – performing ballet. Tall ones, tubby ones, chubby ones, grubby ones.
I think it’s wonderful, and even the twins, whose grandmother, next to me, whispered “you’d never believe they were born with clicky hips, would you?” did a plausible Riverdance.
Next morning I ask Numbers Two and Three if they’d like to do ballet.
Number Three says “no” and asks for a Wagon Wheel. Number Two (BIG into showtunes, Strictly, and feather boas if you catch my drift?) looks up from the flowers he’s arranging and asks if I would be going with him.
“Yes, of course darling, I’ll be there to support you.”
“No thank you mummy. You’re kinda crazy about pointy toes.”
Not crazy, I tell him “exacting”.