Whoever coined the fantasy school-gate phrase “Yummy Mummy” could only have been there for the afternoon pick-up.
In the cold light of the eight a.m. drop they look just about credible, but far from edible.
“‘Like a graveyard’” I tell her, unable to resist even the tiniest opportunity to revive a sense of my apparently permanently locked-down ego, even if just disguised as education, “is a simile that means it’s really quiet or empty…”
“No, no, the graveyard, Daddy, in The Dead will Wake.”
Whatever the rights or wrongs of allowing a 9-year-old to watch a Voodoo horror b-movie on DVD just to buy some quality time with the Sundays, I think the price to global warming in having to keep her lights on all night now are easily offset by her enriched understanding of some difficult concepts of mortality.“Easter,” she told her little sister yesterday, “is the time when Jesus died and became a zombie.”
I’m pleased to say that her new, albeit slightly nervous, awareness of “Stranger Danger” issues has also improved her observational skills.At eight in the morning theplayground mothers do indeed resemble that ubiquitous graveyard scene in which, having dug themselves out of their tombstones, the dead lurch en mass empty-eyed with corrugated cardboard complexions, their rear-view mirror make up applied by Jackson Pollock, stumbling forward as the children run away screaming into the safety of their classrooms.
I know that by three-thirty the mums will be svelte long-legged gazelles, in tight jeans and sunglasses prancing gracefully across the playground savannah but, in the morning drop zone of the asphalt jungle, the real competition is all about who is – oh good grief, if I really have to give it a media moniker, American style, rhyming tag -who is the “Fab Dad”.
I spot the Alpha One hopeful, Zoe’s dad, smirking in the hopscotch area.He works in a garage in a blue boilersuit but every day arrives in a Mercedes and strides across the playground in hand-made tweed suit, sober tie, and glorious city-bonus confidence.He’s there early in order to be going the other way when the mums stagger past, grinning, puffing his chest and pulling in the gut tighter than a Stradivarius.Face it, whatever they say, you probably can get fitter than a Kwikfit fitter.
Matilda arrives on a motorbike, her dad gunning the Harley a couple of times before switching off.He is clad in full leathers and his gelled coiffure jumps to attention in one sweep of the hand after the helmet lifts.He actually does work in the city but struts through the zombie mums like the Fonz, flashing his cheeky twenty grand ultra-brite dental array at any takers.
Maybe it’s our way of dealing with the 7up-itch but, where the morning mums sag as if everything gets dropped with the kids, the “Fab Dads” strut and preen in powerhouse displays of solvency and genial fatherhood.Like the slightly more hard-core Saturdays in the park, the morning drop-off seems to be a convenient window of opportunity for competitive dads to show off their air-parenting skills, parade the trophy kids and demonstrate their devout commitment to family life – for twenty whole minutes.
Fonzi spots me and heads over for the usual derisory gags about our opposing football teams, but suddenly I feel the dead eyes of the reanimated corpses on me and I’m not sure my own, grizzled, sloppy joe, unintentional shabby chic can stand a full comparison to the Gucci god this early in the day. I duck down to try and look like I’m engaged deep in conversation with R.
“What?” she says surprised, then, “Please don’t kiss me.”
Looking up again I see his not quite buried lay-dar has turned on the New Mum, the last survivor in heels, as yet uninitiated into the ranks of the undead and still turning up well turned out.
I give R. a kiss which she promptly wipes off and runs to her class as I make a dash for my car and anonymity.
I’m not sure any of us know why we’re doing it.The Fab Dad contest resembles our pre-family mating displays but holds none of the frisson of further action.These things rarely turn into torrid affairs.Perhaps you can take the boy out of the game but you can’t take the game out of the boy.It may be less about schwing and more about kerching, but each morning, there we are again, gladiators competing to be Pater Maximus.
Sadly, I have to admit to myself that this contest is exclusively for the anti-meridian gang.Any dad turning up at three-thirty pick-up isn’t “fab”, he’s an also-ran Beta-man who hasn’t got a proper job.
I close my car door.Did I do it?Did I get back without any of the mums seeing me or my car?It is, after all, a bloody bright red convertible sports car, how could they miss it?