Saturday, 7 July 2007

The final performance

Day 2 of the ballet torture and Squirrel is on stage for the matinee and evening performances.

The day starts with The Hat. I have a ticket for The Hat but if she doesn't contact me or turn up, then it'll be a spare seat. And I don't want one of those. Neither does Dig, who's taken to hiding in his office, just in case one becomes available. Throughout the morning I make complex email and phone arrangements so that The Hat's ticket is available to her, right through the entire matinee performance, now scheduled to run from 2pm to 5pm.

Next, I do the fine timetabling. Squirrel's on about 3.10pm. I'm precision-timing this so I don't have to wait around a second longer than necessary. I've even included a two minute delay at the roundabout roadworks and considered my accelerator speed in a battered Citroen Berlingo, which shows just how fine the timings are.

Then Squirrel announces she wants to stay for the finale. I refused to let her last night, so she missed her slot. And I have no intention of staying tonight, either. The show will just have to go on without her. However, it's difficult to deny her a final waft about on the stage with Aunty Dee, Shark, Tiger, and, hopefully, The Hat in the audience, so I relent and adjust my timetables accordingly.

The next torture is getting Aunty Dee to the theatre for 2pm, show start. She's going to follow me with Tiger and Shark in her car, and I will lead the way. It's a five minute drive, seven with the roadworks, and I leave 25 minutes for it.

Aunty Dee drives slowly. Very slowly. So slowly in fact that I am crawling down Moon Lane at 20 miles an hour and she still cannot keep up with me. She leaves a gap that's so huge other drivers cannot bear it either. They overtake or pull out from their parking spaces so that by the time I reach the bottom of the lane she's five cars behind and I can see the tail back stretching into the distance behind her. Then, for fear of losing her, I'm constantly pulling into bus lanes and laybys with all four hazard lights going full pelt. After ten minutes I reckon I may as well leave the hazards on until we inch our way into the theatre car park because they are probably a true reflection of our driving status at 25 miles per hour on the 60 mph dual carriageway.

By the time we get there, I'm sure I'm suffering chest pains. But The Hat turns up, which helps, just as the show's starting. Everyone scampers off to sit through the misery of the thing and I can go home and recover for an hour before I dash Squirrel down for her bit.

And so the day passes. By the evening performance I can see the end in sight and start to relax. I've brought some drawings that Tiger, Shark and Squirrel have done and I go round with blu-tack in the art area of the community centre where there's an exhibition, and I stick them up. I reckon they're as good as what's up there and I feel the need for a bit of subversion after what I've suffered today.

And then, I can't help this, really, and I can't apologise for it either. When me and the other Cloud mothers assemble to walk the Clouds back through the yard area that they have to cross to get to their makeshift dressing room, there's a sigh of relief all round. The Clouds start running around in delight. Then one of the Clouds misjudges her skip and crashes headlong into a dustbin. I'm not the only one who laughs. Her mother's guffawing, and I think I'm not the only one then, for whom surburban kiddy ballet is misery, and a relief when it's over.

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