Saturday, 22 September 2007

Saturday morning lessons

It's 8.40 and Grit, Squirrel and Tiger are sitting in the car outside Twig's ballet studio. Grit is delighted. Grit is Smug Mother. Grit is early. We are not now the family who is late. We are the family who is early.

In reality, being early is the only reason to be smug. I am not smug that Squirrel is taking ballet lessons for her exam. No. For that I am broke. Squirrel's extra lessons for her ballet exam start costing me from today. First the exam entrance fee. Then the lesson fee. Then the hire of hall, pianist, and examiner. And the cost of new ballet socks because apparently the ones with threads hanging out will not do.

I have worked out that ballet exams for 7-year olds are the means of scamming parents up and down the country of just another hundred quid so their little Squirrels can point their toes at a stranger who says well done and passes over a certificate. So far Grit and all the little junior grits have resisted the certification process.

We've resisted it in swimming (twelve quid when Tiger, Shark and Squirrel swim to the end of the pool); we've resisted it in gym (fifteen quid if they manage to stand on a bar without falling off); we've resisted it in trampoline (a tenner to say everyone can jump up and down); and we've resisted it in violin (OK then, we are not even on the list here: after three years Tiger is as inept as week one).

However this time Squirrel is determined to get that certificate. She's even getting out a bed early, at 8 in the morning - and for a Squirrel who didn't manage it down the stairs yesterday before 10.30 for breakfast, 8 in the morning is pretty good going. Which is how she's in the car outside the ballet studio at 8.44, when Twig should be here, starting the first exam lesson.

Well, at 8.45 Grit is rattling the doors of the dance studio. Clearly there's no-one here. Strange. No-one else seems to have been as punctual as we have, either. None of the ballet mums are here, which is highly unusual, because they are normally parking the 4x4s now and leaping out, dragging behind them Snowdrop, kitted out in an ironed ballet uniform and bun, just looking like proper ballerinas should look. With the absence of the ballet mums I'm getting a bit suspicious, so telephone Dig who checks that I have the right date and the right time and, most importantly, the right year. I ask him to make double sure it says 2007 on the exam letter and not 2008, just in case.

While Dig's checking the day, month, time and year, at least I can be satisfied that having Squirrel at ballet means there is extra pressure to get Tiger out of her bed and sat in the car ready to go to her violin lesson, which starts at 9.00.

Tiger on the violin is a sound no-one wants to hear. I have almost cried in pain. Nevertheless, Tiger has stuck at the lessons, even though she has given up the practice. On the violin front, Tiger is drinking in the last chance saloon, and she knows it, and is confessing that she's only keeping up the pretence of learning how to play the violin so she can see Miss Honey, who is her violin teacher. We've called her Miss Honey because she is so sweet and nice and patient in listening to Tiger play the violin, and she never shouts 'I can't bear it anymore!' like mummy Grit.

At 8.55 we have to conclude everyone else is late. Either that or it is an elaborate hoax to play a trick on Grit, or everyone else knows something we don't and they're not coming at all. Anyway, it's time to get Tiger to violin, so with a sulking ballerina in the car, we head off to the next lesson.

By now, we are late. Not at late as Miss Honey. Miss Honey doesn't get to the lesson until 9.20. I suspect that, because she is so sweet and nice, she doesn't like to confess out loud that she's given up on us because for the last two weeks Tiger hasn't turned up at all, and in fact mummy Grit has sent in a letter which effectively says 'I give up'.

Well we haven't given up today. Tiger makes everyone's ears hurt by torturing her horsehair for five minutes and then I take the sulky ballerina home to puzzle over the letter again.

But let's look on the bright side. By the time we get home at 9.45, Shark's just rolling out of bed for breakfast.

Tennis starts at 10.

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