World Book Day 2011
Getting ready for work and on the phone to my sister about finding a suitable home for our rapidly deteriorating father.
‘I can’t talk now,’ I sigh. ‘You can never talk,’ says my sister, quite reasonably. ‘Yes but now I really can’t talk. My daughter is sitting on the toilet dressed as a cat. And I’m not sure if she’s pulled open the cat flap if you see what I mean.’
Meanwhile The Boy, age 15 is skumbling (a heady mixture of skulking, Lynx, and stumbling) around the bedroom murmuring: ‘Where’s the hairdryer?’
‘You’re holding it,’ I reply. I sit down on the bed. The shower room is just off the bedroom so I can keep an eye on The Girl. My sister and I briefly discuss the situation with our dad. We have tried to keep him at home, supported by carers, but with care cut to the bone, dad is less able to make rational decisions and we receive endless calls about him getting lost, losing his wallet, ending up in A&E . . . .
‘Wipe my bum mummy!’ The Girl is perched on the edge of the loo, cat ears askew, her costume unzipped and pooled round her ankles. The Boy stops drying his hair and mumbles something to her. She yelps with feline rage.
‘I’m not licking my own bum! I’m not a cat. Oh. I am. I’m still not licking my bum. Muuuum he says I should lick my bum!’ I try not to snigger. ‘Where’s the hair stuff?’ This is The Boy. He needs products, lots of them, to achieve that carelessly tousled, just got out of bed look. He’s supposed to be attending a college interview today, while Husband and I are dropping off Cat Girl at school, then dropping him off. Where is Husband?
I wipe Cat Girl’s bottom and zip up her costume while she chatters away. I’m trying to get dressed and talk to my sister about nursing homes. But soft! In comes husband, red with rage because The Boy has Done Something.
‘We’re going in eight minutes,’ Husband shouts. ‘Why can’t you get up earlier?’
‘Because my body won’t let me,’ counters The Boy. ‘Where’s the blue hair stuff mum?’
Is my phone invisible?
I point out that I’m on the phone having a serious conversation. The Boy considers for a second.
‘Yeah but where’s the blue stuff?’
Meanwhile there’s a wail from The Girl and she holds up the tail she has managed to pull off. ‘You’ll have to be a manx cat.’
My sister and I agree to talk later.
World Book Day 2016
The Boy is at university. My husband and I have split up and live ten minutes away from each other. I have two cats My daughter is now eleven and reading Young Adult fiction, where the heroines have names like Katniss, Zuma, Monroe and Clarke.
World Book Day falls on a Thursday morning, where I am lecturing at the University of Hertfordshire, several train rides away. Lara is dressing up as Clarke in The 100 which requires (thank God) normal clothes, plus a bit of black eye and bruises. ‘Why? Is someone beating her up?’ I ask.
‘No because Clarke gets into fights,’ says Lara.
I am pulling on my clothes, feeding the cats and putting on coffee, so still multitasking. A text from my ex who is getting onto a plane. Yes he’ll be back at the weekend.
I use my best lipstick (Twig by MAC) to add a few sore marks and bruises to Lara’s face. ‘Do you think the school will mind if I show up with machine gun sticking out of my backpack?’
‘Only if it’s real,’ I quip.
Five minutes later She Is Gone. Organised, dressed up and Gone. I get my bag ready, slick on some twig lippy and off I go to Kings Cross to catch my train. I flick onto Mumsnet to read about the Real Business of World Book Day, when you remember you have one hour to dress up all three of your children and wish desperately there were a few more nudists in children’s literature.
Ha I think. And just as my smug vapour hits the air, my phone rings. It’s Lara’s school.
‘Hello. I’m afraid Lara just realised her Oyster card and front door key are in her blazer. Which is at home,’ she adds, helpfully.
‘Oh dear.’ I say. Which is a lie. I am on a crowded train and say, ‘Oh fuck fucking fuck holes.’
‘Bollocks,’ I add helpfully.
‘Ok,’ says the nice woman on the end of the phone. ‘We can probably work out a bus pass as they won’t accept cash anymore. (Really? When?)
I ring off and contact my lovely upstairs neighbour who has a spare key. She had plans to go to the dump that afternoon but very kindly offers to stay and let my daughter in. I am so relieved. Otherwise I would have had to cancel my classes.
Bloody world book day. Nothing but trouble. And I only have one child.
I log onto Twitter and giggle at writer Lucy Sweet’s fab tweet: