Thursday, 1 March 2012

World Book Day tyranny

1 March - World Book Day. The bane of parents all over the UK. There are no worse words in the English language for a busy working parent than ‘Mummy, I need a costume…’ and somehow, at some point over the last few years, it seems to have become enshrined in law that all primary aged children have to dress up as their favourite (or, at least a) literary character on World Book Day. Cue many generic pirates, cowboys, witches and princesses as desperate parents raid the dressing up box.

Some already have suitable outfits and turn up as Alice or Dorothy, Harry, Ron or Hermione regardless of whether they are their favourite character or, indeed, if they have even read the book. Others have parents who can do, who can see a piece of fabric and imagine it looking like something else, who can even thread a needle.  Or at least they are willing to give it a go. That is not me. The daughter is limited to something we can cobble together easily that costs nothing. Luckily for the last couple of years she has wanted her usual costume – World Book Day, Halloween, general dress up, whatever the occasion she is a cat. Four years ago she named our black kitten Sootica, after Gobbolino’s witch’s cat sister, and has dressed up as Sootica ever since – albeit with vampire fangs last Halloween, just because. Even at a James Bond themed party she turned up as Blofeld’s cat.

Not this year… last year one of her friend’s made a big splash as Pippi Longstocking (her mother makes costumes. For a living.) and for the first time daughter wanted more. The flimsy supermarket cat costume, gaudily edged in neon pink is not enough. She looked at me expectantly. My heart sank. I want to be a good mother; we bake, I help with spellings, I read to her, I take her to a lot of activities, we cuddle, we laugh, we cuddle some more. I let her stay up for Call the Midwife (Mummy, in those days babies came out the hard way. Oh baby, they still do…) but I don’t sew.

Inspiration struck! I am reading her Noel Streatfield. I love those books, have read them so many times and now I am sharing them with her. Starting out with the Fossil books we have done Ballet Shoes, are halfway through Curtain Up (Theatre Shoes in the US) and have the Painted Garden ready to move seamlessy onto(Movie Shoes). Could she, she suggested go as Pauline.  Hmm, I said. Pauline, the oldest Fossil. Beautiful, talented Pauline who gives up the stage for Hollywood to pay for Posy’s ballet training. How could we convey that in an outfit. Unless… unless we didn’t go for Pauline, we go for Petrova.

Petrova. The middle sister. Reluctant actress, bored dancer, well-rehearsed Mustard Seed and Mytyl trying desperately to get the right inflection on ‘And I’ whilst dreaming of engines and aeroplanes. It’s original, it’s a book she loves and it’s an easy costume. Old clothes covered in smears of black paint. A few spanners round her waist and, of course, ballet shoes on her feet. She’s happy, I’m happy and World Book day disaster has been averted for another year.

Of course, as I am working I can't attend the parade. Another working Mummy fail.

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