It is hot, very hot. But no matter, for I am perky, chipper, on top of the world. I have to take the kids swimming but after that I have a lovely evening planned at a housewarming party for friends who have moved into our street. I can enjoy a fine glass of red and retire early, dandering up the road in my new Camper sandals. Life is good, until I collect the children. ‘I DON’T WANT TO GO SWIMMING,’ yells the small child. ‘Me neither,’ adds the older one. ‘It’s boring.’ The small one nods emphatically. Normally they love their swimming lesson. I am momentarily stumped but then my optimism returns, for I have planned ahead. ‘I have snacks,’ I declare, and point to the strawberries and rice cakes and fruit stars in the back seat. Equilibrium is briefly restored until I drive over a speed bump and fruit stars hit the deck. There is more crying. I stop, so stars are scooped off the floor and off we set again.
Driving to Avoneil Leisure Centre is always an education. I generally come undone at the Beersbridge Road, and this afternoon traffic is particularly heavy and drivers are impatient, if I’m being charitable, or deranged if I’m not. We make it, unscathed and in we trot, to be met at the door by a long queue. Registration for the ‘Summer Scheme’ has opened, and parents stand in line, clutching papers, desperation in their eyes. I feel their pain.
We get to bunk the queue on account of the lessons. And then it happens. Only one small, pink swimsuit is to be found. It fits the small child, but she is adamant that she is not swimming without her sister. The older one looks overjoyed, recalling a time when she cut her knee and was allowed to come to the café and choose a giant Haribo star and eat half a Twirl. She imagines such a treat lies in store again. I assure her it doesn’t.
‘I will get another swimsuit,’ I say, heading back to reception. No one meets my eye. One receptionist leaves her post to meddle with air-conditioning. The process of enrolling into the Summer scheme seems akin to Theresa May’s new draconian immigration policy. The mood is bleak and I am ignored.
The small child sits in her pants, refusing to put her swimsuit on. ‘Please go in,’ I urge. ‘We’ll go to Mauds after.’ ‘I DON’T LIKE MAUDS ICE-CREAM,’ she yells. My children have a knack of making me look like Satan himself, especially when I try to be nice. The woman beside us on the bench encourages her daughter to hurry up. ‘I’ll punch you, so I will,’ she says, and the child laughs, waving her fist in her face. ‘I’ll punch you back.’ My temples throb.
After more fruitless forays to reception, where there are neither swimsuits available to buy or even a ‘rack of shame’ where one can borrow a lost property suit. This is a terrible and glaring omission. I return to the changing room. ‘You’ll like it once you get in,’ I tell the small child, popping on her goggles and handing her over to Paul, who is the kindest of all swimming instructors. She joins in for a few minutes until, racked with sobs I take her out. ‘Not having any of it today,’ sighs Paul.
Five minutes into the journey home, and she is fast asleep in the car. The older one wryly observes, ‘Maybe you should pack the bag the night before Mummy.’ ‘Maybe Stormont should get its arse in gear and build the Robinson centre, so I don’t have to drive across town and arrive in a sweaty discombobulated mess,’ I retort, as the older child dusts some dirt of a Fruit Star and pops it in her mouth.
TFI Friday y’all.