Jessica Farrington was running the Christmas Fair at St Botolph’s Church of England Primary School; she had organised the first committee meeting to be held at her house on Shire Lane, straight after drop off. Tarquin and Tamara had been deposited at the school gates on time, she had swiffered the parquet, put new Basil pots on the kitchen windowsill and hidden the Nespresso pods.
However, the schedule was not going according to plan. Her email had given clear instructions - with timings and directions in considerately Plain English – and a helpful link to several local childminders .... so it was inexplicable to her, why Mrs Dunne was now ten minutes late... and there were three pushchairs in her hallway. For Jessica, more alarming than all of this, was the fact that only one of the pushchairs still contained a sleeping child!
“We’ll just wait a few more minutes for the late comers”. Her voice projected across the melee of untidy greetings competing for space in her immaculate marble kitchen ... but the announcement appeared to make absolutely no difference at all. The front door opened and closed of its own volition, coats came off – conversations continued; her beautiful home was being requisitioned by an army of corduroy pinafores, flat shoes and single use carrier bags!
Jessica was not comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Mrs Hobbs seemed to sense her trepidation and calmly placed a mug of steaming coffee in her hands; the aroma soothed her momentarily.... until she recognised the lingering, sweet, woody notes of her favourite blend! A sustained cold draft stalled her reaction – probably Mrs Dunne arriving at last – so she went to the hallway to be certain of marking her for car park duty or stocking the cloakrooms. Last night when she had been considering this morning’s allocation of duties, she had felt more sympathetic - Tarquin was in the same class as Tommy Dunne and at parents evening last week, she had noticed that Tommy was struggling on the times table sticker chart .... but she must be firm to be fair.
However, it was not Mrs Dunne on the doorstep – it was Ocado. Jesus Christ – she had given that idiot husband of hers just one thing to do ... one small, simple task ... and here she was surrounded by do-gooders and married to a moron! Before she was able to send the driver away, Mrs Hollingsworth had taken three bags through to the kitchen and Mrs Page wanted to know if she should leave the toilet rolls at the bottom of the stairs.
Jessica postponed her outburst and reserved her energy to deal with the immediate issue of convening the meeting. She had intended for the committee to sit round the oval glass-top dining table: she had casually arranged her best tumblers, a water jug and a selection of stationery on a mat in the centre. She felt confident that an ordered table would restore order to the proceedings ... but incredibly, in her fleeting absence, Mrs Forster had helped herself to the Agendas and was handing them round willy nilly on a tray piled high with flapjack ... the flapjack which would have arrived between 2.15 and 3,15 if she weren’t shackled to a fuckwit !!
Jessica sat down on a chair that someone had pulled up to the island and let Mrs Forster take over. They couldn’t sit at the dining room table anyway – one of the pushchair escapees had been installed there with a bag of Cheesy Wotsits, a capri sun and several sheets of paper torn from her flip chart. As the sticky imposter drew a single line across as much of the paper as they could with a brand-new ball point pen, she wondered at what point her board room had turned into a Little Chef!
The meeting appeared to be nearly over – Jessica was in charge of sourcing and booking the Christmas Tree seller, distributing the floats and banking the proceeds. Mrs Hollingsworth and Mrs Page had a sub-committee of anonymous volunteers which appeared to cover almost everything else... including the catering, the pocket money stall, local arts and the lucky dip. Mrs Forster and Mrs Dunne would take care of Santa’s grotto.
Jessica felt a sense of relief as the gushing goodbyes gathered momentum. Coats were collected – conversations concluded; the fading residue of froth and fritter followed her into the hallway ... and floated out of the front door. Mrs Forster was still in the kitchen ... despite genuine protestations, she had insisted on loading the dishwasher and appeared in no hurry to leave. Jessica was just fabricating an urgent and plausible appointment in her head, when her thoughts were interrupted by a sing song voice delivering a loud and drawn out statement:
The missing pushchair interloper was bent over on the landing, directly in front of Jessica’s bedroom door, a pampers “pull up” round his ankles, touching his toes and clutching a fistful of toilet paper, waiting for his mother to wipe his bottom : Mrs Forster looked oddly proud of her son as she stepped over the child-gate and urged forwards and up the stairs to deal with her bundle of joy while Jessica choked on the image of her husband’s running pants going crispy on the towel rail in her ensuite of shame!!