“The way I look at it,” I go, “is that we send Honor to school so she can be someone else’s problem for a little while at least.
Sorcha looks incredible. And I mean incredible? She’s wearing a red Marchesa cocktail dress and a full face of make-up. I’m like, “I thought tonight was the parents’ social night at the school.”
She’s there, “Er, it is!”
“And you’re going dressed like that?” She honestly looks better than she did on our wedding day.
“There’s nothing wrong with looking well,” she goes. “Speaking of which, are you not getting changed?”
I’m like, “I was going to wear just this.”
It ends up being conniption time then. “You are not going to meet the parents of Honor’s school friends wearing, oh my God, whatever rugby team that jersey belongs to.”
I’m there, “It’s the Lions.”
“I don’t care. Go upstairs and put a shirt on.”
The new childminder arrives shortly after that. She has the confident air of a woman who has no idea what kind of a night she’s in for.
“Honor can sometimes be a little difficult,” Sorcha tells her.
The woman chuckles and goes, “I have experience of all kinds of children!”
Sorcha shows her where all the emergency items are anyway. Fire extinguisher. Life raft. First aid kit, in case she has to perform a tracheotomy on herself. With our daughter, it’s best to prepare for any eventuality?
Half an hour later, we’re pulling up outside the school. The cor pork, I notice, is full of the usual Toyota Highlanders and Ford Escapes and Subaru Foresters and BMW X1s, except very few are new. They’re all, like, 2009 and 2010. A sign of how the recession is affecting even people like us. I wish someone would do something about it. It’s becoming ridiculous at this stage.
We step into the room where the wine and the canapés are being dished out.
“Oh! My God!” Sorcha goes and it’s straight away obvious what’s wrong.
In fashion terms, you would have to say that she’s overshot the runway. The other mothers are wearing, like, blazers and skinny jeans and ballet flats – we’re talking the School Run Look – or just, like, daytime dresses.
In other words, they haven’t been in Brown Sugar since 10 o’clock this morning, like some I could mention. Fiona Calderwood, the mother of Honor’s friend Sive, literally gasps when she sees her.
“You! Look! Fab-a-luss!” she goes, taking Sorcha’s hand, lifting her orm and making her twirl like a jewellery box ballerina. “That dress!”
“Oh, this is nothing,” Sorcha goes, trying to play the whole thing down. “I’d be embarrassed to tell you what season it’s even from. You look great as well, Fiona.”
She doesn’t, by the way. Her make-up looks like it was thrown at her by a drunk on a unicycle. But you have to return the compliment, don’t you?
Fiona ushers us over to this little gaggle of mothers, none of whom we know. She makes the introductions. “Siofra Nolan, Alannah’s mum; Judy Boylan, Melicent’s mum; and Ann Ahearn, Daimhin’s mum.”
I give Siofra – the best-looking of the three – a smile and a dirty wink. It’s nice to be nice.
“Is it silk?” Judy goes, without anyone even mentioning the dress?
Sorcha’s there, “It’s silk-sateen,” again trying to keep it on the down-low.
Judy smiles and shakes her head. “How do some people find the time to look so well?”
“I know,” Ann goes, “I’m lucky if I can find the time to throw on an old fleece before I get the girls out the door for school.”
Judy’s like, “But then we’re very involved in things, aren’t we?”
Sorcha’s there, “Involved?” a definite note of defensiveness in her voice.
“In the school,” Judy goes. “I’m Melicent’s deputy editor on the school yearbook and I supervise the children’s yoga two afternoons a week. Ann teaches piano and conducts the school orchestra. And Siofra – what’s that thing you do, Siofra?”
“I teach a non-verbal storytelling class,” Siofra goes. “Two mornings a week. You’ll have to come to our end-of-term showcase. The children are telling the story of Ireland’s economic collapse through interpretive dance.”
“Wow!” Sorcha goes. “That sounds like – oh my God – so an amazing thing!”
I notice there’s, like, two or three other dads in the room wearing Lions jerseys. I’m glad I didn’t change in the end. I drift over to where one of them is standing and we fall into a conversation about whether Warren Gatland is the right man to lead the team Down Under. One of the things I love about myself is that I can talk to anyone.
Fifteen minutes later, Sorcha arrives over and tells me we’re leaving. The second we’re back in the cor, it all comes out. She goes, “Bitches!”
I’m like, “Those women? I thought they were cool.”
“They were being passive-aggressive, Ross. ‘We don’t all have the time to prioritise looking beautiful.’ That’s what Ann said to me. It was a dig. At us not being involved in the school.”
“The way I look at it,” I go, “is that we send Honor to school so she can be someone else’s problem for a little while at least. They have her for eight hours a day and we have her for the other, I don’t know, whatever it is.”
“I’ve put our names down,” Sorcha goes, totally out of nowhere, “to be volunteer guardians on the end of term trip to Paris.”
I’m like, “Paris?” except I realise there’s no point in arguing with her. Women are like quantum physics. The fact that you think you understand them is evidence that you haven’t a clue what’s going on.
We go home to find the new childminder sitting on the third from bottom stair with her coat on.
She looks incredibly relieved to see us. “I won’t be back,” she goes. She doesn’t even wait to be paid.
And Honor shouts down the stairs after her, “Good! Riddance!”