It is an unreasonably early hour of Saturday morning. Being a Saturday morning, I – like any single right-thinking man in the world – am a bit worse for wear. My hair is ‘tousled’. I am unshaven. I have black bags under my eyes. I probably smell the way a public house smells at 9.30 in the morning (anyone who has worked in a pub, ie: everyone, will know this smell). I am probably scowling. No sleep plus some booze = ill temper.
I am in a ‘leisure’ centre. I put it in inverted commas because, to my mind, they should be named ‘exertion centres’. I am lounging in their café-bit. A bit cross. The coffee is shit, and the whole place is thronged with screaming kids who seem to think that their one-and-only purpose in life is to fuck me off and spill my not-very-nice coffee over my newspaper.
There is a large room, just off the café, where my daughter attends her ballet class. She is in there now. Each Saturday, I walk her here. I wait. She emerges. We chat. We go to the Italian Deli for lunch. We visit the shops. She pretends she is Mummy – a girl-about-town.
But for now, I wait. The room she is in has no visual access save for an A3-sized piece of reinforced glass in the door. I normally wait until she is happy, kiss her and say goodbye. After about ten minutes or so I sneak a peek to make sure a repeat of the Nursery Incident does not take place. And then leave her. It is her time.
Don’t you fucking dare, I think.
Obviously, I am not the only one awaiting the end of their daughters’ class. There are many mothers. And being tremendous mothers, they take full advantage of this – probably the only fourty-five minutes a week they get to do exactly fuck all – and use it to their full advantage. They natter. They laugh. They cock the occasional ear to screams of agony, but if it lasts for no more than ten minutes they do nothing. They are seasoned professionals. They have coffee and adult conversation. Only broken limbs will get them out of their seats at this point. Rightly.
But this fucker.
He brings his daughter each week. Good. Makes a bit of a show. Says ‘hi’ to all the staff, none of whom know him. Nods and smiles at everyone he can make eye contact with.
‘Look. I am a father. I am actually holding hands with a child. My child! And she’s a girl. Oh yes! That explains the ballet costume. I ACTUALLY take her myself. Well………..It’s the least I can do. And do you know? I ACTUALLY enjoy it!’
He deposits her – ‘Now, do your very best, but remember, you’ll always be Daddy’s best’ – a bit too loud and glances around to make sure everyone has heard him.
He then sits down with his coffee. Takes a sip. Makes a ‘hey, pretty good coffee’ face and starts to pretend to read the fucking Independent.
Twenty minutes ago.
After ONE MINUTE, he gets up, and peers through the glass in the door for a minute. Finally drags his eyes away and subjects the whole café to a ‘isn’t it all wonderful’ look and sits down again.
Shakes his head. Oh The Wonder Of It. Pretends to read a bit more of the fucking Independent. Sighs. Looks around him. Shakes his head in a ‘it’s no good, I just cannot help myself’ manner and false-wearily gets up to go and peer through the window again.
Peers with enchantment. After a while drags himself away and subjects the whole café to his oh-the-wonder-of-childhood looks.
It is now.
He has done this a total of six times.
I cannot stop STARING at him.
Oh Christ, I think. Do it once more. Just do it.
The mothers continue to natter, taking their much-needed break
I am not fantastic, as has been pointed-out to me recently. But I do this. I do many things. I’m not world-class. I am horrible sometimes. But I tell my children I love them All the time. I say ‘well done’. I say ‘I’m proud of you’. I talk to them. I play. I do not ‘take an interest’. I am fascinated. I love them, and I’m sure that, in a million different ways I am hardly aware of, they KNOW this.
I do not wank about it in public.
He starts to get up AGAIN
Oh you cu
I launch myself across the café. I have him by the throat, a bunched-up fistful of his Gap sweater preventing me from crushing his windpipe outright. The un-studded poppers of his Barbour jacket scratch my arm as he flails at me with his casual slacks and canvass shoes.
YOU AWFUL AWFUL PRICK. DO YOU THINK FOR ONE SECOND THAT YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON – THE ONLY FATHER, AS YOU SEEM TO EXPECT A SPECIAL MEDAL JUST FOR HAVING DONE A MAN-PISS IN A LADY – IN THE WORLD THAT ADORES THEIR CHILDREN? FUCKING DO YOU? LOOK AROUND. SEE THE MOTHERS OF THE DOZEN OTHER BAIRNS HERE? DO THEY GIVE IT THE BIG FUCKING I AM? FUCKING DO THEY? EVERYONE LOVES THEIR BAIRNS. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? EVERYONE. IT’S LIKE A DEFAULT. THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO DON’T ARE TOTALLY TOTALLY FUCKED AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT? THOSE PEOPLE DON’T TEND TO TAKE THEIR CHILDREN TO BALLET FUCKING CLASSES!
GET FUCKING OVER IT MR. FUCKING ENCHANTMENT-OF-FATHERHOOD AND STOP SPUNKING YOUR FATHER-JOY INTO THE UNWILLING EYES OF ALL PRESENT. IT STINGS AND SMELLS FUNNY.
AND WHILST WE’RE AT IT, MOVE YOUR MASSIVE FUCKING RENUALT ESPACE – NO FUCKER CAN GET AROUND IT.
I do nothing of the sort.
Tell you what though. If he had a blog, I’d leave a fairly to-the-point comment.
That’d show him.