Changing cell to be more precise: it measures seven feet by five feet. If a prisoner were put in here Amnesty International would go ballistic. You wouldn’t be able to move for compensation lawyers. So why is it deemed adequate for a family of five to get changed in?
Jane usually has these matters well under control. One swimming bag for her and Jessica, one for Tom, and I take care of Ben. Three bags, three changing rooms, no hassle. But today there is a momentary lapse in our concentration and the kids pounce. “Come on, Mum and Dad, we’ve found a family one.” Before we can protest they are inside and half undressed. Wearily we shuffle in after them. What follows is not for the faint hearted, and were it available on prescription would rapidly become a highly effective method of birth control.
Tom is changed in zero seconds flat and won’t wait for anyone else. Ben has no interest in getting changed, but is fascinated by opening and closing the doors. Jessica can’t find her goggles and informs the whole pool. Jane hisses, “Never again,” through tight lips, and I rummage around for a twenty or a pound or whatever it is the lockers take this week.
Finally we make it to the pool. The children charge off and we fall into the water after them. For an hour and a half you’re up and down flumes, in the waves and on the slides. (No, we’re not at the local pool, how did you guess?) The prospect of getting changed again almost fades away. But you can’t put it off for ever. Not quite in perfect harmony, the family head back to the cell…
“Tom, will you please stop trailing that towel along the floor?”
“What do you mean you’ve left your goggles? Well go back and get them.”
“Ben, wait until we’re in the changing room before you take your trunks off.”
“No, Jess, I don’t know which bag your pants are in.”
“Because everything’s muddled up that’s why.”
“Tom, will you please help Ben?”
“I am not standing in your way. I am simply trying to get dry.”
“Rub yourself, darling, if you just stand there we’ll be here until Christmas.”
“Well then you wouldn’t get any presents would you? Father Christmas isn’t going to look in the swimming pool.”
“Because Rudolph doesn’t know the way. Because your Mother’s navigating. How should I know?”
“No, Tom, I have not got a Mars Bar.”
“Maybe, but only if you help Ben get dressed.”
“Right, are we finally all ready? Open the door, Tom.”
“Ouch! That was my shin, Tom. Try the other door.”
Despite all this we will have forgotten something. I speak as someone who once had to go back and confess that our family had misplaced a three foot plastic dolphin. Last time it was only the car keys. Let’s look on the bright side though – with luck the kids will fall asleep on the way back, and my irritatingly damp groin will have dried out in about twenty miles. The trouble is, it’s Sunday – there’ll just be time to pop them in the bath when we get home…
Father’s Day this year is on Sunday June 21st. If you’d like a very special present for your Dad – or for the children to give to your OH – I’ve some copies of the original Chronicles of a Desperate Dad book left. There are about 80 left and when they’re gone they’re gone for ever. Signed, any dedication you want and sent first class for £9.95 – just get in touch with me via e-mail or the contact form and I’ll send it straightaway. Another job crossed off the list…