In the last week I have spent way too much time in the Church Hall. Enough time to require everything that I’ve worn in there to be washed to get rid of that oh so unique smell of dust, damp, sweaty ballet shoes, over-cooked meals for the elderly, smoking candles and assorted toddlers.
Long enough to have seen 2 sunsets, 1 sunrise and a flood in the car park. Long enough to have eaten both my evening ‘meal’ (ok, M&S salad, time was short), breakfast and a party tea there as well. And long enough to have resorted to hiding in the toilet.
Thursday night is Brownie night. 23 delightfully
over enthusiastic 7-10 year old girls who bounce in like monkeys on some form of ‘upper’ drug. Their energy and chatter never ceases to amaze me, neither does their stream of completely random questions. Heaven forbid that you should have the pleasure of their company after a day of wet playtimes at school – having been in all day they are like a pack of coiled springs that fly off in all directions the minute the pressure of conformance is released… I digress. Thursdays means an hour and a half tops in the Hall. It’s doable.
Somewhere along the line I seem to have agreed to helping out at the Brownie Sleepover. This
hellish joyous experience meant the entire Brownie Pack (all 23 of them) plus 2 teenage helpers were to sleep in the Hall on Friday night. That’s right, 25 girls in one room to ‘sleep’ over. Arrive at 5.30pm and leave at 9am the following morning.
Now, as you know, I will volunteer for most things however, I draw the line (and it’s a very thick black line drawn with an extremely permanent pen) at being in charge of large groups of other peoples children overnight. I will help. I will mop up the bodily fluids. I will not be in charge. I will run meetings, I will do the paperwork but this Tawny Owl does not do overnight.
I also don’t like sleeping on the floor. It does me no good. I do not pay the osteopath the amount I do to undo all her good work but sleeping on a mat on the Church Hall floor. I volunteered to be the off-site overnight emergency contact. I got to ‘sleep’ in my own bed – and said I’d stay on site until the girls went to sleep. Sleep?? Went to sleep???? Who was I kidding?
I left at 11pm. ‘Midnight’ feasts had been consumed by 9pm, stories read, lights were out. Then the toilet trips started. In the space of 2 and a bit hours, there must have been the best part of 300 toilet trips. It was biologically/physiologically impossible. They didn’t care. They pee’d and giggled and giggled and pee’d. Most of them were still awake when I left. I didn’t sleep much at home – I kept waking up wondering if the phone was going to ring…
I was back on site by 6.50am – principally to get the kettle on for the 4 heroine leaders who’d stayed overnight. 25 over-excited girls running on pure adrenaline (it sure as eggs wasn’t the regenerative power of sleep) required a lot of tea and the patience of an army of saints… It reached the point where I could take no more (despite a couple of danish pastries) so what did I do? Dig deep, draw on my years of Guiding experience, push myself to the next level? No. I hid in the toilet. Took a moment (or 5) and regathered myself enough to go and teach them to sign the favourite Little Green Frog in Makaton. Then I hid in the toilet again and nearly fell asleep. Classy huh?
For those of you who leave your children in the loving care of the volunteers of the Guide and Scout Associations…this is what it does to us! And we do it, for free. As we handed them back to their parents, with fixed grins and wishing them luck for dealing with their over-tired daughter for the rest of the weekend, the words “when we do it next year” were uttered. We’re planning a different hall this time – with more toilets.
The rest of the day was sponsored by Twinings Earl Grey and Pepsi Max and I admit to raiding the cooking chocolate box. Just so tired. It’s like a hangover but worse. I can do staying up late and getting up early (occasionally) but it’s the graft of looking after 24 kids that aren’t yours, plus 1 of your own. I took to the sofa. I was asleep by 9.30, ignoring the amorous intentions of my DH (yeah right darling…)
So how to spend Sunday…? a luxurious lie-in, breakfast in bed, leisurely morning with the papers, F1 Singapore Grand Prix… I can dream. A mad morning of shopping, homework, family visits and a party for the Cheetah Keeper to attend. Guess where it was?
Yep. Back in the Church Hall. 27 hours after leaving, I was back there.
The thing with the Cheetah Keeper and his nosebleeds is that parties are difficult. I am completely happy leaving a pre-filled syringe of medicine with some hosts, others I’m not. Yesterday was a ‘not’ day. I was staying. I may as well move in.
This party was a joint 6th birthday for two children in the Cheetah Keeper’s class. It was the first ‘big’ birthday party the parents had ever done. Both cultural backgrounds meant that the room was full of extended family and friends not doing anything. The catering operation was phenomenal (and delicious). The balloon art was eye-watering. The entertainment for the children was… non-existent.
Not prepared to watch the boys attempt to beat the proverbial out of each other, Tawny Owl took over. I sorted some games, I split up the fights, I co-opted another mummy (Reception teacher) to help. I provided the best part of an hour of entertainment. I got them all sitting down for food.
I enjoyed the grown-up catering and then guess what I did next…
Hid in the toilet.
The parents have yet to say thank you…