It was Wednesday evening and the orange haze of the setting sun was slipping from the sky as I found myself dashing down a concrete path lined with spider flowers.
Typically, I was late, and as I entered the imposing auditorium and squeezed my way past rows of trousered and stocking-clad knees to a vacant seat, the Head of Junior School frowned at me from behind the podium.
‘Sorry,’ I mouthed, feeling like I was the one going back to primary school.
I sunk down into my spot on the wooden bench, surreptitiously brushed popcorn crumbs off the front of my dress and folded my hands on my lap, determined to pay attention to my three-year-old daughter’s pre-preparatory information session.
‘The after-school extra-curricular activities are structured to provide optimum physical, mental and social growth opportunities for your children,’ the Head of Junior School told us, before going on to tell us about the French, gymnastics, music, swimming and other classes the kids were expected to start in their very first year.
The man seated beside me in grey pants, white shirt and blue and white striped tie was holding a small notebook. He clicked his pen, turned to a fresh page, and …
… he’s taking notes! I realised.
Bewildered, I scanned the room. Most of the parents were either taking notes or consulting what looked like a tome of Biblical proportions but which, on closer inspection, was actually the school’s pre-preparatory handbook. A handbook? For pre-preps? They weren’t even four years old!
I began to panic as I rummaged through my handbag. Tissues, phone, Shopkin, half-empty box of sultanas. But no pen, much less anything to write on.
Desperate, I went to turn my phone onto the video function so I could at least record what was being said at this vitally important meeting, only to drop it in horror when it started ringing.
By the time I had switched it off, the Head of Junior School was looking at me sternly over her narrow rectangular glasses.
‘For those who have turned up late I would like to remind everyone again to please switch their mobiles to silent.’
My daughter had not even stepped through the school gates and I’d already ruined her chances of success. Fourteen years of her not being allowed to run for class president or captain the hockey team let alone being allowed to sit the baccalaureate.