'Bet you're looking forward to the summer break!' says the lady in The Co-op. I smile with improvised serenity and sag under the weight of the lager I'm stockpiling.
This last weekend of term has given me a foretaste of the six weeks ahead. Idyllically we grouped in the garden, my children and I. The sun was shining, the barbecue smoking and the hammock swaying under the apple trees. And my ten-year-old:
threw stones at her brother and broke his front tooth.
cracked the back of his head with a carefully-aimed swingball swipe.
jabbed a streak of mascara into her left eyeball.
warbled of lust and bondage outside the vestry wall.
flattened his sister's limited-edition Lucozade bottle
tipped her skull-first out of the hammock.
piled a stash of illicit sweet wrappers under my geraniums.
made resonant remarks about female biology as parishioners passed the garden gate en route to the Sunday service.
I, meanwhile, have spent my weekend mini-break supervising three medical emergencies, diffusing seven fights, flailing through nine swingball matches and processing four baskets of laundry, eight bowls of washing up and two blocked drains. Plus I might, in carrying tones, have informed my daughter that I could murder her as our new neighbours picnicked on the far side of the vicarage fence.
And the Vicar? He has spent the two days in his swivel chair with the study door shut. 'It's so hard on him,' says one of the faithful at the family Eucharist, 'having to work weekends!'
What are your chances of surviving the summer holidays?