It's an hour before the 9am service. As usual I am running late. As usual the 11-year-old is insisting on a lie-in. And as usual I still haven't finished working out how to illumine the toddler minds in the Sunday School. 'It's the feast day of St Peter,' says the Vicar helpfully. 'Tell them Jesus called him from his fishing boat to be a rock on which to build his church and warned him he would deny his Lord three times before the cock crowed. He was told he would hold the keys to the God's kingdom so you could do something with a key, a net, a rock and a cock.'
The 9 year-old is still shrilling delightedly over the cock when, with five minutes to spare, we sprint into the church hall to set up. The 11-year-old seizes the rock I've grabbed from the garden and pretends to be passing a giant stool. I shout at her. The 9-year-old appears to be holding a gynaecological consultation with an imaginary patient involving the net I've wrestled off a tub of nectarines. I shout at him. The church bells stop ringing as I attempt to speed-draw a cockerel which looks more like a blood hound and the 11-year-old practises twerking manoeuvres round the prie dieu.
As we attempt a short-cut into church through the vestry we hear the congregation is already half way through the first hymn. 'You're not allowed to say that word on a Sunday!' scolds the 9-year-old as we turn tail and dash round the building to a more discreet entrance.
We arrive, breathless, one hymn-verse before the children are led out to Sunday School. I've prepared for the usual tribe of toddlers. Instead I'm confronted by two 9-year-old boys and two mutinous adolescents who'd left the service in hopes of touching up their eye liner in the church hall toilets. Quailingly, I exhibit the nectarine net and the garden rock and the Vicar's spare keys that I've nicked from his study. I don't mention the cock. The adolescents gaze at me unblinkingly.
I produce a collection of Felix boxes and a Domino's pizza carton salvaged from the recycling bin and invite them to construct the Church on a cereal-box 'rock'. They help themselves to stick-on jewels from my Sunday School basket and improvise facial piercings.
The bell summons us back into church and my charges are invited to explain the teetering tower of cat-food cartons to the faithful. I murmur my first prayer of the day - that noone will mention cocks.
And then the service is over with ten minutes to spare to transfer the children to a laser shoot-out party across town. 'You're not allowed to say that word on a Sunday!' repeats the 9-year-old as I search for the car key. 'And you shouldn't be so stressy because Sunday is a Day of Rest.'