Wednesday, 18 February 2009


C'est Carnaval! C'est quoi? Carnaval! Ill-defined Belgian holiday in which:

1. Your children must go to the gulag in fancy dress. However possibly not on the same day as each other. Noone will explain to you precisely how or why this works.

2. Headmaster sets fire to a large wooden effigy in the exercise yard and the pupils stand round behind crash barrier to watch it burn. Effigy is referred to as Monsieur Hiver (Mr Winter). Ceremony often ends with mad dash for fire extinguishers and mass evacuation when wind turns.

3. There may or may not be crêpes. Noone will tell you when.

Fancy dress discussions start thus:

"What are you dressing up as Fingers?"


"Oh? Ok" [secret rejoicing]

"How about you Lashes?"

"A robot, no a dinosaur, no a bat, no a monster, no a Dracofeu, no a velociraptor, no the Loch Ness Monster ....."

Days pass. The issue becomes pressing.

"Fingers, it's Carnaval tomorrow. Are you still not dressing up?"

"Of course I am dressing up. As a parrot".

"[Bollocks] Oh. I'm not quite sure how we will do that. But, er, we'll have a go. Lashes? You don't dress up tomorrow do you?"

"Yes! I do! Of course I do. I am going as a monster robot Pokémon".

"Are you SURE? Because usually it's not on the same day as Fingers. And there wasn't anything in your journal de classe".


The evening gets off to a bad start when psychotic tram driver #518 drives into a car and I am stuck on tram as they fill in eight thousand forms, making me late for school. Then on returning home, realise Oscar Houdini has escaped from his room and has spent the day careering through the house eating Anya Hindmarch shoes and pissing on carpets. The remaining hours pass like a sadistic scavenger hunt, with children sending me this way and that to look for false fingernails, glasses of water, crepe paper, soft toys and bat masks. We eventually retire to bed. Several bodies join me in the course of the night. There is lots of wriggling and fidgeting and the dog tries to bite a hole in the hot water bottle. I wake up drained.

No rest, however, for the exhausted, as the team that gave you Tuesday night are here to present Wednesday morning! More requests, running around, pleas to put clothes on under robot suit, or at least pants, abandoned bagels underfoot. I must find the end of the sellotape, and the robot mask, and make shoes shiny. The dog, apparently, must also be "déguisé".

"But he's not going to school Lashes".

"C'est Carnaval! Everyone has to dress up! Help me put these bat wings on him".

Differences between the children are highlighted in this process. Lashes is all overkill, hysteria, more is more. Here, I must have this box of nails to carry with me as my food, I must talk like a robot, where is my oil to drink, how can we make this bigger, better, more spectacular? He is like me. Fingers plays it cool. He has confidence. I am trying to work out how to attach his wings to his 'body'.

"They don't need to be attached. I can just hold them like this" he says, calmly.

He accepts my offer of tail feathers graciously, but is not carried away. I warn him they are likely to fall off, which does not cause hysterical sobs. Refuses beak as overkill. He is like his father. Who has the great good fortune to be in Stockholm at the moment.

Finally everyone is ready. I am the only one not wearing pants. Photo time!

The photo is awful, but too late, the robot has already run away, off down the road. The parrot and I set off at a more sedate pace. The robot comes running back to us, crestfallen.

"Noone else in Primaire is dressed up!"

We reach school. He is right. We take off and shove the robot costume in his bag before anyone sees and laughs at him. Kiss. Goodbye robot, er, Lashes. Noone need ever know. Presumably we will find out in some oblique fashion that the whole sorry business must start again for you tomorrow. Why did we not know this? How could we not have known that page 83, subsection (f) of Vol 4 of the Gulag Rules stipulates different days for dressing up for maternelle and primaire?

Goodbye parrot, standing out in a sea of Spidermen and pirates and princesses. The parrot shines with inner satisfaction at his costume. He is parrot. The parrot's mother wonders if it is too early for a small Scotch.

Happy Carnaval!


Grit said...

jaywalker, could you imagine this type of trauma *everyday* but without the school to relieve you?

On the plus side, we get through quite a lot of whisky.

Jaywalker said...

I have to say Grit I sort of felt I was channelling you as I wrote it. It even sounds like your writing style.
I can't imagine there would be enough whisky in the world. What does your HOUSE look like? Because seriously, if Social Services did a home visit today, I think they would lock me up.

More than Just a Mother said...

You are a genius mother :)

Kitschen Pink said...

I've just sloshed gallons of hubby's best single malt into the marmalade I'm making. I figured if I let the mixture cool before I added the alcohol it wouldn't evaporate off the good stuff thereby making for a happy breakfast helper on toast... Should I send you a jar? t.x

Jaywalker said...

KP - That's an act of genius. Yes. Yes please. Happy breakfast!

MTAM - I think you mean "awful" not "genius"...

Mrs Trefusis said...

Just brilliant. I wouldn't know where to start with a parrot costume, yet he's channelling the absolute essence of parrot. Am sending vats of virtual cocktails. Go straight to the martini's: maybe an espresso one - a little old fashioned now but with extra

katyboo1 said...

It's a shame that the fire can't 'accidentally' rage out of control and burn down the gulag, all children being evacuated safely, naturally.

I thought UK schools were pretty grim but the gulag does sound hideous, it has to be said.

Anonymous said...

Fingers'hybrid parrot/marsupial is perfect.Poor Lashes-I feel his pain.

Jenny said...

Sorry-I left the last comment and pressed the wrong key-see how affected I am by all this angst.

justme said...

That is one very fine parrot outfit!

K said...

They both look great.

Hope you had fun.

Nicola said...

Would love to leave a witty comment because this is hilarious but am fighting a hangover (too much Pino while writing my post yesterday) and the boys are still playing 'Lets get this party started' and are destroying their bedroom. We have 2 hours till our playdate and I have absolutely no confidence in being able to resume order in such a tight deadline. Brilliant costumes - how do you do it?

Juci said...

Great costumes. Fingers looks so much like his papa in that picture. I love his confidence and serenity. The Robot is incredible, too. I'm sure he'll have fun when his day comes.

Jaywalker said...

Hello all. Having a very gloomy day, must be costume PTSD or something.

Mrs T- - an espresso martini would be perfect. Thank you dearest.

Katyboo - well, the ceremonial burning is on Friday apparently, so there is still time..

Jenny - ah, you spotted the baby in pouch! A last minute refinement that he rejected once we got to school. The soft parrot is one of his Secret Toys that must never see the light of day.

Justme - thank you darling. A bit minimalist, but it did the trick.

K - thank you!

Nicola - bleugh. Hungover play date. Courage.

Juci - me too! So unlike me. Robot (bought from Hema) gets his turn on Friday on Burning Day...

monk said...

I am glad you posted a photo of the rabbits. I hadn't seen them, but at least now I'll, you know, recognise them when I do.

I have the highest of hopes and the best of intentions for my blog. No disappointment planned.

Jaywalker said...

Monk - where have you BEEN? The rabbits are everywhere, dancing in my dreams. I have blogrolled you. Be good now.

Liberty London Girl said...

I cannot believe you pulled that out of the hat. Truly you are a costumemeister.But the weepette gets the palm. LLGxx

Jaywalker said...

LLG - you are such a weepette junkie.

I keep commenting on my own blog. You can see how pathetic and directionless I am today, can't you?

Red Shoes said...

I don't imagine this is any consolation at all, but your boys are SO DAMNED CUTE in those costumes. Lashes with the robot arm!! AARRGGHHH!! Too cute! Baby parrot with his little wings! AARRGGHH! MUCH TOO CUTE!! I can't take this much cute so early in the morning. You're really going to have to tone it down, on my behalf. Show us a puddle of dog wee or something, for balance. *sigh*

P.S. You are such a fab, fab mom. You poor exhausted woman.

P.P.S. Please feel free to comment. Sending you hugs.

Vic said...

I don't comment often here, not because I don't want to, but because I'm prostrate in awe of your ability to make me laugh AND deftly describe my life. (Except here it is either Halloween dress -up nightmares or "pajama day" which is stupid because if I sent my kids to school in what they really sleep in, the authorities would be called.)

Iheartfashion said...

You ARE a costume genius! I can't believe you whipped up those two outfits with no advance planning. Amazing.
My mom is similarly gifted. She once made me a great white shark suit out of some leftover foam she found in the attic.

Iheartfashion said...

Just enlarge the photo: does Fingers have a parrot in his pants?

mothership said...

I am terribly disappointed that it wasn't Lashes' turn to dress up. He is TOTALLY channeling FOTC with his robot!
I am already humming 'The distant future, the year 2000'..
Has he seen that clip? Here is URL
Mind you, perhaps not great idea as Four now scared of Wall-E - thinks he will kill her asses with poisonous gases..

Home Office Mum said...

I feel we now need to revisit all our dress up outfits from here on in. We definitely would have been one of the ready made spiderman ensembles from Woolies although now that Woolies is no more I'm screwed. I might have to move to belgium for inspiration

Jaywalker said...

I'll reply properly later but I cannot allow anyone to go on thinking I MADE the robot costume. It is from Hema, Dutch Woolies. There were about four identical ones at gulag roboting around in very FOTC way.

Lisa said...

My kids would be so jealous of your costuming skills.

Potty Mummy said...

Bravo, Parrot! (I love individuals)

Jaywalker said...

Red Shoes - hmm, how can I tone it down for you. As I tweeted, last night I found a used teabag in my pocket. There is not a single clean thing in this house and cleaner came yesterday.

Vic - this does reassure me. I have allowed Lashes to put his clothes on over his pyjamas today because I Just Can't Fight It.

Iheart - er, yes. He does. Your mother sounds amazing!

Mothership - yes! yes! I am not sure Lashes could cope with the low-techyness, but maybe I will try and see if he gets it. His turn is tomorrow, have no fear.

Home Office - problem with the spideys is you could so easily take the wrong one home, and who's to say someone else's kid would be better behaved?

Lisa - no, I don't think so. They would be covered in shame I think.

PM - yes, I was always so pleased that Lashes was dating the horse and not one of the 900 identi-princesses.

Fat Controller said...

I feel your pain. We have a very similar thing here where the kids dress up and beat a barrel full of sweets with sticks until it bursts. in the good old days there was a cat in the barrel but now they have to make do with a paper effigy of a cat.

My proudest moment was dressing son as a barrel of toxic waste, complete with hazchem stickers. It goes without saying that the outfit had to be conjured up out of nothing after the shops had shut on the night before he was to use it.

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