Tonight I will be mostly venting one of my vile prejudices. If you know what "poi" is, and the thought doesn't fill you with a combination of nauseous hysteria and rage, this is probably not the post for you.
I am feeling a thoroughly unusual sense of parental guilt at the moment. Not because our household is in apocalyptic, irretrievable meltdown. Not because the spawn watch too much tv or eat Frosted Shreddies, or have dirty fingernails or cannot tell me the square root of 85. Nor even because they are learning low anglo-saxon terminology from my bakery products or because I am parading their childhood across the interwebs without scruple.
No. I am feeling guilty because having chosen this week's activity programme at the last minute on the basis of what was still available in the greater Brussels area, I discovered on going to collect them yesterday evening, that it includes, whisper it, circus skills.
Now. I love circus. Proper circus. There are some circus skills that are excellent, death-defying and thoroughly wonderful. I would love to see them ride motorcycles round a large hamster ball, or throw knives at each other, or goad tigers. I would be proud to see my children fired from cannons. But there is this very particular subset of "circus skills" that are only ever practised by people in loon pants with lengths of sludge coloured jersey wrapped around their heads, or large rasta caps, only partially capturing their disgusting white person dreads. You know EXACTLY what I am talking about. It's the ones with diabolos, and those beanbag juggling balls, and hoops and ridiculous hats and clubs and unicycles and aaaaaaargh. Sorry, I was overcome with spitting apoplexy there for a moment.
I have a Thing about this kind of circus skills. A mad, rage-filled thing, probably closely related to my own total absence of coordination. My top lip is curling with the horror of it all. You look like giant infants in your hemp babygros, playing with pointless coloured detritus! It is NOT CLEVER waving that, that, THING on a piece of string around and launching it into the air where it will invariably land on my head. Do NOT look so smug as you demonstrate your ability to look like a tit on a bicycle missing one wheel, you are not curing cancer! And wrap that turban tighter, you could give someone tetanus thwacking them in the head with one of your smelly white dreads. Tsk.
Let me give you an example. M and I stayed up late into the night yesterday laughing until we cried, and in my case, nearly vomited, at these videos. This thoroughly ridiculous activity is Poi. It is basically swinging a ball in a sock around, but if you listen to the fey, sagging loon on this video, you would think it was equivalent to Sylvie Guillem performing The Rite of Spring (BALLINASOCK). Or if you watch this one, constructing a poi (Ball. In. A. Sock. ) is a creative process on a par with Proust composing A la recherche du Temps Perdu from his cork-lined bedroom.
And now, horror of horrors, my children are being draw into this sinister universe of lameass juggling and it is ALL MY FAULT. In fact, the problem is perhaps wider than strictly circus skills. I have found, to my horror, that I have enrolled them in precisely the kind of ghastly hippy-led summer activity I used to be repeatedly subjected to in York. I arrive to collect them, picking my way through a small encampment of teepees and camper vans, to find them sitting huddled in a shagged-out looking circus tent, whey faced and glaring, as a small pixie of a woman in boiled felt overalls and a jaunty cap shakes a tambourine joyfully in the background to the faint droning sound of dub reggae. From their pinched expressions I can only surmise that they have been forced to play NON-COMPETITIVE COOPERATIVE GAMES, probably involving rival tribes who are forced to get along by a flood, or famine, or some such nonsense, and realise that sharing is better than fighting. I would not put it past this devil woman to have forced them to run aimlessly under a parachute until life seems a meaningless one way street of unending pain. The whole of my Woodcraft Folk past comes at me in a dizzying, nauseating rush - green shirts, protest songs, "playleader" Mark Gladwin and his guitar, giant vats of porridge. I clutch my poor babies to my bosom, rush them home and fill them up with trans-fats and pop, and loud, violent cartoons.
Guilt is consuming me. What have I done? Will any amount of therapy be sufficient to make up for the pain I am causing them? Worse, will they LIKE IT? And at the end of the week, I am invited to see them in a Performance. I can scarcely sleep for terror at the thought I may see my own flesh and blood swinging a handmade Poi. Are they strong enough to bear it? Am I? I will tell you on Friday.