Sometimes it’s better not to say anything at the school gate. That reputed snakepit of gossip, politics, cliques and scrutiny. And if you are foolish enough to open your big mouth, then it really is best to shut it again as soon as possible.
Because carrying on won’t help. Oh no. The hole will just take on cavernous proportions, the better to echo your indiscretion.
I don’t know if this applies particularly to fathers – women and other adults may be equally stupid. You tell me.
But this afternoon I had the pleasure of watching a dad’s foot accelerate towards his mouth. Rather than braking or steering away from trouble, he went into crash test dummy mode.
It was only a slight slip to begin with. Having called his tardy children over to go home, he muttered “Asshole.”
Sounds far worse when written down than it was when he said it. Say it in a funny accent and it sounds stage Chinese. Which is how I tried to gloss over it – deliberating misrepeating it as “Ah so.”
But the small children weren’t fooled. They berated him in mock outrage. But it was all still low tones at this point.
“That’s the trouble with living in such a nice polite place,” he said. “If you even say something as innocuous as ‘buttocks’ , you’ll have parental eyebrows rising all around you.”
He should have just left it and moved on.
Or moved away from the throng at the very least.
Because this next part of the conversation wouldn’t have happened in front of everyone else at the school gate.
Honesty compelled the earnest and by now loudly indignant child to declare:
“But you don’t say buttocks. You say bollocks. Bollocks!
And bollock off.
And piss off.
And so it went on.
Collapse of stout party. Head down. Exit to audience glee.
To be fair, I should point out that the mouth into which that foot was so deeply embedded, belongs to one of the most charming and polite souls you could hope to meet. And the details have been blurred to protect the guilty. And our school gate gatherings are positively divine and benign. (Am I laying it on a bit thick there? Can’t hurt. Still weeks till the summer holidays. Many more school gate pickups to go.)
So before you open your big fat gob next time, remember Helen Lovejoy’s plaintiff warning from The Simpsons: “What about the children?! Won’t somebody please think of the children!?” Too right. They’re almost certainly listening. The crafty wee buggers. Oops. No. Beggars. I said beggars. Or boogers. Shhh. Quick, time to go home.