Friday 14th August.
My best friend, JC, (you may remember her from other ‘hilarious’ blog posts such as May Day May Day…) literally tours the soft plays of Yorkshire every Friday and while I was on maternity leave, I was fortunate to be a part of her elite group called the Friday Club. The thing about Friday Club is that you don’t talk about Friday Club. No, you merely receive a text with the name of the soft play, a post code and a time. The chosen soft plays are usually a little far away as I stupidly live miles away from my friends so my standard reply is: ‘I’ll be there, but I will be at least half an hour late.’ Now, I was a little excited to receive the following text on Thursday:
I was being given the opportunity to chose my own soft play; one that I could reach in ten minutes and not have to stop off for £20 diesel on my way (usually adding more minutes to my already late journey). Now, I had heard rumours on the back streets and alleyways of Ackworth that there was a quaint little soft play opposite Aldi in Pontefract and anything opposite an Aldi is okay in my book. So I suggested it. I offered to find the post code and give directions, but I was assured that the internet and the sat nav would get her there. And so, the text was sent to her elite club of merry mums and Friday Club was on.
Only, I am not on maternity leave anymore am I? No, it’s the six week summer holidays (for me) and like every good British holiday, it rained today and it barely stopped for a minute. A ‘quaint little’ soft play was probably not the best idea for a rainy summer’s day.
Anyway, if you think that you yourselves may want to create your own version of Friday Club in your corner of the world then here are the rules you must abide by in order to fully appreciate and enjoy it.
1. At least one of you must be half an hour or more late.
Last week I was fifty minutes late to an ice-cream parlour in the middle of a field. However, this week I was on time. Therefore, the baton was successfully passed to JC who did a stella job of being an hour late. She was waiting for someone to arrive at her house so she could follow her to this week’s venue. JC then proceeded to ignore the sat nav and ended up in the middle of a housing estate. To make matters worse (or better as she was abiding by the set rules) the ‘following’ friend actually turned up five minutes before JC did.
2. There must be no parking whatsoever available directly outside the chosen soft play.
The soft play can only have four designated car parking spaces. Unsurprisingly, today the four spaces were full so I found some other parking around the corner and got the kids out. Today’s soft play was situated on an industrial estate and just as the car was being locked and the baby bag was being strapped to the pushchair, a woman came out of her unit with a ‘private parking only’ sign which could only be described as a metaphorical ‘twos up’ at me. She suggested to ‘try Poundstretcher’ so I did and it was a five minute walk away. This, ordinarily, would be fine, but in torrential rain it proved to be quite tasking. I arrived at the same time as another mum friend and long time member of Friday Club and I have to say I felt a little sorry for her as she had recently returned from two weeks abroad in the sun. Her golden tan is now laying in a puddle somewhere between Poundland and Aldi in Pontefract.
3. Make sure that at 10.30 in the morning (which is early for us to be dressed and out of the house) there will be no tables left.
While waiting for the President of Friday Club to arrive, my friend and I debated whether to stay and pay or opt for another soft play I know. I described it to her as ‘the one that sells alcohol.’ We decided to stay though (as the soft play was better and I suppose Friday Club should really be about the kids…) and found a bench to perch on. Like hawks, we surveyed the room looking for a table.
‘She’s leaving,’ I said. ‘She’s just put Peppa’ in her handbag.’ I went over to ask, but alas, I was wrong.
‘They’re going,’ my friend said. ‘They’ve picked some shoes off the floor.’
She headed over and enquired and she was right! We Got the ‘okay’ to leave our bags on the chair to hold the table and that’s why she is a more seasoned member of Friday Club and why I am merely on the periphery being allowed in during maternity leaves (of which there will be no more) and school holidays.
4. At least one of you must arrive stressed.
Again, this is usually me as I always arrive late and carrying at least five stone worth of baggage, but today JC entered looking somewhat flustered. (Which is very rare.) She greeted us with a smile and cursed her sat nav and the housing estate. As she was doing this, she removed children’s coats, but unbeknownst to her, she took off her three year old’s t-shirt leaving the poor girl ready to and hit the soft play in nothing but her skinny jeans and socks. Her daughter, bless her, didn’t even point out the error – she was ready to play. I pointed and asked if she was aware that her daughter was topless and heading, hand in hand with my girl, towards the ball pool.
5. Other people’s kids must attack your kids and your kids must then turn on each other.
For a brief moment, I thought it would be nice to try the boy in the ball pool in the ridiculously busy baby area. There he was just happily munching on a plastic blue ball (with no germs on whatsoever) when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a boy aged about 14 months (not a clue, but he could walk) make a bee line for him. Before, the boy reached the Ninja Flippin’ Dude, a Super Gran ran up behind the said boy, tackled him to the ground and shouted: ‘He’s a biter, he’s a biter!’ She then wrestled her grandson away as I looked on open-mouthed in both admiration and awe while the Dude was happily now sucking on a, one can assume, clean red ball oblivious to the perilous danger that was almost upon him. (He would have just flipped and kicked the boy in the jaw like he does with me at home.)
A few minutes later, (or hours as time loses all meaning in soft play) I looked up at the vast plastic play above me and spotted my girl randomly pawing at her best (and now not topless) best friend. The teacher voice made an appearance as I shouted her full name across the crowded arena. Handing over the boy to anyone in passing distance, I ran in to get her in order for her to explain herself and apologise. Seeing me approach the pink and blue foam stairs she made a mad dash in the opposite direction and she headed for the slide. I saw her move and turned swiftly (losing a sock) and bounded back down the stairs to greet her at the bottom of the slide. Grabbing her, I demanded to know why she was hitting her friend. Suddenly, the best friend came out crying and sat on my knee. They were both in tears on me so I made them hug and I became the bad guy. Holding hands, they returned to the safety of the soft play and away from the me, the manic sockless mum, who just made a mountain out of a mole hill.
And there you have it, these are the rules you must abide by in order to enjoy a thoroughly busy soft play on a rainy summer’s day. I have to admit that I will miss Friday Club now that I am back at work. JC has introduced me to a fine bunch of ladies who will always grab my baby if I need five minutes to myself, they will be the first to hand me a baby wipe when I have been puked upon and they will happily buy me a tea and coffee and not take my money when I offer. Next time ladies, I will buy the cocktails (pints) if we ever go properly out out or on that holiday we talked about booking!
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures today as didn’t think I should in case I got other people’s kids in the pictures. There was no way to take a picture without getting at least twenty other children in the background. (Did I mention it was busy?) So, instead I thought you would appreciate a picture of the Other Half sitting in a tea-cup in the blazing sun (only two days ago) as you know how much he loves a ride.