"You see my problem."
I was talking to my pal Annie about the forthcoming BOOK WEEK demands. Pick a character, any character, and then dress your child up like them. Or suffer the consequences. Preschools are notable for being cold and hard like that.
"It's not fair," I whined. "The girls can come as princesses. They'll in be pink. They'll wear frocks and maybe a plastic tiara. It's easy for those parents." I was generalising but I didn't care. I had a scant few days to whip up Tricky's cozzie and the pressure was wearing heavily on me and my feminist ideals.
Despite his love of Charlie & Lola, Tricky had decided to be neither Charlie nor Lola, plumping instead for that cuddly feline denizen of the Hairy McClary books: SCARFACE CLAW aka TOUGHEST TOM IN TOWN. It was an unusual choice because Tricky was actually scared of Scarface Claw, insisting we not read the relevant pages when he cropped up in the 'Hairy' books. It made it hard to maintain the tension when Hairy McC and his doggy mates encounter a strange pair of eyes in the undergrowth and then...with a clatter of claws and a scatter of paws... suddenly and inexplicably decide to bugger off home.
I had already scoured the Big House dress-up box which contained the evidence of many a fine Halloween for the Naughty Nephews, not to mention the ghosts of Book Week past, but there was nothing to conjure up a mangy tomcat with a Very Bad Attitude. Nothing except the remains of Naughty Nephew 1's hairy black and white teddy bear suit. A rather rustic looking jacket and trousers as whipped up by my designer friend MarkyQ, one balmy summer evening, many Book Weeks ago.
Now, I found myself (as I so often did) in my hometown Newcastle wandering the aisles of a rather depleted Spotlight with my old theatre pal Annie. And whining. Lots of whining.
I had hoped that I'd find a fully formed tomcat costume, Pret A Porter, with minimal fuss (and obviously maximum cost but I was prepared to give up sustenance for a few days in return for peace of mind). I was wrong.
There was nothing left on the shelves except a handful of 'Bubblebee' and 'Fifties Boy' outfits.
"This is like the Chernobyl Spotlight," I snarled. "I expect better from the city that gave us The Castanets and Yahoo Serious. All I want is a fecking cat. Where are all the decent costumes?"
As I spoke a harried looking woman marched past with three darling little girls in tow.
"It doesn't matter, I can make them," she was feebly insisting,"three princess dresses. In Pink. Easy."
"I have to be Belle," one of the darlings snapped.
"They must have full skirts and fitted bodice," trilled another.
"And a twain," lisped the third who didn't look as if she was old enough to be out of nappies let alone into the traditional salmon tinted garb of the female minor royale.
"What about the tiaras?" the eldest darling called mercilessly as her mother rushed weeping towards the home welding section.
Book Week, it seemed, was not limited to one solitary Sydney preschool. At every fabric display, at each shelf of water soluble paint I could hear the same two words hissed between gritted teeth.
Annie clicked her clickable glasses together and regarded me with the wisdom born of both long term friendship and being producer/director/writer/actor/stage manager and, crucially, wardrobe department of her own theatre company.
"I have three words to say to you," she said firmly. "Hot. Glue. Gun."
Several hours later, back at my parents' house, it was done.
Before us lay a cut-to-size hairy black and white coat, a long and satifyingly tomcatty tail and a pair of twitchily realistic Scarface Claw ears. These last were my own particular invention, cobbled up from triangles of the same faux fur fabric used to construct the tail and a "Sexy Red Devil" headband, snatched up from a Spotlight bargain bin, which featured demonic horns emerging, oddly enough, from a base of soft fuzzy black feathers.
Costume construction had taken less than half an hour, most of the intervening time between Chernobyl Spotlight and Scarface Claw Central pleasantly spent sipping coffee and eating macaroons amidst the gourmands of Darby Street.
Once we set to it, Annie wielded the Hot Glue Gun (low temp) like a woman possessed.
Clicking her reading glasses together over her nose, she upended the Spotlight bag and rolled the faux fur like a pro. She sealed and glued and spot stuck the tail, she was a chick with a gun and she wasn't afraid to shoot. "I have put together whole productions with a Hot Glue Gun," she shouted happily, "Feathers, fur, braiding, leather...I've hot glued them all! I use it at home too! Soft furnishings! Decorative blinds! Whole sets of sequinned cushions! All made up without a single stitch! lord knows I can never wash the things!"
At this point she had spotted the disaster that was Mach#1 of the Scarface Ears. "You've cut that fur exactly the way the shopgirl told you not to," she tutted.
It was true and so they looked like a couple of neatly trimmed if slightly greying lady hedges, rather than a pair of scruffy feral cat ears.
"Start again," Annie demanded and ruthlessly ripped the hairy triangles free. Luckily I could no longer be trusted with fur cutting and so Annie did them herself. They looked magnificent.
Book Week came twice for Tricky this year, the Preschool had scheduled parades on Monday and Friday-both days he attends. Scarface Claw had two performances.
Each day he was shy and nervous, each day I had to hold his hand and walk alongside thirty knee high pirates and pink clad princesses with one little Miss Giggles, one Snow White and one Angelina Ballerina and two mermaids ("Because Ariel wears different clothes on different days".)
Each day his costume was stroked lovingly by Angelina, Belle, Snow or Ariel.
Each day his face crumpled as we started to leave and he had to be hastily handed over to a Teacher for cuddles and reassuring words as we skulked out the gate.
And each day he had a completely fantastic time