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Ad-vent season

Claudia Savage-Gore fumes over the PTA’s latest “voluntary” wheeze

Hot House

This article is taken from the December 2020 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering three issue for just £5.


In theory, the major perk of the pandemic (is it inappropriate to call it the Panny-D?) should be the complete lack of in-real-life PTA events.

Usually December is a fucking awful marathon of school galas and grottos which, this year, I thought we’d be spared. There I was, safe in the knowledge I wasn’t obliged to drag myself to the Dorchester and bid thousands for a weekend in another parent’s country pad — all in the name of some random charity founded by another mother.

Invariably, FYI, this cause will relate to some sob story in her own life or, failing that, something she encountered on her family’s adult gap year. Nepalese primary schools feature heavily.

Surely the whole point of leaving prep school is that nobody judges you on your craft abilities any more

Anyway, spared this nightmare, my plan was to cheerfully continue to mainline Hummus Chips (aka Maida Vale mummy crack) while WFH.

Idiot.

The psycho non-working yoga mums don’t give up that easily. The Christmas term is their big moment. If anything, the rule of six has sent the PTAs at Lyra’s and Hector’s schools into some kind of febrile, festive overdrive.

Yesterday, there were approximately 150 messages from Lyra’s class rep about a “living Advent calendar”, which we’re all expected to embrace. Have you not been subjected to this? Literally torture.

If you thought the pressure to get your child to make a rainbow for the playroom window was bad, get this. Basically every family in Lyra’s year gets assigned a date in December up until Christmas Eve, upon which we’re obliged, out of the goodness of our hearts, to create an entire fucking professional window display for everyone to inspect each time they pass our house for the remainder of the month.

I mean, they say it’s voluntary, but it’s clearly not. Like, what if you’ve just got new Linwood curtains and Neville Johnson shutters and categorically don’t want a load of crap Blu-Tacked to the window?

It was bad enough forcing Hector to draw a recognisable pumpkin for his Halloween “Scavenger Hunt” (more class rep bullying). If you don’t know what a pumpkin scavenger hunt is I’ll spare you the details.

One of the Russian mothers who’s permanently on the back foot asked what the aim of the Living Advent Calendar was (my thoughts exactly) and got shot down with a reply about “a tough year” and raising “a sense of community”.

Which might work in Wisconsin, or wherever living Advent calendars originated, but these women seem to be forgetting that here in St John’s Wood everyone’s windows are hidden behind privet and security gates. Plus half the class actually lives miles away in Hampstead and Highgate.

The Russian mother, clearly nonplussed, asked if there was a prize and nobody replied.

Obviously this crafty shit is OK if you’re married to a billionaire and have staff to style one of your 30 street-facing windows. Or an influencer who’d be doing it for the gram regardless #myfamilymyworld. But I do actually have a sodding job, and, I’m not ashamed to say, minimal window-dressing experience.

I told Lyra we’d do a Fortnum & Mason themed display, which should only involve piling up the ten hampers I’ll be ordering for teachers anyway (FML). And perhaps some white fairy lights. Maybe an artful cascade of chocolate coins. Or a deer? Agh. Why did I sack our nanny? She could have handled this.

Ok, fine. Maybe I do have a mild inferiority complex about being shit at crafts. But surely the whole point of leaving prep school is that nobody judges you on your craft abilities any more, right? Right?

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