IÕve never been much of a hands on mother but sometimes your hands are welded on to your offspring whether you like it or not.  End of term is one of those times.  School life demands it.

You think you have a life?  Forget it.  For the months of June and July, the school calendar insists that you devote every moment of your working day to servicing the children.  There are the sports days, the swimming galas, the school fetes, the open days, the parentsÕ evenings, the summer parties and, worst of all, the prize givings.   My husband and I have to hold diary meetings to carve up the social obligations between us:

Sports day Š canÕt, IÕm in Brussels,

But IÕve agreed to give a talk at Chatham House, says husband.

IÕm on a plane, babe.  Tough - you lose.

The school fete Š three hundred blonde women in competitive mode Š forget the commando assault course, this is an exercise in survival that they could use for army training.

I have to go to that, IÕm on the bottle stall with three women called Amanda whose prepubescent daughters are already members of the Junior stockbrokerÕs wives association.  And I have to make cup cakes.  Last time the school had a bake sale no-one ate mine because one of the other mothers is a professional Jane Asher convert who decorated hers individually to look like small animals.

Then thereÕs the leaverÕs cocktail party for the eldest Š our pay back for 7 years of school fees Š 2 hours in a paved courtyard with cheap red wine and ham swirls talking to a woman whose kids have gone to school with yours since primary school, and who still thinks my name is Maureen. We definitely canÕt miss that.

IÕll need a haircut, says husband.

Well make an appointment at the hairdresser for eldest Š itÕs her prom.

IÕve just been on Newsnight and youÕre asking me to make hair appointments? He protests.

Look youÕre going anyway, and IÕve got enough to do Š another two sports days, an assembly, and a church service.  Do you want to go to a Catholic thanksgiving mass with incense?
IÕm a Muslim, IÕm not going to a church, he says.

Well you should have thought of that before you sent your son to a Benedictine school then, matey.  So, deal.

I swap the hairdressing appointment and a whole week of school runs for open evening and two sports days, each of which necessitates an afternoon off work to watch two of our children not compete in any of the events.  Apparently, you have to qualify in heats.  YouÕd think it was the bloody Olympics instead of a couple of small local school events in a football field in a public park. 

But the real doozies are the Prize Givings.  I havenÕt won a prize in my life, unless you count an Eartha Kitt record in a tombola, so it never occurred to me that I was going to give birth to either academic or sporting geniuses.  And I was right.  So every year, itÕs another function, another hall, and another round of slow handclapping for other peopleÕs children who win everything from Captain of Rugby to Smug little Toerag. You begin to think that if you hear Johnny GoodytwoshoesÕ name one more time youÕll stand up and wail.

ItÕs not the spirit is it? But nevertheless, there you are taking another day off work to sit with a rigid smile botoxed on your face, clap, clap, clapping, while simultaneously rehearsing the speech for the forlorn child you have to take home later. The Attendance prize is the one traditionally given to functioning twits who donÕt do anything else but turn up, but we canÕt even manage that. IÕd settle for The Cup forŌnicest hairÕ, a Shield for Ōmost expensive orthodontoryÕ,  or a diploma for Ōbest Marks and SpencerÕs trousersÕ.  And if they gave a prize forÕ Most depressed motherÕ, weÕd sweep the board.