I have witnessed a spectacle that would have caused Dante to lay his quill aside. Facepainting, at a local park's festival: ugly; very, very ugly.
If like us you're just a few months into the baby game then you're probably just cottoning on to the fact that one of the crucial drives in every progressive, liberal parent's day is 'where to take the baby'. Never mind that the operation involves an entire cavalcade of nappy supplies, burp cloths, extra clothing in case of self-soiling (and that's just for daddy...); then there's forward planning discreet feeding locations, keeping a constant eye on menacing dark clouds, negotiating overly enthusiastic kerbs. It's a minefield, pure and simple.
But she's worth it. First of all there's the mental stimulation thing; human interaction, other kids, growling dogs. Then you figure it might exhaust the wee mite and the fresh air may give you a 50/50 chance of a decent night's sleep. Finally there's the important factor of not going stir crazy yourself and kicking off a nappy-whirling dirty protest in the spare room as cabin-fever really starts to grip.
You've gotta get out with the baby. Pure and simple.
And so yesterday's festival at Longford Park was a symphony of buggies, prams, papooses and toddlers in wellies. We even saw our midwife, Hayley. Along with the doughnut stalls, Friends of the Earth, tarot card readings and a fire engine there stood, aside from the throng, the facepainting stall.
We were with our friends Alex and Pam and their little ones, Cosmo and Charlie. Both are perambulating now (the kids, not our friends) and beelined in a blur for the daubing tent queue. Anne and I wandered off with Maddie, met friends, bought snacks, giggled, took photos, read War and Peace, and came back only to find that they were still there in the queue, grim-faced and grisly. A line of bored, tearful and disillusioned little people was moving as slowly as tectonic plates.
Disbelieving, we asked our friends and their friends what on Earth was going on, only to be met with a roll of the eyes and a world-weary look: "Facepainting. It's hell." They said, veterans of many such festivals.
So new top tip for new dads, courtesy of Anne. Paint their faces before you leave the house. Steal your partner's Bobby Brown if you have to, but get that visog painted. Safety first.