If you are an avid follower of the filmmaker Tim Burton or simply a miserable old end of the world doom-monger you will already be au fey with the warnings that today 9.9.09 could possibly herald the end of life as we know it. But rather than donning my imaginery sandwich board and looking for dark clouds overhead I have hot-footed it to my own Burtonesque hell on earth – the ballpark. OK so I lied on Twitter, doesn’t everyone? I am not soaking up Vitamin D, unless they feed it through the air conditioning. It being half term, I am in dire need of a sit down.

Sid excitedly pulls one of my sleeves to the floor as I pay. New To Sho jumper is now so asymmetric I feel like lolloping like a Silver Back Gorilla into the soft play centre. Soft play: who the hell called it soft play? Genuine evil lurks here. I find the only free table (13), and duck as the kids speed away, throwing their shoes backwards.

They career towards the closest thing to Las Vegas for children and I head for the zone marked ‘strictly for parents’, which has become Teen Central no thanks to half term break. “Can I please use the Internet. I need to do some work,” I squeak at three boys battling it out in some war game and a girl with an Amy Winehouse do and Sam Sparro glasses. She ignores me as a boy bounces her up and down on his lap before licking her neck. Suspecting that I am in this for the long haul, I grab a newspaper and sit down.

Ten minutes later I spot Winehouse clone and salivating boy doing a shifty to the TV lounge. I race to my corner like I am careering towards a touchline. Everything goes into slow motion as my left buttock skims the seat seconds before a fourth war child makes his take-over bid. I whisper a little satisfied “Cha” before finding my Facebook I-Ching and asking the Chinese oracle’s advice on my chances of getting a boyfriend. Up pops a hexagram with the word “smallness” underneath. If I Ching is on the button today “The greater whole may be affected dramatically by something small and ignored.”

The last time the greater whole was affected dramatically by something small and ignored I travelled the length of an office I was temping in, from the Ladies to the photocopier, with a tail of toilet paper hanging out over my jeans and trailing into a crumpled ball on the floor.

“Fierce catwalk strut Naomi,” bleats Claire in HR.

“Joke?” asks Taz from web graphics when I reach my final destination.


“The tail?”

As I turn to look down and spy something rather unsavoury attached to the end of it,  it slowly dawns on me that I must have picked up someone else’s excess loo roll off the floor when I pulled my jeans on. Grappling wildly, I bundle it rather too hastily into the shredder. The slow clap starts around the office. I run to the centre of the room take a few bows before slinking off to find a bin that I can barf in…

“You’re not working,” says wimpering war child.

“Dry your eyes, Rambo. I’ve just got to check my emails, Twitter and Facebook. Give it half an hour.”

“Maaaaaarm!” yells Nancy. “Where were you? A boy pulled Sid’s hair and pushed me head first down the slide. He’s smaller than me Mum. I think you should tell HIS Mum.”

I check out the women in this hellhole and, not fancying my chances, get my brood to alert a staff member. A peroxide blonde with a smiley tiger on her T-shirt gets Nancy to dob in devil-child. She presents him with a yellow card which he promptly brandishes around the room, smiling. It being yellow, not red, he gets one more chance. Meanwhile I spot some Jordan effort I take to be his Mum glaring at me, pushing up her nose like I am some sort of snob, which, after what i have just said, I probably am. This place now has a license for alcohol, I spy four empty wine glasses on her table and the temperature clearly rising in her neck.

The kids head for the Carousel where lights make me blink and see orbs. The smell of plastic mixed with warm socks is sickly. And just when higher self kicks in to tell me to stop being such a miserable arse and embrace the pure unadulterated screaming for its hedonistic quality, a bright green plastic ball hits me square in the eyes and devil-child appears grimacing in a half smug/half what’s-she-going-to-do-to-me kind of way.

“Get your shoes on, we’re going,” I shriek at Nancy. “Whatttt? I hate you. You are the worst Mummy in the world. You are worse than the Wicked witch of the West. I WANT TO LIVE WITH my DAAAAAAD.”

Suddenly all humans are gone and fearsome machines are roaming the earth intent on my extinction. I look for a spark of life and emotion in the parents around me and see little more than a flicker here and there. Why the hell didn’t I go for the nature option I think as I march two down at heel kids kicking and screaming to the exit…