The walk to my daughter’s school takes about 10 minutes. The route passes through tree-lined streets of prosperous-looking red-brick houses. There is plenty of time to think.
About things like why am I carrying a school bag, a swimming bag, another bag containing two sweet-peas and a tomato plant for the school, plus trying to rein in a small dog with a pull like a Massey Ferguson?
Or about why trying to get a six-year-old ready for school leaves me a nervous wreck while she, having reduced me to this state, skips along without a care in the world, free, unencumbered and with her whole life ahead of her.
Or how I swore not to become like one of those parents who spend their lives driving their kids to after-school activities, yet now find myself on Saturday mornings at the ungodly hour of 9am cycling through Dublin 6 with a small child in a pink tutu on a tag-along bike behind me, waving to the populace like the young Princess Margaret.
Ballet. I mean, it’s not as if the dancing gene runs deep in the Robbins family. My mother, as far as I know, never set foot on a dance floor except on her way to the bar.
And my father was once famously punched in the face during a fancy-dress dinner dance in the Shelbourne Hotel. Apparently, the gent dressed as the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz didn’t appreciate a handful of his straw being removed every time he waltzed by.
Admittedly, my uncle Harry, who actually owned a pair of dance pumps, was pretty nimble on his pins. At some civil service do, an ambassador’s wife once whispered to him: “You waltz divinely”.
He never tired of telling that story, but somehow never mentioned which country the ambassador represented. Some strict theocracy, perhaps, where the passo doble is a criminal offense.
My wife’s side of the family isn’t much better. Her siblings simply don’t dance at all, and her aunt, while game, is no Ginger Rogers. I once saw her dance at a posh party in Belgravia. People thought she was being attacked by a bee.
My daughter’s ballet class, as far as I can tell, involves running around. Oh, there’s a bit of skipping too, I think. But those carefree skipping days are coming to an end.
The date of her “performance” nears. She is to appear on stage at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght this very weekend. She will be the first member of our family to dance before a paying audience.
Mind you, people have often said, having watched me try some moves to Bohemian Rhapsody, that they’d pay to see that again, but I’m not sure it’s quite the same thing.
Having seen the ballet-based psychodrama Black Swan recently, I am a little nervous. “You don’t think she’ll have a breakdown and sleep with the choreographer, do you?” I ask my wife.
My wife sighs. “She’s six,” she replies. “And her ballet teacher is a woman. And she’s eight months pregnant.” Right. Just asking.
On the way back from school, things have calmed down a bit. I have recovered my sang froid after this morning’s theatrics, and my daughter is babbling away about her “performance”.
Of course, I am still laden like a pack animal and hanging on to the dog for dear life. She runs ahead like a girl in a shampoo ad, calling “Oh, keep up, Dad” over her shoulder.
She shows me some steps from her “performance”. It involves a run and a skip and what Craig Revel Horwood calls “armography”. It reminds me of something I’ve seen before.
That’s it. It’s exactly like the little dance Morecambe and Wise used to do at the end of their TV show. You know, when they skip away from the camera, doing that thing with their hands.
She shows me some steps from her “performance”. It involves a run and a skip and what Craig Revel Horwood calls “armography”.
We give it a whirl along Kenilworth Square. It’s fun, although my baggage gets in the way. But soon, we have a rhythm going and are in perfect synch. I have a silly grin on my face.
I smile at a woman emerging from her prosperous-looking house. It is a self-deprecating smile. It is meant to say: “Sheesh, look what us dads have to do, eh?”
She gives me a frosty glare in return. And then I realise that my daughter is hidden from her view behind the hedge. All she can see is me, bobbing up and down above the shrubbery, grinning like a madman, a Morecambe without my Wise.