I have a love-hate relationship with soft play. When it’s raining and you need to give them an energy burn blast, soft play is like some kind of mirage that appears within a rainy mist. Adorned with a coffee bar and pastries, the middle class organic versions seem even more tantalising. Do not be fooled. They are no better than the rest, and still stink of socks and have cheese sandwiches squished into the underside of every surface. No matter how much you’re fooled into thinking you can have a coffee and relax, you can’t. Because unbeknown to most there is a darkened brooding behind the play frame…
Today was a soft play afternoon. I have been enjoying a time now Phoenix is older of actually not having to go into the soft play itself. Its been great avoiding getting my arse stuck in tight spaces and cursing myself AGAIN for wearing a skirt/dress/tights/pair of crotchless pants to a children’s play den – seriously I will NEVER learn. But now Indy is on the scene I’ve been thrust back in to lions pit which I where I spent most of my rainy afternoon today observing a deep and complex underground world…
Something happens when you enter a soft play, from the moment you remove your shoes and cross the boundaries into the soft play territory you enter a world ruled by kids, where they turn into under lords, gangsters and hit men. Make no mistakes, you may think you’re in charge from the sidelines, but in the bowels of the soft play they will eat you up and spit you out. They might be cute and funny on the outside but on the inside they are a lying, scheming, bullish brute. Seriously.
So I’m sitting in the little portioned off baby area with Indy feeling suitably impressed that over the course of today she seems to have fully mastered sitting up, when I’m approached by a stern looking girl in a long 90s style gingham dress with a kind of really thick denim hem (god knows what her mum had for breakfast). She stands in front of me with an expression that wouldn’t look out of place in the Shining:
“Where’s Jessica?” she demands
Erm, I’m sorry?
“Where’s Jessica!?” she’s getting quite irate, I start genuinely fearing for my life
Sorry sweetheart (a risky term given the circumstance), I don’t know who jessica is, is she your friend?
She stares for a minute, narrows her eyes then reverses out walking backwards in silence.
Indy is happily sitting up surrounded by a pack of playing cards that someone’s lost from their party bag. She looks like she’s taken part in some kind of experiment by David Blaine, but is happy enough. I look around for Phoenix and see he’s taken one arm out of his top and is running up to people shouting ‘arrgghhhh I’ve got one arm’ then crashing face forward into the soft wall bouncing onto the floor and performing some kind of convulsion impression. I do a silent prayer that there are no amputees in the building (or suffers of convulsive fits) and return my attention to Indy. There’s a tap on my shoulder and a hand appears through the net from the other side:
“Those are my playing cards”. There’s a boy with two smeared ladybirds painted on each cheek and a freakishly neat square fringe (what is this? Bring your 90s horror film child to soft play day?!)
Oh ok, would you like them back
“yes put them in a pile now and give them to my mum”
Despite everyone thinking I know everyone in this joint, I have no idea who his mum is, so pile them neatly and put them to the side and assume that will suffice. At this point a much bigger boy comes into the space, stands on a tower of blocks and lets off a whoopie cushion. All the boys laugh hysterically, he’s literally become a hero. I liken to the response as similar to when Obama gave his ‘yes we can’ speech. I’m drifting off about how its funny that whoopee cushions are still just as relevant as they were before technology (yep i go deep in soft play) when there’s a face at my side:
“I told you to give those playing cards to my mum” (he kind of has a posh serious man voice, I imagine he will be a tax man when he’s older)
Oh sorry, I wasn’t sure who your mum was so I put them all here. Here you go…
He looks me up and down and glances at Indy and checks through the cards to see if they’re all there (I wait nervously)
“is she a baby?” he points to Indy
“Do you have one baby or two babies?”
I have one baby and one bigger boy over there
“Can I pick up your baby?”
“Can I stroke its head”
Gently yes. Do you know you have ladybirds painted on your face? They’re quite scary
“what does she eat and can i have it?”
She likes lots of food…um, I’m not sure what your questions means
“Can you put that baby on my belly”
“But look my belly is quite fat enough for he to sit on, put her on it”
That’s not happening
“MUM!!! MUM!! LOOK!!” (phoenix has taken hold of the whoopee cushion and its possibly the greatest and proudest moment of his life so far)
The mini tax man looks upon the whoopee cushion joy unfolding before him, slinks out and reappears with his own. He blows it up and sits on it right in from me, but its a bit bust and all the air just shoots forward into a pouch and it kind of looks like he has a massive ball in between in his legs. Myself plus the other lookers on don’t know where to look. He jumps really it hard and it bursts. I’m not sure where we’re going to go from here.
Enter hair streak – a girl with one pink hair extension glued in at a really weird angle at the front of her head:
“Do you know where Jessica is?”
No but I am considering sending out a search party for her
Phoenix by now seems to have made friends with tax man and they are taking it in turns to run into the wall shouting ‘sticky buns on my bottom’. Indy is laughing hysterically. She’s lucky she doesn’t have the context of children in horror films to assess the situation.
I look at my watch and decide it time for dinner. I have to leave, I’m terrified of Jessica catching up with me…