Legal Widow

Disaster was averted at the nursery last week after a gang of three-year-olds threatened to jump ship to the posh pre-prep school on the hill. It’s called L’Ecole des Petits Lapins and offers “meaningful play” in English, French and Hungarian mime techniques, but the key factor for the potential defector tots was the size of the sand pit and the two climbing stations, both with slides, to choose from.

I knew something was up the week before, when Liability came home with a black eye, claiming little Georgie Potts had thrown her out of the sand pit, which he needed for a “bizibus meeting”. She subsequently sent him to casualty with blood pouring out of his ear, but while the nursery assistants were rushing around screeching she noticed that three of the more numerate toddlers were methodically pacing the length of said sand pit and shaking their heads in disappointment.

The same week I saw Georgie’s mother Trina at Cafe Fleur, deep in conversation with Madame Armande, the super-soignee principal of Little Bunnies, with Georgie beside them going through the new Little Tykes catalogue, magic marker in hand. Any other child would be defacing it, but Georgie – who at three years old already knows how to con toddlers into swapping entire bags of chocolate drops for mint humbugs wrapped in old Quality Street wrappers – was surely laying down his minimum demands for joining Little Bunnies.

The problem is that our nursery is nearly on its uppers after the auditors ruled that payment in air miles and Laura Ashley privilege points was not valid for tax reasons and half of the children were withdrawn and sent to the pre-entry class at the state school down the road. Any more children leaving for greener pastures would mean closing the doors, and the owner Mrs Savage knows it. That’s probably why she’s taken to dressing Georgie for going home five minutes before the others and racing up the drive with him so she can plonk him on the back seat of Trina’s freelander before Trina can pass out Little Bunnies prospectuses to the rest of us.

Mind you, Georgie and his gang of three have been busily sowing discontent during playtime. Liability tells me that Jack and Chloe have been holding out for cafe au lait instead of milk, and that Olivia has been inciting all the children to throw their blazers over the fence (at Little Bunnies they wear, of course, “child-friendly” dungaree and romper sets which are imported from Paris and cost even more than the nursery’s regulation blazer and boater outfit).

Even Tabitha, the 18-year-old nursery assistant who aspires to be a Norland nanny, has been dropping hints about why children should be speaking French by the age of two after Trina told her that Madame Armande has a flat in Paris which she makes available to her staff for holidays.

Just as it seemed Georgie was going to lead all the children up the hill like the Pied Piper, Mrs Savage sewed up a deal with the local health club giving toddlers a week of free swimming lessons if their mums take a beauty package with free massage and manicure thrown in. It turned out that Madame’s offers could not compete with Trina’s vanity, and little Georgie will have to content himself with armband dealing in return for chocolates. They’ve allocated the kids’ pool time during geriatrics hour, but I predict it will only take two weeks of sharing swimming lanes with small people dangerously close to the end of toilet training to guarantee clear blue water.