Christ, what is Mummy doing to the vicar? Dunno, perhaps his zip has broken. She only said she needed to speak to him about parking. Golly, that could put someone's eye out.
So for the last twenty-odd years, Lionel the Lollipop man has safely escorted generations of children across the road from the church car park (where we abandon our huge 4x4s to the utter fury of the vicar - I once left both doors wide open on mine, being late and in a tearing hurry, and came back to find some MOST un-Christian sentiments stuck to the windscreen) across a busy road to the school grounds. Rain and shine, he's there in his hi-vis tabard, cheerful, helpful and just the tiniest bit wistful.
The brand-new Nursery children do traffic projects and a proud, beaming barrel-chested Lionel spends an hour in the upstairs hall explaining his important role to class after class, year after year; then they draw pictures of him and always remember to say 'good morning, Lionel' when they see him. Freddie always signs off his phone calls 'bye-bye Mummy/Daddy/Gan-Gan/Tante, I love you.' One day, unthinkingly, he said 'bye-bye, Lionel, I love you,' and it wasn't till Rose walloped him that he realised what he had done. Not surprisingly, from then on, Lionel always stopped everything for Freddie; flashing ambulances, juggernauts, coppers on bikes. They have also discovered a mutual love of cricket which, especially in the summer months, leaves crowds of little ones stranded on the other side of the road as Lionel and Freddie earnestly discuss batting averages and what their heroes might get for tea at the Oval.
On discovering Freddie's Other Grandparents live abroad, Lionel presented him last term with a special sim card for a mobile which apparently saves a fortune on international calls. In fact, it did and I instructed Freddie to thank Lionel very much indeed. On Monday, he did, and Lionel said 'Oh good. I only ever phone my wife and my friend in London, so I didn't need it.'
By the time we got to the Jeep, Freddie was unable to speak. He and Rose sat horror-struck on the back seat. 'What?' I demanded crossly. Freddie was crying silently. 'Lionel,' he sniffed. 'He's only got one friend to phone.' 'And he lives in London,' sobbed Rose. 'Oh God,' she looked at her brother, 'I bet he stays up all night getting cricket stuff off the telly to talk to you about.' Their crying continued. Freddie said his heart hurt when he thought about Lionel. I suggested he stop thinking about him then. 'The holidays,' they gulped. 'He must be so lonely.' 'And we never even sent him a card from Barbados. He'd have loved that, it's where Brian Lara lives.' They were super-enthusiastic when they greeted him on Tuesday.
I am in London working for a couple of days, so my parents are managing the delicate emotional state of my children. I think I might tell them the vicar's only got one friend and he lives in Heaven; perhaps four huge tear-swimming blue eyes will distract him from my crap parking. It's worth a go.