Alfie and Poppy rush out of school with exciting news. It's World Book Day soon and everyone's dressing up to celebrate. Last year this was straightforward. We read Peter Pan every night for a week (so we could legitimately claim it as Alfie's "favourite book") and dug a pirate suit out of the toy box. This year it will be different. Alfie's outgrown pirates, and the event falls on Tuesday, the day I help in school.
Usually I am no fan of dressing up. I'm afraid to say my style is more Top Gear than Diesel. I consider myself lucky to be able to save my (only) suit and tie for weddings, funerals and court appearances. One sure way to tell I'm getting changed for a swish evening out is if I slip into a slightly more robust style of trainer.
But for World Book Day I will have to join in. Partly to demonstrate my enthusiasm for the many and varied activities that make up a vibrant and happy school, and mostly so no one calls me a party-pooper. I don't want to be the teetotaller on the 18-30 holiday, or the mute at the karaoke.
So, what to wear? I rattle mentally through a list of my favourite children's books in search of a costume that will show willing, but not much else. I may have the paunch and the disposition to play Fungus the Bogeyman, but I have watched enough Trinny and Susannah to know that green slime will do me no favours as a look. I love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as much as the next person, but do I want a playground full of infants to refer to me as a Willy Wonka every time I pick the kids up from school?
At home, I finally decide on Robinson Crusoe (nope, never read it). I find a flowery shirt, and am halfway through slicing the leg off my third best pair of jeans when the kids come in with the letter from school which gives all the details. This year, they have to dress up not as storybook characters, but as people from around the world. Poppy thinks she'll borrow an Indian trouser suit, jewellery and bindi. Alfie settles on his Real Madrid shirt.
Oh, and World Book Day is Thursday, not Tuesday. I am spared. Now all I need is for Trinny and Susannah to tell us that the one-legged look is the way to wear jeans this spring.
Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend