Father's day

20th May 2005 at 01:00
Michael Cook is taken down a peg or two when it's class photo time

A check-up at the doctor's. Do I smoke? No. Do I exercise? Every now and then. Weight? I've been waiting 20 minutes already, and you really should get some new magazines. Just get on the scales, please, Mr Cook. Not until I take my shoes off; I don't want to go on a diet just because I'm wearing thick insoles. Height? 5ft 11in. Maybe there's a wobble in my voice. Maybe I just don't look that tall. It's true that I'm 5ft 10 12in, but he's a busy man and won't have time for fractions. I'm rounding up for his convenience, not my ego.

There's certainly no need to place me against the height chart. Especially before I put my shoes back on.

When he writes down 5ft 9 12in I nearly ask for a second opinion. He's taking more than an inch from me. I mean, 5ft 10 12 is practically 5ft 11, and 5ft 11 is practically 6ft, and 6ft is, by general standards, tall. But 5ft 9 12 sounds like a short man desperate to claim every fraction of an inch. So that obliges me to be forever 5ft 9, which is just as near to 5ft 6 as it is to 6ft. I not only stand condemned as a liar, but as a dwarf.

And I thought the doctor was supposed to make you feel better!

This all comes flooding back this morning, when a messenger announces that it's time for Miss Cox's class photograph. At first, my only worry is exactly how much toothpaste Alfie may have squeezed down his jumper this morning. Then I consider whether there's time to coach him out of the new photographer's smile he's been working on during recent family gatherings.

But Alfie is the least of my concerns when we start to line up. The tallest must go at the back of the photo and the front of the line. Shortest sit at the feet of the teacher and enter the hall at the back of the queue. The biggest kids sort themselves out. Alfie jostles comfortably into a kind of UEFA Cup qualification position in the queue. But I'm left here at the back with two tiny boys, squabbling over who's the shortest. They refuse to join the queue. I'd like to insist, but I'm not sure I have the authority. Not down here at 5ft and practically nothing.

Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend

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