Father's day

2nd December 2005 at 00:00
Gems of childhood? If it's not out on DVD, Michael Cook doesn't want to know

In this age of digital this and interactive that, it's good to see that infant school is still the home of the simple things in life. Mental arithmetic. Nursery rhymes. Papercraft.

Not that modern technology isn't taking over here just as fast as it is everywhere else. Three Christmases ago, at Alfie's first infant school nativity play, oh how we joked at the ostentation of selling copies of the show on DVD. The following year, we ummed and ahhed and eventually decided that, actually, DVD was much more convenient and much easier to store and, yes, it is a little more expensive than a video, but if you want the best you have to pay for the best. And this time we'll be camping out on New Year's Eve to make sure we're first in the queue when they go on sale.

After all, Britain's hypermarkets are now selling DVD players for less than a big box of dishwasher tablets.

A perfect digital copy gives you the chance to capture those precious moments of childhood forever. Or at least until they declare the format obsolete. (So, about the time Poppy leaves the juniorsI) And last year's nativity really was special. Everyone told us how beautiful Poppy looked singing in the choir. I swear it is not just parental pride that makes me say it. She had her hair down (at school, she's all bunched up for fear of nits). Backlit and sprinkled with glitter, she was every inch a radiant angel from a pre-Raphaelite masterpiece. Or, at the very least, a shampoo commercial.

Anyway, in papercraft with Miss Cox this morning, I have to cut out, mount and label profile silhouettes of the class. I guess they've been traced off a shadow projection. And certainly by an adult hand, rather than the children themselves; they have a spooky accuracy about them, as if they've been scanned by some futuristic airport security system.

Or at least most of them do. Strangely, some of the kids are not recognisable as themselves, but because their silhouettes look like their mums or their brothers. Here is a nose that was manning the cake stall at the summer fete. This brow-line threw snowballs at my car last winter and nearly made me crash into a postbox.

Then we come to Poppy. And I can tell it's Poppy only because her name is written on the back of the paper, but no one is going to be rushing up to me to tell me how beautiful she is once they see this. Her flowing golden curls have been transformed in silhouette into unsightly bumps and lumps under an Ena Sharples hairnet. Her dainty ski-jump nose has been niptucked into a snubby pig snout. Her baby-doll lips have been sucking on a lime.

And now I see why digital media is taking over the world; why the machine-tooled is taking precedence over the hand-crafted. Because, yes, the camera can sometimes be cruel, but these paper-cutter's scissors are psychopathic.

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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