It is only during the school holidays that you realise what incredibly good value for money school really is.
The free babysitting, hot lunches AND education, all for less than the price of a pint of beer per day.
Even class trips to the zoo, art galleries or museums only cost a quid a go!
Yes, yes, I know they cost all us taxpayers a behind-the-scenes fortune, but I am a taxpayer and it still feels like enormous Value For Money – especially when the school holidays come round.
This week has been half-term for my three children – and I feel like I've been coshed over the head with a snooker ball in a sock and had my wallet emptied.
Three things haven't helped:
1. The Diamond Jubilee and the relentless pressure to entertain one's sprogs in the Royal manner to which they would like to become accustomed;
2. The bloody awful miserable p***ing British weather; and
3. My complete and utter lack of imagination to keep my 10, seven and four year-olds occupied enough to prevent them tearing each other to pieces.
The latter, I am convinced, is a male trait, for when I asked my mum friends on Twitter for some advice on how to amuse the children over several rainy days, they came up with the following suggestions:
• Try cutting and sticking, Making paper flowers, Making play-dough with water & corn flour
• Make some paper boats and have a battle in the sink, make percussion instruments from empty containers, play hide & seek?
• We're playing trains. We've also done a pass the parcel (leftover from recent birthday) and now have finger puppets to make!
• Get some lining paper, make them lie on it, draw round them & then make them complete self portrait.
• Cover kitchen table or worktop with shaving foam, sprinkle with water and draw! Clean fingernails, happy kids n sparkling table.
• Drop vinegar and food colour mix into baking soda. Amusing for a good half hour for young toddler, more for older children.
• Make paper planes and throw them down the stair well.
• Go in garden with raincoats and collect treasure! (Stones mainly and then wash the stones and then paint them.) Then make a tent with a blanket and have lunch under it.
Now all of these ideas, I'm sure you'll agree, are excellent and perfectly sound.
But being both a reluctant and lazy housedad, I would rather grate my eyeballs than make finger puppets or paint stones, so what's the solution?
Two Tweeters offered the following...
• Just pretend you live here in Scotland - stick them in front of the telly with some chips (and an occasional vitamin D pill)
• Why not exploit the urge to kill each other and have a Hunger Games-style tournament?
Which definitely have appeal, but I went for an even easier option – and decided to sod the overdraft, re-mortgage the house and throw money at the problem.
Oh how I wish I'd sewn my pockets up.
Here's how it all stacked up:
Bank Holiday Monday: The Fun Fair
Rides for three kids (and sometimes two adults) at £2 a time; hotdogs, £4 each; Cokes, £2 each
Stress factor: 8/10 (mainly from feeling nauseous on the Teacups)
Bank Holiday Tuesday: Bowling
Three kids and two adults, plus throw-it-down-the-drain money in the adjoining arcade, plus McDonald's for lunch
Stress factor: 7 (when the prize refused to come down the chute on the push-a-tenpence)
Wednesday: Pizza Express to make own pizza dough
Four kids (including one of mine's mates) and one adult
Stress factor: 7 (bus journey from hell, plus four year-old got covered in sticky dough)
Thursday: Cinema to see Monster In Paris
Three kids, one adult, plus gigantic boxes of popcorn, sweets and enough Coke to solve the alleged drought crisis
Stress factor: 3 (Dark room + loud movie soundtrack = peace)
Friday: Home Day
Playing Wii, watching TV, playing games, hide and seek, get blown about in the wind, making homemade burgers, doing homework, guitar practice, drawing pictures for when hard-working mum came home.
Stress factor: 1 (from feeling claustrophobic hiding in the cupboard under the stairs during hide & seek).
Cost: £20 (for the running buffet of fruit, snacks and treats that comes with staying home all day)
And the final scores, pro rata'd over five days:
Stress factor: 31
Stress factor: 5
So what does this carefully researched and compiled survey conclude?
Yes, that's right: school is BRILLIANT. Roll on Monday!