I currently own the most amazing pair of socks - the toe-end of each sock features the gaping mouth of a panther while the sock extends up the leg, dappled with striking shades of blue designed to represent the beast’s body.
The pity is, I wasn’t wearing them on Saturday when my immediate footwear came under intense scrutiny.
I used to be a rebel who chose to wear socks with holes in them. Latterly I learnt to rebel in a different way when I realised it was possible to be an anarchist while simultaneously protecting one’s feet... by wearing novelty socks.
On Saturday, due to the torrential rain we found ourselves in Mookie World. For those that haven’t been there it’s one of those kids’ indoor soft play areas with names like Happy Gibbons, Bobby’s Yard and Sugar Planet.
The idea is you pay the owners a sum of money in exchange for your child being allowed to play on their equipment for an allocated period. There’s an option for adults to clamber over the same equipment in the interests of supervising their offspring. There is but one rule: no shoes.
You’d think I’d have been to enough of these places to remember everyone must strip down to their sock soles in order to avail of the facilities. Apparently not, given the grey towelling sports socks I was wearing on Saturday. Asides from the fact the socks I was wearing were dull and uninspiring, these particular socks, that I was wearing on Saturday, had also been worn on Friday.
As I looked around Mookie World it was clear that the other parents and guardians had put a lot of thought into their eye-catching socks, and more importantly, put them on freshly. It was a big blow to my confidence, but as the pong began to dissipate I moved on from my sock faux pas and began looking beyond the other adults’ feet, indulging in a bit of people watching. There are many genres of adults who take their kids to soft play areas.
The first type that struck me were the disinterested masses - setting up camp at an out-of-the-way table, sending their kids off to amuse themselves, then severing all ties with their surrounds by means of a newspaper, smartphone or tablet. Their level of disconnection is either a way of saying, ‘My child is so good I have no need to look after them’ or ‘My child is so bad I’ve given up looking after them’.
Then you’ve got the sprawlers - these individuals are at one with their environment, making themselves comfortable in order to keep a closer eye on their little darlings, or put another way, they lie like a beached whale in the ball pool while merry hell ensues around them.
As with all crowds you’ve got attention seekers - those who approach the facilities with as much, if not more, fervour than their children. You’ll see them snapping a selfie with their wee man at the top of the centrepiece slide, before descending at juggernaut speed, narrowly avoiding a toddler as they smash into the crash barrier, then glancing around, trying to catch a gaze of approval but receiving only head shakes.
I’d put myself into the category of novice, still learning the ropes of kids’ soft play areas, assuming smiles and tears to be indicators of good times and bad.
We left Mookie World when Ben became tearful. I couldn’t work out what was wrong with him until I noticed his proximity to my socks could’ve been the reason his eyes were watering.