You recognise this, don’t you…? God, I hope you don’t. I hope you have no idea what that stuff up there is. Never seen it before in your life.
Because if you recognise it, you are probably, like me, in a lot of pain right now. Physical, mental, spiritual and, yes, cognitive pain.
It starts in about week 2 of the school year. The kids come to meet you after school and you notice that there is a lack of spring in their step. “My backpack is sooooo heavy,” they say, dumping the bag at your feet with a resounding thud.
“Heavy?” you say. “Did you borrow lots and lots of library books today?” you add hopefully.
“Library is tomorrow, mum.”
And then you know.
You try to squash down the realisation as you winch the bags into the back of the car. All the way home you push the thought down, down, down, knowing all the while that your efforts are in vain. Wishing won’t make it go away.
Home you come and then the bags start being unpacked and you watch in horror as naked exercise book after naked exercise book after naked exercise book is slapped onto the kitchen counter top. The books are followed by great fistfuls of colourful paper chock-full of painting and drawing and the requisite annual collage. You will grow to hate that collage at about 11:57pm tonight.
“These all need to be covered, stat,” the kids say.
“Righto then, you’d better get started,” you chirp futilely. There is a pause as you and the kids stare at each other blankly. Then you go and search for the giant roll of contact paper.
So, that’s the Denial, Distraught and Bitter Acceptance phase out of the way. You will soon go through the Frustration phase (“I bought the darn contact paper just last week, where is it!”), the Anger phase (“why me, why meeeeeee, why can’t men wrestle the bloody contact for a change?”), the Resolute phase (“right, let’s just get this done and then you can have a large gin”) and the Procrastination phase (“I’ll just watch until the next ad break and then I’ll get started”).
With the clock ticking and a ridiculous overnight deadline set by the teacher, you soon realise that those books won’t cover themselves. That’s when the Horror phase begins.
The Horror phase
Involving the actual covering of books
Place artwork cover face down. Open book, lay on artwork and trim to correct size.
Bend edges over the book, cracking through the three layers of paint to create neat edge. Stick with tape.
Close book, bending and cracking cover around the book as you go. Slightly open back cover of book and dexterously slide tape in to stick down second side – remember, keep book mostly shut (years of experience have taught you that if you stick both sides of an open book down, book will not close).
Open book. Cut lots of different triangles from lots of different edges so rest of cover will crack and bend into correct positions. Stick with tape.
Roll up sleeves, sneak tiny sip of drink and bring out the contact paper.
Unroll contact, lay book open and trim to size. Cut larger than you think you will need, remember, once cut you cannot uncut.
Pick contact up and using your sharpest fingernail, attempt to separate backing paper and film in corner A. Once corner A has been worked to death with no separation, move onto corner B. Repeat for corners C and D, eventually returning to corner A and flipping and flipping that @$#%@! corner until you finally separate the backing paper from the film.
Carefully peel back the backing paper and expose virgin stickiness. Step away from the contact, find hairband, tie hair back (last year there was a stray hair trapped forever on the front of child’s Literacy book, making you squeamish all year).
Take book and carefully place spine in centre of the contact. Allow back of book to fall to the side and press down. Make sure you do the back of the book first (years of experience have taught you that your second effort is always the better go).
Cut lots of different triangles from lots of different edges and press contact down inside the back cover.
Turn attention to front cover. Accidentally shift book slightly to the left and watch as contact curls in over itself in left corner. Attempt to unstick left corner, accidentally making right corner stick together. Attempt to unstick both left and right corners and end up with mangled mass of contact paper attached to the front of your child’s Spelling book.
Wonder whether back cover could pass for front cover if you turned the book over and upside down. Wonder whether books really need a contact cover at all. Wonder whether you could just throw the Spelling book into the bin and call it a night.
Instead, cut off mangled mass, get new sheet of contact paper, go back to the beginning and repeat all steps, covering the back cover twice and carefully covering the front cover without mangling.
Close eyes, take steeling sip of gin, open eyes and survey handiwork. Use bottom of gin glass to smooth away as many bubbles as possible. Use fingernail to smooth down ridges and crevices.
Repeat for remaining 37 books. After four books, vow to only drink celebratory glass of gin after every second book is covered.
Note: This method works for all coverings except the collaged book cover. The collage requires an additional step of using scissors to help bend and crack the cover into place. This is because the collage cardboard combined with the collage paper combined with the collage glue results in an impenetrable cover medium, requiring exceptional strength to bend into place, which you just don’t have at 12:57pm after 36 books and 18 gins.
Further note: Do not send teacher a helpful email suggesting where she can put her collaged book cover idea until morning. Repeat, do not email until morning… trust me, it’s better that way.