After spring came summer, then autumn, and now we are in the sleepover season. The pressure on miserable weekend days when the weather is as wretched as a wretch doing wretched things, is relentless: "Can we go to B&M?"

"Why? What are you after?"

"Nothing... I just want to look. Can we go to the cinema?"

"But we’ve seen everything."

And the inevitable "can we have child X, Y or Z over for a sleepover?" An answer in the negative commences a children's form of water torture as they relentlessly repeat ‘I’m bored’. When your retort of ‘only boring people get bored’ has zero effect, you relent, and before you know it, someone else’s kid is planning to give their parents some relief and hassle you instead.

Messenger messages are exchanged before the caveats are overheard on the phone: "Don’t worry, my Dad will pick you up an' we can go to B and M and the cinema if you fancy."

The house is tidied as each child who comes into the homestead is likely to go back and, under parental interrogation, spill the beans about the host family. Was the house tidy? What did they cook you? Were you warm enough? What time did you go to bed?

After the pickup comes the inevitable "Can we get some sweets for our midnight snack?"

Not wanting to sound tight, you reluctantly agree and then spend 30 minutes outside the local convenience store as they decide between candies with names such as Brain Damage or Fizz Bombs. Only having enough money for one item, they then, 28 minutes into the process and with you freezing your bits off and getting odd looks from the people sitting in the Indian restaurant next door, agree to double their funding so they can purchase both, just so you can get the hell out of there.

Your wife is away for the night and even though you last cooked for two six months ago, tonight there are three hungry mouths as you wheel out the big boys: the two for four quid Dr Oetker pizzas purchased a few hours earlier. Trying to ingratiate yourself into the conversation in the front room, even your own kids look embarrassed in company as you retreat to the kitchen to watch Strictly with sporadic visits to the front room to request they keep the noise down a little as you tidy up around their feet.

Knackered after a long week at work, you then receive requests for all manner of snackage when you as much as mention bedtime at round 11pm.

Despite all parties being fully aware it is nothing but a crude, yet workable, delaying tactic you sit watching a gaggle of tired girls getting stroppier by the minute as they refuse sleep and eat a waffle covered in Nutella spread at slug speed.

By 1am they are in bed. All is quiet and you doze off. You are then awoken by a noise next door at 5am. Sneaking out, believing you may have burglars, you bypass the creaky floorboard and jump into the bedroom doorway just as they close their eyes and pretend they are asleep. The giveaway is the phones grasped to their chests not yet being in sleep mode after 30 seconds' inaction. A rollicking pursues as they keep their eyes closed before you are fooled into thinking maybe you are wrong. Maybe you heard nothing, and the phones just happened to switch on. You shut the door and turn the light off.

The next morning brings breakfast roulette. Fearing the visitor is a vegan with a cereal allergy, you check to see you what you have, only to find you only have cereal. Not wanting them to report back that you have let them starve, you agree to them snaffling down a family slab of Cadbury's Caramel on condition they lie to their mum when they get home that they had organic porridge with blackberries and skimmed milk.

After dropping them off and clearing the bombsite that was once your house, you finally get to sit down at 2pm on Sunday before the other daughter pops her head around the door. "Dad…you know Izzy had a friend to stay last night… well it's only fair that I have one tonight…"

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher from London Colney