So. It is Saturday, early afternoon and the Shah and I are out in the front garden discussing its
train wreck rurally idyllic properties. I am laughing at the Shah because he has got his Lopper out and is attempting to lop high branches off some very overgrown (for which read tree-like) shrubs. He is most proud of his huge tool and refers to it as “Mr Lopper-Lopper” in the style of the Shaggy song, whilst gyrating indelicately. Unfortunately, he brings to mind Mr Bean more readily than Shaggy...viz:-
So while he is shimmying, we slowly become aware that the sound of huffing and puffing is coming from next door’s front garden - the sort of huffing and puffing that denotes a man trying to achieve something but being buggered if he’s going to ask for help because that would mean he has a 2 inch penis.
Happily, despite our house being further up the hill from these neighbours, our garden is sunken below theirs – don't ask – it’s all part of the
shitehole rich tapestry that constitutes Crap Cottage. This means that it is perfectly possible for us all to ignore each other in a very English, middle class sort of a way, unless we actively want to say hello. The Shah and I glance up and over the dividing fence and see a large bunch of helium-filled balloons and a bald patch bobbing about. The balloons are being wrestled into several black bin liners and crammed into the car. Mrs Neighbour appears at their front door. “Shall I give you a hand?” she enquires mildly. “No! I’m good, I’m done!” snaps Mr Neighbour as balloons bob frantically about his pate (see previous remarks re penis size). Mrs N remains admirably calm. “We need to get going,” she remarks in a totally stress-free voice. I am filled with admiration – by now, I would have been running at the Shah with the biggest carving knife I could find. And suddenly, I get it. It is clearly Master Neighbour’s 2nd birthday party today and he cannot be brought out of the house to be transported to his party until all the balloons are safely hidden in the bin bags in the car. If he spots them, there will be the mother of all tantrums, tears and snot everywhere and the 2 year old will get quite upset as well. Lol. Eventually, it all works out and Master N is led from the house, excitedly shrieking “Daddy! Daddy!” Aah bless. I haven’t seen him for a while and I have a soft spot for children that are not mine own, so I peer over the fence and wave at his happy little face. Then I see Mrs Neighbour. FUCK ME! Always an attractive woman – lithe of limb (I have blogged previously about their personal trainer here) she is TRANSFORMED. In a glance, I can see that she has a golden tan, her hair has been straightened, she is fully made up and dressed as if she is a walking advert for yummy mummydom – tight, tight jeans, vertiginous heels and a teeny jacket.
Cue wobbly vision and spooky music....it’s all coming back to me now.
The competitive children’s birthday party! OMG, the number of these we have been to and held ourselves. The amount of money we have wasted on hiring halls and entertainers, and trawling Toys R Us for suitable crud with which to fill the party bags when all the little dears really wanted was to run around as much as possible (boys) play soppy games (girls) and ultimately beat the shit out of one another fuelled by as many E numbers as they could consume in the space of a couple of hours.
I honestly think I could write a book about the various irritations and indignities we have suffered but, to save you exiting the page early, I offer below some edited highlights of the past 19 years’ worth of children’s parties:-
- Years 1-4. Dead easy – you just need to invite doting grandparents, any local cousins and few of the girls from the Ante Natal Group.
- Years 5-12 – somewhat more difficult. Now you not only have to outdo yourself every year, you also have to outdo every other child in the class. You run out of options very quickly. To add to the complications, your son/daughter refuses to invite Harry/Lottie because they had a spat in the playground last week. Unfortunately, the mother of Harry/Lottie is your best school gate chum. Tricky.
- Years 13 upwards – no problem – you can bung them a few quid to take some mates to the cinema and then for a pizza. They would rather chew off their own leg than have you accompany them. You hope they don’t swerve the cinema, spend the money on fags and the afternoon hanging round the shopping centre.
- Party Bags – a minefield. The trick is to hand them out at the door as they leave. This way, you avoid Jake/Jessica inspecting the contents and saying things like “Eugh! This is lame. And I hate chocolate cake.” It also avoids Jake/Jessica receiving a clip round the ear. Accidentally, of course. The single best party bag toy I ever found was for the son’s 5th birthday. They were called “Squish Bugs” and they are no longer available from Toys R Us, sadly. They featured a large plastic replica of a Stag Beetle which came with a tube of blood (red slime) and a tube of pus (yellow slime) and you filled up the beetle and then stamped on it. Let joy be unconfined! The following day, I was greeted by a phalanx of wild-eyed mothers at the school gate. It was brill and my boy’s status in the playground rose stratospherically for a while.
- The father who dropped his brat at our daughter’s party and left with a parting shot of “You do know she’s vegetarian, don’t you?” Sorry no – my psychic powers seem to have deserted me for today, you dick. We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to wrench bits of cocktail sausage out of his daughter’s mouth, largely unsuccessfully.
- Our party at the play area where a very large girl managed to pee down a slide with such volume that every child that followed her landed in a puddle at the end. And cried and cried.
- Our son’s party where I was newly pregnant with the daughter, hadn’t told anybody and was feeling like shite. I had to keep leaving the room every so often to find a quiet place and put my head between my knees.
- Another soft-play party where we had invited the daughter of an actor who was appearing in The Bill (she was at nursery with our daughter). She came in beautiful Buckle My Shoe shoes which were promptly stolen by some little toe rag. We were mortified – the mother was beyond gracious, but the memory brings me out in a cold sweat even today.
- A friend’s party for her son where a child puked in the ball pit. Her husband was despatched into the fray and spent an unhappy half hour picking lumps of vom out of the area whilst we jeered from the sidelines.
- The party where we hired a magician who managed to set fire to himself. The kids thought it was great.