Tuesday, 26 July 2011

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

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.
Then there are these actual events that took place either at parties we have held or those of our friends:-
  •           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.
 Of course, the trick of it all, no matter how stressful, is to appear beautifully coiffed, calm and happy at the end when the other parents come to pick up.  I never managed it, always looking red-faced and sweaty and hugely relieved to get rid of all children.  I bet my neighbour did though.  I bet you’ve all had similar party nightmares…..go on, share!


  1. I hated throwing kids parties. Why does everyone think that because you've got a kid you suddenly like all kids??? The only thing that kept me going was the thought of that huge glass of ice-cold, white wine I was going to down in one at the end of it all.

  2. Too right! Only in my case it was several huge glasses :-)

  3. I don't live in a competitive party zone thank goodness. When the kids were younger, I just chucked them into MacDonald's to be entertained by the person responsible.

    I have organised parties myself. The best one was when I bought plastic swords/knives for all the kids and chucked them out into the wood opposite to fight it out. They got to keep the weapons. Went down a bomb.

    These French kids rarely like my Brit birthday cake though. They pick at it and then politely decline to eat more but fall on whatever else is on offer.

    I must say, I don't remember too many horrors. Only one, when one kid poohed in his trousers and had to be hosed down (luckily we were all at an Accrobranche centre outside).

  4. Oh this post says so much that resonates with me....and looking back at it, it was crazy to put so much time and effort and money into things that the kids don't really remember now...staying up late making a cake with 3 marzipan bears on it...filling the dining room with a bouncy castle full of balls because it was raining outside, putting together bags of 'goodies'......just like later in life the best times were the impromptu get togethers or sleepovers or walks in the woods....organised anything is very rarely great fun.....it is why I hate being invited anywhere...I mean on the night in question I might not fancy a pizza or a film or party etc., .......sweet cheesuz what a misery I sound! but I am old enough to say now that I only want what I want when I want it!!

  5. Sarah - you are lucky that the French don't compete like the Brits - maybe they just know they are superior already and don't feel the need to?! But as for hosing down pooey bottoms... :-((

    Libby - you are definitely right about the impromptu times...the amount of organisation that went into all those kids parties - only for someone to end up crying/wetting themselves/throwing up...I'm glad those days are behind me!

  6. Haha! Yes - all familiar but with your own humorous slant! One of my son's parties ( 10 th possibly) was almost spoiled before it started when one of our dogs jumped into the car where a beautifully constructed and decorated home baked cake sat on the back seat awaiting careful transportation. It was a cricket pitch with little marzipan men and bats, hats, wickets and balls all lovingly made by moi. The dog stuck her snout into the middle and ate her way towards where the spectators would have sat. She left a bomb site decorated with slavver. I poured loads of smarties into the crater and told them it was a bomb cake. Son nearly cried and 18 boys all jeered "Eww, the dog's eaten it - look at the slobber". No fools.

  7. This has got to be the best written thing I've ever read about b-day parties which are the ultimate nightmare. You need to send this to one of the nationals, it's genius. Most of ours when they were younger reverted into 'Lord of The Flies" with piggies everywhere, broken glasses and people pushing each other off rocks or worse sticking them up their noses. Maybe you should get the Lopper Lopper and hand it over to the neighbours, sounds like they need it to take control.

  8. Diney - I laughed out loud at your party description. Full marks for being prepared to serve the cake up anyway - slobber or no!

  9. Jody - thank you! I hadn't thought of submitting the piece anywhere but now maybe I will!


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