……….more than just a brush with crockery!!! Warning this post contains scenes of birthday party angst from the beginning which some viewers may find distressing.
I steeled myself for the question!
“Lottie, what would you like to do for your birthday party this year?” adding brightly, “how about having a few friends around for a tea party?” I knew this would have a very high lame quotient (we’re probably talking 93%) but I thought I’d chance my arm anyway.
Sure enough this was met with one or Lottie’s best eye roll to camera so I waited for her answer.
“A Clippety Climb party!” Oh gawd really…again, we did that last year? Not a re-run of the claustro climbing walls, lack of daylight, dank breathy atmosphere and worse still chafing my hands to hell from ‘clipping’ multitudinous clambering and over zealous kids. There was also the intense neck ache (akin to whiplash the next day) from looking up 2o feet of wall at a 90 degree angle shouting encouragingly ‘go on – you can do it’ and ‘good job, high five!’ all the while perspiring heavily in a high vis ‘clip team’ jacket for the duration.
Blatantly ignoring her reply I continued haplessly.
“What about something outdoorsy…..in the woods?” I’m thinking you and four friends at the free playground in the forest with a picnic and therefore avoiding chafment of hands and remortgaging to pay for it? “We could do a treasure hunt…….” I added trailing off unconvincingly. For a nano second I thought she might be actually entertaining the idea (it would probably require the deployment of of her new sparkly Frozen wellies after all). But no, her face very quickly crumpled into a look of disdain and she then shot me a suspicious look as if to say ‘have you completely lost your mind?’.
“A sleepover, can I have a sleepover please?” Oh no, no, not a sleepover – *Clippety Climb* suddenly seemed so much more appealing (perhaps I could wear gardening gloves and a neck brace). “How about pancakes for pudding?” I said heading her off at the pass with a known winner from my arsenal of distraction techniques.
“Lottie might like a party at that new pottery cafe on Pittcombe Beach Parade?” suggested Anna (local best friend) who dropped in the next day for a coffee unannounced and set about distracting me spectacularly from writing my novel Twelve days and the Thatcher. I didn’t mind, she’d brought supplies – Chelsea Buns and Refresher lollies. Anna also brought tidings of great joy about the real Thatcherman (the inspiration for my novel). Apparently he was coming to the village to re-thatch Anna’s neighbour’s house which served as another distraction – such were his ridiculously good looks. I’d enjoy eyeballing him on the school run!
The pottery painting birthday party idea was met with approval, nay, unbridled enthusiasm and star jumps from Lottie so I booked it up! She was about to turn seven. I’ll freely admit that I’m not a natural party planner slash giver. I tend to spend the week running up to the event with what feels like a heavy anxious and annoying ‘party planner’ orangutan draped over my shoulders. One that intermittently taps me on the shoulder with: have you even thought about the fillers for the party bags? Have all the parents rsvped – they probably haven’t seen the invitation in the book bag? You gave out the invites very late! What if the party is totally rubbish and you have too much time to fill? What if you lose a child? Have you bought the number ‘7’ candle yet? What if you forget to bring the cake or the pottery cafe burns down in a freak kiln fire before next Saturday????? Here he is….
Lottie and I arrived at the pottery cafe in plenty of time to welcome her party guests, ‘you’ll want to be early, what if there’s road works or traffic or the car doesn’t start’ banged on my overly officious orangutan. The weather that week had been particularly warm so I decided on a whim to do ‘party food’ at the beach after the pottery painting! Lottie was beside herself with excitement at the prospect of
the presents seeing her friends out of school and an extra trip to play on the beach.
Here is the motley line up of party goers.
1- Amelia.The inappropriately dressed who one turned up in a prized bridesmaid dress that she had worn earlier in the summer and was now her best favourite bridesmaid party dress ever! Ahem, we were about to paint pottery ergo with paint and go to the beach which would then expose us to further hazards such as sand and sea???
2-Lily. The tardy one. Only 51 minutes late into a 2 hour slot at the Pottery Cafe………
3- Isobel.The one whose Dad is a GP in our local Doctors Practise (Dr Merney). Therefore the avoidance of eye contact was necessary in the hope that he didn’t remember our last surgery visitation with Lottie’s brother Toby and his virulent (ten pence sized) multi headed verucca.
4- Jasmine. The one with the spectacularly snotty nose – a permanent green crust crystallised to her nostrils – hmm yes my gag reflex was in fine working order it turns out. But it’s ok because my annoying anxious party planner Orangutan reminded me that I’d need to bring a box of tissues just for her.
5- Sophie. The one whose parents gave Lottie a gift that represented hours of parental involvement slash crafting and was probably something they were quite blatantly re-gifting.
6,7 The extras, Chloe and Beatrice, invited for school ‘politically correct’ reasons (I know you get me).
We were met by the pottery cafe owner Cheryl, a calm and composed kind of woman (the antithesis to fretty old me and my anxious pet party planner orangutan). She was dressed in a floor length tie dyed dress with bright blue hair, and seemed to float about on a waft of serenity, she was renowned locally for being something of a pottery painting guru. Soft panpipe background music filtered from hidden speakers, it was actually *quite relaxing* – I felt safe in Cheryl’s hands, I could do this! But at the point when I needed guru Chezza most the cafe became inundated with other customers and holiday makers! She had barely briefed us about the paints and brushes before she went AWOL amongst the throng. I felt that biley anxiousness that only people who *can’t draw for
crap toffee* feel when they have to be artistic in a pressurised environment and this wasn’t even on paper with a rubber either. It was *painting straight onto matte china* – there was no going back! Eight pairs of seven year old eyes looked to me for guidance???……. so I styled it out, adopting my best teacher voice and we all began sponging and painting away on cups and ornaments with gusto. I can report that there were no breakages or paint disasters apart from on my plate which made Jackson Pollock’s paintings look orderly (I tried again with a latte mug!). Amelia (the inappropriately dressed one) had been mummified, at my request, in adult sized aprons by Cheryl so that her face was barely peeping out over the top of them. She scarcely had use of her arms either but at least she didn’t get any unsightly and stainy (not a word) splash-backs on her best favourite party bridesmaid dress ever.
So after the pottery painting I met Ted (husband) at the beach, he was in charge of bringing the party food and birthday cake! He hadn’t forgotten either – things were going too well. Ted had also remembered our (rather flaccid looking) blow up dinghy which he set about pumping up. The girls had brought swimwear and towels and were running around excitedly, apart from Amelia who wouldn’t be parted from her best favourite bridesmaid party dress ever and was climbing on the rocks behind us. Just as I had passed Jasmine (you know -the snotty/crusty nosed one) her 33rd tissue and I was unwrapping sausage rolls and other nutrient deprived party fodder, an old man pitched up next to us with his elderly German Shepherd dog! Great! I love a dog me, but not one that gets too close to my party picnic and not one that looks like it could possible have the arm off any of the 8 young girls in my care! It may have been arthritic but it still looked menacing and seemed to be baring it’s teeth. Sensing my concern the old man, who in complete contrast had no gnashers – removed a rack of false teeth from his pocket, wiped them down on his trouser leg and popped them into his mouth with an unsavoury cluck sound. He was then capable of offering up the ubiquitous dog owner statement…..
“Oh he won’t hurt you, Dexter here doesn’t bite!” At this point I always wonder if I’m meant to be grateful??? The old man explained that the teeth baring was actually just a canine overbite. I really didn’t need his life story or information on the dogs dental records, I had carrot sticks and mini rolls to lay out.
At this moment Amelia let out a bloodcurdling scream from behind me, terror struck, had she torn her best favourite bridesmaid dress party dress ever? Phew, she came hobbling towards me protesting wildly about an injured foot instead. On closer inspection there was a fish hook in her heel, ouch, but actually it had hardly broken the skin (no blood) and I whipped it out quickly when she wasn’t looking. I was just relieved that she hadn’t damaged her best favourite……you know the rest. I bet you didn’t even think to bring any plasters did you? – piped up my annoying anxious party planner orangutan! Actually I happened to have a small selection in my handbag – my own personal stash for blisters. I was glad that a small incident had befallen us and now we could get on and shut this party down…..
By now all the children, apart from Amelia, were in the sea shrieking and giggling as Ted dragged them about in the dinghy. The old man had let Dexter off the lead and he was throwing balls into the sea for the ancient dog to retrieve. I carried on setting out the party food on the blanket – time was ticking on and parents would be along soon to pick up the girls. I didn’t notice the commotion at first but Jasmine shrieked and pointed frantically, I looked up to see the old man shouting and throwing his arms about. Dexter the dog was well out of his depth in his quest to retrieve a manky old tennis ball and was experiencing difficulties! Alerted by the old man’s anguished calls, Ted deposited the girls on the beach and swam out to the dog towing the dinghy behind him (like a very naff version of Baywatch). He reached Dexter (who was drowning not waving) and managed to unceremoniously flip the great heavy sodden animal into the inflatable boat. Back on the beach, the old man, Ted, Lottie and all her friends crowded over the aged dog in the dinghy. Dexter didn’t look at all well, insofar as he wasn’t moving or indeed breathing (to the naked eye), the girls were horrified. Lottie, Jasmine and Isobel started crying (more tissues required) as they all stared at the motionless dog. How the hell are you going to come back from this? Chided my annoying anxious orangutan.
“Do you need a doctor?” said an authoritative voice behind us, Isobel’s Dad (Dr Merney of the big verucca shame) and her Mum Jan had arrived and they had witnessed the event unfold as they approached. Actually we need the SuperVet but you’ll do! Dr Merney did something medical looking……possibly CPR but without rescue breaths….I imagine he drew the line at giving the German Shepherd the kiss of life – especially with that overbite. Suddenly the dog raised it’s head, puked (in our now dingy dinghy) struggled up and proceeded to shake and splatter us all with wet-dog spray. The girls all cheered and the old man shed a few tears whilst pumping Dr Merney’s hand with gratitude. Then we all celebrated with cocktail sausages, crisps, party rings and birthday cake. And after the last of Lottie’s friends were picked up by their parents, I felt instant relief about my shoulders as the annoying party planner orangutan naffed off too………or until the next birthday party at least!Oh sod off party planner orangutan!
As you were!
PS, I’m not showing you my rubbish Jackson Pollock inspired plate, but here’s my latte mug which worked out a bit better……..
PPS, Dexter the dog was given a clean bill of health from the vets and the old man popped into the surgery to let Dr Merney know. Isobel’s mum Jan passed on the good news to me at the school gates (just in case you were wondering…….probably not?)
Note to myself: The one about Lottie’s 7th Birthday Party