Now Stanley is eight I’ve noticed my standards – such as they were – slipping when it comes to birthday parties. This year, I took him and what was supposed to be just the boys in his class to the cinema (never believe an eight year old when they tell you they’ve remembered all the boys in their class. Some of the mums are deffo giving me evils at school, after not making the cut. It’s been social suicide, I tell you). There I fed them with buckets of nasty sweets and sugary drinks, and let them pebbledash the empty auditorium with popcorn while I ‘closed my eyes’ in a disturbing middle-aged way. Afterwards I walked them precisely one metre west, into the bowels of our local Nando’s, where no-one ate any chicken and they all crowded round the frozen yoghurt machine, seeing who could make their dessert look most like a poo.
I tried not to engage with them, other than to find out which of the girls at school fancied Stanley (I’m thrilled with the news) and was waiting outside when their parents came to pick them up, barely able to disguise my agitation to leave. No party bags were issued and I haven’t done thank you cards yet (in my head, I’ve already signed off on thank you cards. Outwardly, I’m still like ‘we must do your thank you cards’ but you and I know they’ll never happen. It’s Christmas cards in a couple of weeks FFS). It was basically no-hands the whole afternoon and I fucking loved it. I’ve baked enough Smarties cakes and filled enough ironic party bags (‘this year let’s use popcorn buckets!’) with po-faced, socially acceptable toys (‘let’s give them all a wooden kazoo!’) to know that it is sheer hell from beginning to end and I never want to do it again.
Which is why it pissed me off when he came back from the following weekend’s ‘Bear Grylls survival birthday party’ saying it was the best day of his life so far. Even better than Crealy World of Adventures. Have you ever been to a Bear Grylls survival party, I wonder? They’re great. He had to turn up at his mate’s farm with a torch and his face all camoed-up just like Bear. Grrrr. Then him and all his little friends snared and killed a load of fluffy bunnies – it was like Watership Down out there – and choked a few of the local pheasants to death with raisins and horsehair – Danny Champion style. After making their kills, they baked their own bread (I KNOW) and cooked sausages around the fire they’d all built. When it came out, the birthday cake – in the shape of a fire – was actually on fire (I KNOW)! For the crescendo, the birthday kid’s uncle ran across the field dressed as a gorilla, emerging from the darkness like King Kong to shrieks of terrified delight, before the boys all bundled him and killed him too*. By the end the danger-starved boys – some of them actually foaming at the mouth at this stage – were holding the dead rabbits’ little arms and making them dance to Gangnam Style.
Have you got any cheese puffs?
One or two of the other mothers were in high dudgeon about the blood-thirsty nature of this party; they hadn’t realised they were sending their little darlings off to the Killing Fields. What if they had nightmares? My concerns were less political: I don’t have a problem with killing rabbits as long as you are nice enough to eat them afterwards, and I’m sure the Gangnam Style thing was funny – you just had to be there. I was more annoyed by what I felt was betrayal, by the mum who’d laid on the party. She’d clearly been planning it since 2004. It was so good, it was basically her life’s work. I guarantee that at this moment she’s feeling all empty and purposeless, like after your wedding.
I guess I’d just assumed we’d all reached that stage of birthday party ennui by now, and that everyone would be slumming it in Nando’s like me. Apparently not. Looks like I’ll have to up my game again next year. Meanwhile, I’ll wait for the handmade thank you card to arrive, via pigeon.
*didn’t actually kill the uncle