It was Nipper’s birthday last week, and like the Queen she had two; her personal and her official. Her personal birthday was celebrated on Friday with chocolate cake and family. Her second birthday was celebrated last Saturday with a ‘children’s party’. Those two words ‘children’s party’ send shivers down the spine propelling many an adult to run for the beer, while others run for the hills. Having no prior experience of ‘children’s parties’ we were blissfully ignorant of any associated trauma in the run up. I admit that I had a lot on – I was in the middle of testing 400 media professionals on their spelling for a National survey, I’d been publicising Ed Stafford’s exploration to walk the length of the Amazon River and Nipper and I were coping with new teeth and learning to walk. So, the party didn’t receive an awful lot of planning. Invites went astray, invites that should have been proffered never made it and party bags were hastily thrown together thanks to the pound shop.
Saturday was upon us with an early start. 5:30am and Nipper and Pooh were chatting. Again. What's wrong with Pooh – is he just not bear/Man enough to tell Nipper that's it's too darned early for chatting? Up with the lark we milked her (!) and then dressed her and ourselves and finished breakfast by 7am. We then cleaned the house. N's parents got up and the plans swung into action thanks to N’s mum who is very efficient and good at organising things. Thank god.
'What's next? What's next? What needs doing?' was a familiar refrain from N’s mum in the kitchen.
'I don't know, I've never thrown a birthday party for a one year old before. Let's inflate the swan!'
N then spent two hours inflating a giant purple swan, assisted by his dad. They had to use a variety of nozzles. There was a lot of man grunting. Finally the swan was inflated in the centre of the lounge and we opened the ball bag full of ball pit balls and threw them in the swan. They rolled around looking like marbles in the bottom of a fruit bowl. Very sad. I'd underestimated and bought 100 balls. N calculated that we needed around 600 more in order for the swan to be referred to as a 'ball pit'. Balls. The Swan was the ‘entertainment’ for the 14 invited children. Balls. We needed lots of them.
So, we left Nipper with Grandma who managed to feed her while simultaneously icing fairy cakes with the letters 'z' 'o' and 'e'.
We drove to Nugent Park close to Orpington. Not my favourite place but it was home to the Early Learning Centre and a mecca of balls. N suggested we take the opportunity to have lunch. But I knew his game - he just wanted time out from party planning. I said we needed to get back. We bought 600 balls and then duly got caught in traffic on the Sidcup road. Time was ticking away. The guests would be arriving soon. Nipper would be waking........
The party was due to start at 2:30am. We made it home from ball-pit-ball-dash at 1:45. At 1:46pm I realised that I'd made a boo-boo. I only had alcohol in the house. I'd arranged a kids party and had forgotten to buy anything softer than 100 ball pit balls. Balls. N got back in the car and drove 7 miles to the nearest shop to buy squash while I got Nipper up and dressed her ready for her party.
20 adults and 14 children arrived. Nik returned with the squash. Phew. We poured ourselves a beer or two, followed by champagne. The swan was a great hit. My nephews Teddy(6) and Alex (4) from Bromley, rode the swan relentlessly. They bent the neck, pulled it, kissed it, kicked it and generally behaved like deliquent Bernie Cliftons. They’re brilliant. The best nephews I could wish for – proper boys. 12 other children also enjoyed the swan.
The lounge sweated like a nightclub. Our bare newly plastered walls were running with sweat. Not sure why.
Everyone enjoyed the champagne, beer and wine (I'd ordered a lot of that!) and the 2 hours flew by. We toasted Nipper, people drifted off and the swan died a graceful death due to a puncture wound in her neck - probably precipitated by the Bromley Boys. Who cared? The party was great. We’d made it through our first year as parents and our first ‘children’s party’ (permission to shudder).