Day 244

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Woke with a sense of needing to gird my loins ready for Katie’s birthday party this afternoon. In the past, Nick and I have done all parties jointly, but last year I had winter vomiting bug or some such, and Nick was obliged to do Katie’s party on his own. So this year he claimed precedent and suggested I should basically man (or woman) up and fly solo. Unlike previous parties, which have taken place on Sunday afternoon and involved parents dropping the little guests off, this year it was an after-school affair, and I was collecting the guests directly from school. This had the advantage that it would avoid the usually inevitable waiting around for the disorganised late-comers, but the disadvantage that I would be shepherding 8 unruly 7 year olds through the traffic. Previous years some of the kids arrived at the restaurant so hyper that they were a bit of a hazard, so this year I arranged the party for 4pm, leaving 40 minutes during which I could essentially run them on the heath like the overly-energetic little puppies they truly are.

Sadly late-comers are a slippery and tenacious bunch and, arriving at school to collect the children, I was told that Bobby’s uncle had already taken him home, because his mum wanted him to come home and change before the party. I collected the rest and began doing my cat-herding thing to get them safely across a succession of busy roads and on to the heath. They had a fabulous time, chasing each other around on the grass and getting rid of some of that pent up energy. Got them to the restaurant for 4pm, got everyone’s hands washed, paper chef’s hats and aprons on… 4:20 and still no Bobby. Finally told the staff we shouldn’t wait any longer and they bought down dough and toppings and started the children off on making their own pizzas. It’s a simple enough idea but the kids absolutely love it and slots are booked up far in advance. It was interesting to note more of the kids using olives and pepperoni, though no one would go near the mushrooms. Weird – mushrooms were a sought-after treat when I was that age. Bobby finally arrived, and the staff were lovely, bustling him into an apron and helping him get his dough pressed out. Unfortunately, of all the kids, Bobby probably needed the run on the heath most…

Once the masterpieces had gone off to the oven, the children devoured hot dough balls with butter (bizarre) then there came that awkward hiatus when there is nothing really to do but wait for the pizzas to come back. Nature abhors a vacuum, and Clara and Sophie quickly discovered that, if they sucked squash up into their straws, they could then blow it across the table at Bobby. For some reason, it is not the done thing over here to open presents at kids’ parties – fancy gift bags are handed over and then opened later at home. This always seems weird to me, and very disappointing for children who have chosen, or even made, their gifts or cards themselves, but when in Rome and all that – so I generally go with the flow. But today there were no other parents present and hey, I was desperate. So, to stop a full-on food fight breaking out, I announced ‘Presents! It’s time to open the presents!’ By the time the majority of the presents had been pried out of their elaborate wrapping, the pizzas had arrived. Yay! There was another break in proceedings after pizzas had been devoured, and before ice cream could be served, so Katie and I agreed that we would break with tradition again and give out the party bags (which, thank heavens, included colour changing felt pens). ‘Everyone decorate your hat!’ In the end, the ice cream took so long to arrive that parents began to arrive first, so at least there was no awful moment to wonder if some parent had decided that they would, on balance, prefer not to have junior back!

Sinniqua had texted earlier in the day to ask if I could keep Elias for a bit after the party, as she wouldn’t be back from Finland until about 6:30. It wasn’t a problem as Elias is no trouble and I knew Katie would love having someone come home to play after the party. It did cause a bit of a rebellion amongst the other kids though, several of whom were quite aggrieved: ‘If there is a party AND a play date, why aren’t we invited?’ and their parents looked hopeful, but there was no way I was sticking my neck through that noose …

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