Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Party dresses and party cups

Hello Party People!

The planning, the shopping, the cooking, the paparazzi, the assembly of push along tricycles by instinct and blind faith at 2 in the morning as the instructions were thrown out.  All this and more came together to make a memorable day for LP and cause YM and I to seriously consider therapy.

365 days of gurgling and smiling as well as periodic winging and producing the most unholy code browns has to be celebrated. Add to this the consumption of £560.00 worth of Actimel (Yes, I worked it out!) and about a squillion quid’s worth of baby wipes (No, I didn’t work it out!), if this morning’s effort was anything to go by. In the words of that sickeningly jovial 00’s group S Club 7 “There ain't no party like an LP party”. Or something like that anyway.

So YM and I were faced with the joy and inherent anxiety which goes with our LP’s first birthday party. Gentle reader, although this process was fraught with danger at every turn, YM and I are happy to inform you that we have all survived the experience relatively unscathed, however we have learned, and not for the first time, many, many lessons.

One thing is clear, there is a high degree of etiquette involved in these soiree’s. I had no idea of the do’s and don’ts of planning our daughter’s birthday party and how many people I would potentially offend or maim in the process. I am of the opinion that the sharing this information to fellow survivors is my civic duty however a part of me wants to keep it to myself  as I harbour much resentment against my so called friends who have previously arranged such parties and failed to share their wisdom with YM and I.

Clearly the plan to throw LP a house party was flawed from the outset. I remember the house parties from my ‘yoof’ with some anxiety.  The ingredients for a successful party were deceptively simple back in the day:

1.            Alcohol

2.            2 bags of Chessy Wotsits (This constituted the buffet)

3.            My ‘Lucky’ Pulling Shirt

4.            A Kitchen. This was to ‘hang out’ in and also, in many respects, to sadly prove that my ‘Lucky’ Pulling Shirt was in breach of the Trade Description Act.

Clearly, with this level of party planning experience, a few years down the line and in collaboration with YM, we found ourselves woefully unprepared for organising LP’s big day.

As you know, YM and I have shared some tasks out to make full use of our individual skills: Cuisine for me and Couture for YM. Although we consider ourselves to be quite skilled in these areas we found that, when combined with an offspring’s birthday party, any expertise which we once had was lost in an amnesic haze.

The panic set in for YM a few weeks previously when we received a text from a fellow survivor stating that her daughter would be wearing a Black and White Minnie Mouse dress to the party. This was the very moment when YM felt empathy with many a celebrity who was faced with a bonnie frock doppelganger at a red carpet function.  YM, who was struggling to speak through the brown paper bag she was now frantically breathing into, demanded that we cancel the party there and then and never to speak of it again. I like to think that in times of adversity I take a rather more pragmatic approach to adversity, thus, after YM struck some yoga poses, or as we like to say ‘Vogued’, in a further attempt to compose herself (although, to be clear, I have never found the ‘Downward Facing Dog’ particularly tasteful), I was sent on a ‘fishing expedition’ via text to ascertain if the chosen dresses were indeed the same.  I always find that text messaging is the best way to do these things. It puts distance between those concerned and does not allow for Paddington Bear stairs which I find particularly troublesome, having fallen victim to YM’s periodically over the course of our marriage.

You would think that etiquette would dictate that, as this was LP’s first birthday party, the offer would be made to LP to wear her chosen dress without fear of the embarrassment of another child wearing the same. Perhaps this would have been the case in the genteel and somewhat naïve world which LP and I inhabit, in the real world this was not the case. It was clear that, as the other child’s mother was a shit hot knitter, LP would potentially lose out on a cosy jumper or two therefore we (well I) decided that discretion was the better part of valour and offered, by text, to change LP’s choice of wardrobe for her party. I do believe that a moral victory was gained as we let it be known that LP has multiple dress options. YM was also of the opinion that in a “Square Go” she could take the other mother.


I like to think that I am no slouch in the kitchen. Indeed YM supports this notion when she reminds me, oft, of my inertia in other areas. The kitchen is indeed my ‘Happy Place’. Well it was my ‘Happy place’ until I realised that I have no experience in catering for a 1st Birthday party and not just any first birthday party, an LP first birthday party. Actually in hindsight it would have been easier to go to M and S and bought a whole load of nibbles to fire into an oven 10 minutes before our guests arrived. Alas this was not to be. Call it ego (though I would rather you didn’t), but I was of the opinion that I had to cook everything from scratch, although YM did rather make a mockery of this when she arrived back home after I had asked LP and her to go to Tesco to buy fresh Basil for my homemade Focaccia and some Jersey milk to be churned into refreshing ice cream to be served with the Bramble Jelly I had made. YM had decided to go of script and buy some cocktail sausages and mini Scotch eggs, neither of which I have ever been totally comfortable with. I don’t get Scotch Eggs at all. The only Scottish thing about them is they are fried. As for cocktail sausages, do they contain mint, lime, ice and a large quantity of white rum? No, I think not. Capisce?

So, armed with a tray of unwanted sausages and mini eggs, which I conveniently forgot about and left in the fridge rather than serve next to the Smoked Salmon on Sourdough Bread Open Sandwiches or the Wild Mushroom Risotto, I found that I had committed a major culinary fopaux. I had not catered for my audience. My audience was the LP’s who were there and I should have sought advice prior to preparing the menu.

As I have said before advice is not particularly forthcoming around the whole concept of birthday party planning thus I should have sought support from a higher power.

San Tzu’s The Art of War as studied by military strategists and leaders throughout the ages would have given me the appropriate advice: 故曰:知彼知己,百戰不殆;不知彼而知己,一勝一負;不知彼,不知己,每戰必殆. Or in English “Know your Enemy”. Clearly I would have been better prepared if I had followed this sage advice.  A rather more 20th Century approach would have been to check our Mumsnet and get some advice on how they dealt with their DD’s (Mumsnet term for LP) birthday parties. If only I had read this first “A rough rule of thumb oft-quoted on Mumsnet is to invite the same number of children as candles on the cake”. Clearly acting on this advice we would have made for a  rather boring party for LP, although YM could have had her “Square Go” with the other invitee’s mum and I wouldn’t have had to put up with the shame of not supplying ‘Party Bags’. The ‘Party Cups’ I hastily threw together were not up to much really.

Oh well, same time next year?




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