That... was a big day.
No parent with even a skerrick of experience leaves the timing of a birthday party open. The invites clearly said: 2.00 to 4.00pm. Naturally, there's always a bit of looseness in these things, but a note like that tells parents of invitees more or less what's going to go down. It's after lunch, see, so it's not likely to be a big nosh-up, but of course the usual range of party food will be available. And you'd better have a damned good excuse if you try to leave your kid much later than, say, 4.30.
I had a lot of work in the morning. I scratch-built a chocolate cake with a layer of marshmallow in the middle, and I filled a bunch of ice-cream cones with the remaining home-made marshmallow, then covered the lot with colourful sprinkles. Mermaid Fairy Princesses fuckin' LOVE colourful sprinkles.
Had to do a shopping run in the morning, of course. Drinks, snacks, party favours, balloons, and the inevitable sausages and bread rolls. Oh, and jelly.
An odd moment in the car: the Mau-Mau was in the back seat, already decked out in her frilliest, pinkest, princessiest finery (did I mention her mother brought her a goddam tiara from Ireland?) while Jake was up front with me. Jake dug out the AC/DC soundtrack album from Iron Man II and stuck it in the cd player, which was all right by me. Is there a better hard rock band ever than AC/DC? I think not. They define their own genre, and whatever their music may now lack in novelty, it remains solidly what it is: hard driving guitar rock.
So 'Thunderstruck' came on. And I turned up the volume. As you do.
Jake cringed into a foetal ball with his hands over his ears. Ahh, but in the rear view mirror what do I see? It's the Mau-mau, and she is goddam ROCKING OUT. Her arms are in the air over her head, flailing away. She's bouncing up and down in her kiddy-support seat, and banging her head like a complete freak.
I could not, in all conscience, turn the music back down until 'Thunderstruck' was done. Jake just had to stay curled up. Pfeh.
The Mermaid Fairy Princesses - and one pirate - turned up on time. I believe we had an extra five little girls in the house, plus the young pirate. Of course, by that time Jake had turned out eight batches of jelly while I'd been prepping marshmallow and cake, and setting things in motion.
Three hundred balloons, in the end. I partioned off the sunroom, and just goddam well inflated balloons until the place was knee-deep (for a six-year-old, anyhow.) I think the boys managed to blow up maybe thirty balloons between them, so I probably did something like two-hundred and seventy. Yes: by this point, I am largely over the bronchitis.
Happily, we had a bit of a break in the weather. It was especially good because on top of all our mermaid fairy princesses, the Viking Lads turned up with loaded waterguns. Meanwhile, Jake and Genghis had prepared their Nerfgun arsenal, intent on keeping Mermaid Fairy Princesses out of "their stuff". Thus, when the Viking Watergun Raiders arrived, the battle was on... and fortunately, it was warm enough and dry enough outside that it was an outdoors event.
There were shrieking mermaid fairy princesses running hither and yon. Nerf darts flew. Waterguns creaked and spat their streams of moist vengeance. Parents dodged, and talked, and drank the beer I'd laid on (with considerable experience and foresight.) Whenever things started to slow down, I threw snacks into the fray. When they finally started to look tired, I grilled an abominable mass of sausages, slashed a horrorshow worth of chewy bread-rolls, fried a half-dozen onions into tasty rings, chopped up a block of cheese and a jar of pickles, and limbered up the tomato sauce jar: and many, many children were fed.
The timing was very good. By about half-three, a very light rainshower drove them inside, where they gleefully began swimming about in the balloons. (I have photos of a mass of balloons. You cannot see the children beneath. They wanted it that way.)
I played my ace in the hole, and threw Natalie to the lions with a pass-the-parcel game. The big prize at the end was a bubble-gun, and after all the balloons and notes and lollies and teary outbursts, the Mau-mau wound up with the coveted weapon and promptly added vast quantities of soap-bubbles to the chaos...
The party did run overtime, yes. Various parents were having a good time too, so the kids stayed until the oldies were done. Last to go was our pirate, whose parents had the very good manners to turn up with a really interesting bottle of bubbly, which we promptly demolished. By that stage, I was already prepping dinner - a great big pot of spaghetti with a strong tomato/anchovy/basil sauce, and plenty of fine-sliced bacon. Thus, when we were down to just the usual three kids (plus two Mermaid Fairy Princess sleepover types) I fed the hell out of everyone yet again, and Natalie and I gradually defragged the place while the kids went through their shower routine, and watched 'Chicken Run'.
I admit, once all the offspring and their ilk were in bed, that I cracked open another beer or two. But not until I'd managed to quell even the three Mermaid Fairy Princesses, who were lying all three together on one vast inflatable mattress on the floor of the Mau-mau's room. By pointing out that if I heard little voices any longer, I'd put one of 'em up on the Mau-mau's bunk to sleep on her lonesome, I managed to send even those three off to the land of nod.
And so, I think that last beer or two was very well earned.
In the morning, we despatched children with pointy bamboo skewers to kill all the remaining balloons in a frenzy of colourful rubbery violent death. The sun came out, and I managed at last to pour the concrete footer for the stone wall around my firepit. Laundry was done. Tasks were carried out... and lo: in the end, I even managed to convince the Three Mermaid Fairy Princesses to clean up the Mau-mau's room.
Eventually, Anna the Viking Neighbour came and claimed her daughter, leaving only one excess Mermaid Fairy Princess. I fired up the barbecue, and prepared a mass of tandoori chicken and lamb, plus a bunch of roasted sweet potato. I also set up a green salad, and a bowl of turmeric rice, and a dessert salad of melon, ginger and coconut... because when Madame Double-Trouble arrived to collect her daughter, it was dinnertime, and she had two boys with her as well. Thus, my weekend finished with a barbecue dinner for eight. (Woulda been nine, but Natalie went into town to play music.)
Am I tired?
Fuck, yes. Where's that fucking beer?
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