Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A journey into hell, with a party bag at the end of it

I am writing this in a state of shock unlikely to be matched unless I witness my own house burn down, or my new car disappear over a cliff without my mother-in-law inside it.

It all started innocently enough at 6.30 last Tuesday morning, when my son Charlie joined me at the breakfast table. I wished him a happy birthday, but he apparently felt no interest in that.

“Daddy,” he announced, “I need to tidy up the conservatory and I need you to help me.”

I was astonished. Hitherto, Charlie’s commitment to doing the reverse of tidying up any room he enters has been pretty much total.

I finally persuaded him to open his cards and presents instead, but then he started banging on about the conservatory again.

So his mother and I naturally asked him the reasons for his sudden conversion. “So it’s tidy for when all my friends come round for my party.”

“But that’s not until Sunday,” we pointed out.

Cue floods of tears. Charlie’s not ours.

The party continued to dominate conversation for the remainder of last week, during which it grew in my mind from a vague and distant warning in the long-range weather forecast to an imminent destructive tornado.

We had decided, foolishly, to operate on the assumption of decent weather and rely on the kids to make their own entertainment running around the garden. To assist, I laid out an old battery-powered ride-on train, kindly donated by a cousin, which proved no longer to work. We also hired a small bouncy castle, delivered by a large man in a Citroen Picasso who insisted on taking his instructions from my wife and referred to me dismissively as “Granddad”.

As if by magic ...
"Charlie, do you want to have first go on the bouncy castle, then?"

Usually this not uncommon faux pas at least secures me an apology and discount from the trader concerned, though on this occasion only the former proved to be forthcoming.

When my contemporaries started breeding 30 or more years ago I often remarked that I had no plans to follow their example as I did not like children. This invariably elicited the shiny-eyed response, “Ah, but your own are different!”

I will now concede that this is true, up to a point. I can just about bear to take my two out in public together, and I do not glare and tut anything like as much as I used to do when I find myself next to other people’s noisy brats on a train or in a pub.

However, I can also report that a room full of four-year-olds is, without doubt, completely unbearable. Give me a chanting mob of bloodthirsty fanatics any day.

After numerous cancellations I think that only about eight of them actually turned up, but it might as well have been 800. And they were in my house for less than three hours, but it seemed more like three months.

I had been enjoined to put Charlie’s Hornby train set into full working order for their entertainment and they descended on it like a plague of locusts, snapping signals, ripping off couplings and testing the track to literal destruction.

Worst of all, their own parents just beamed indulgently throughout. By the time they had sung “Happy birthday”, eaten their cake and sloped off with their party bags, I was a broken man. I slept for a solid 12 hours afterwards.

On the home straight: birthday candle successfully extinguished

I recalled my elderly mother’s reaction when a nephew came round to show off his new son. She seemed distracted throughout, and after my cousin left I asked what had been on her mind. “All I could think,” she replied, “was that if that child broke something, I would scream!”

I found that amusing at the time. Now I know just how she felt.

We are supposed to be looking for a new home nearer Charlie’s first school, but I am beginning to think that we should actually look for two of them, including a nice little flat in sheltered accommodation for me.

Failing that, perhaps we could run to something with a granny annexe. Given stout locks, soundproofing and an ample supply of bookshelves, that might just about do for “Granddad” until the men in white coats come to take me away once and for all.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1 comment:

CC said...

Sounds par for the course....and you would have BOYS!! :~)

Charley looks like he's enjoying himself and I love that he was so full of anticipation the day before.

And where's the pictre of the Mrs?