I like Twitter. Ok, I know it means sitting on your ass for extended periods typing text to other people represented only by text and you haven’t got any real clue who they are, but if text is your thing it’s a perfect fit.
If you are sitting on your ass for extended periods anyway, reeling and writhing or concentrating on the arithmetical disciplines of Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision (as the Mock Turtle described so well), it’s a positive plus to catch some random witty tweet that’ll make you smile.
It was a tweet from David Baddiel, the writer/comedian/very bright chap thanking someone for the “brilliant magic show” he produced at a birthday party for his little girl, that reminded me of some of the challenges of kids’ birthday parties.
A birthday party (there should really be Brithday parties during which loaves of bara brith are cooked, sliced, buttered and consumed – if only to justify my repeated typos due to excessive writhing) is always a gamble. I’m pretty sure insurance underwriters and actuaries NEVER have birthday parties for their kids.
I think it was a party for No2 son where the assembled kiddlies were in a sunny garden playing animal statues and pass the parcel when I noticed a small girl in a corner feeding 48 cooked sausages to my springer spaniel, who was gulping them down like a Duracell-operated toy.
When I caught her eye, she felt so guilty she made a break for it but missed her footing and fell into the pond, where she floated, brown and shiny like a bloated hippo. The dog, not the girl. Her ringlets of red hair and white-pudding legs ensured she would never be mistaken for a hippo.
Then there was the away-day birthday bash for No2 son at Burford Wildlife Park, where we shepherded carefully selected guests around the wildlife park – only one child climbed in with the penguins – no-one fell off the massive slide – no-one lost a finger to the caracaras – and only one child was plucked from the half-climbed fence of the white rhino enclosure.
By feeding time, there were nil casualties and it was all going rather well. The guests were sitting at a number of picnic tables starting to feast when someone pointed out that the birthday boy was missing. I went in search and found him and an accomplice placing sticks, twigs and bits of stone on a miniature railway track with the sole intention of watching the derailment of the next train-load of tourists.
I resolved that the next party had to be somewhere confined where there was no opportunity for rail disasters, kiddie disasters, dog disasters. I briefly considered Gloucester Prison but in practical terms, the living room would have to do. Everything to do with the party, apart from Feeding, would take place in the living room with the windows secured.
I had negotiated an hour with Uncle Hugo. Uncle Hugo was a silver-haired chap with glasses who turned up in an evening suit and had one of those magic box stands, all black and covered with silver stars. He had a proper magician’s wand and carried a mysteriously bulging black drawstring bag big enough to contain two children under five.
I’d checked him out to make sure he thought he could cope with 16 six-year-olds. He was certain he could. He gave absolutely no indication of liking children at all. Seeing him interact with children, I was convinced he didn’t. He didn’t have charisma, twinkly eyes or charm. He looked severe. He just did magic; severely.
The guests arrived armed. When son decided he wanted a caveman theme, I confess I hadn’t really thought it through. No-one was likely to bring a woolly mammoth on a string or a sabre-toothed tigercub but I’d forgotten about clubs. Cavemen were notoriously clubby-types. Most kids carried harmless plastic clubs but one enterprising mum had made her son’s club using a pattern from the Marshall Cavendish Collection of Paleolithic Offensive Weapons and stuffed it with spintery wood chippings. Jamie and his Club were capable of felling Uncle Hugo with one blow so it had to go into the Club Cloakroom with all the others.
While the boys looked properly Stone-Aged and lairy in their skimpy faux leopardskin outfits, the girls had dressed as Stone Age fairies, with wings and wands, which just shows that archeologists don’t know everything.
The door closed and it was indeed a magical experience listening to silence from the room. Sixteen six-year-olds silent? The minutes ticked by.
I was up to my neck in whipped cream and hundreds and thousands so couldn’t monitor the silence personally but kept asking for updates from other available adults.
“What’s happening now? It’s too quiet. No-one’s crying.”
“They are all just sitting on the floor watching the magic.”
When the hour was nearly up, I popped my head around the door and saw Uncle Hugo had set up his “stage” in front of the TV and every single child was sitting, eyes bright with concentration, watching his every move.
With wizard sourcery, he was producing a small bar of chocolate for every child. He transformed a small toy mouse into a bar of chocolate for one kid, produced a bar of chocolate from behind one boy’s ear and another from the dainty pink pocket of a little girl’s party dress.
At the end, there was miraculous, orderly applause and some small cheers (mostly from me, I admit) and a cascade of happy kids emerged, all clutching their bars of magic chocolate.
I herded them to the Feeding Zone and chaos ensued for about ten minutes. Then they all went home, their rudimentary animal-skin costumes covered in blobs of trifle and smeared with magic choccie.
I paid Uncle Hugo and he disappeared in a puff of Vauxhall Cavalier exhaust. Worth his weight in fairydust, that man. Pure magic.