Thursday, 2 February 2012
When I was a child, birthday parties took place at home: my mother kicked off with children's party games - pass the parcel, of course, pin the tail on the donkey, musical statues - you know the drill - and then we'd have tea - cheese and pineapple hedgehogs, cocktail sausages, jelly and icecream and a home-made birthday cake. Then, at home-time, off everyone would go with a balloon and a slice of cake wrapped in a paper napkin.
Fast forward nearly forty years and this kind of party seems a rarity - clever mums play it as a retro-riff and get away with it, but once the infants are primary school age, it seems one is expected to make the kind of effort appropriate to offspring of Oligarchs, or to the launch of a new beauty product. A venue must be hired, with an entertainer - possibly two - or alternatively, one might do what a friend of Trefusis Minor does every year, which is to hire an entire cinema for a preview screening of a hot-ticket children's movie. It seems that these days the food must be kiddie-lavish too - I remember a splendid party where the children were presented with the tiniest possible smoked salmon sandwiches, vast amounts of quails eggs, and a croquembouche of Ladurée macarons, but I suppose that's West London for you. Don't get me started on the awesome contents of party bags - I swear the infamously high-grade GQ Men of the Year goody bag has nothing on some of those Trefusis Minor has come home with.
Of course, these kinds parties are very lovely and the children have a marvellous time: I'm sure that if we were very well-off we'd pull out the stops too but we really can't run to that kind of opulence chez Trefusis: I do wish that someone brave would come out with a Party Non-Proliferation Treaty, and we could go back to the low-fi approach of the 1970's.
I'm old enough to know that I don't need to compete with the hiring of a cinema, or having a flower-fairy themed party with 'real fairies' in a West London garden square and until now, we've had parties at home similar to the ones i had as a child. However, if one has to invite the whole class even something very modest gets shockingly expensive - now that The TT is about to turn five and every single person she meets seems to be her 'bestest friend in the whole world', I've had trouble capping the guest list at school friends only. I can't see how I can get away without hiring the church hall and the thought of trying to keep thirty children happy for a couple of hours with me as the 'mum-tertainment' fills me with clammy-handed dread, so there will have to be someone hired in for a side-show too. I can manage the food on my own, and bugger the party bags - they can have cake and a novelty pencil - but still, it's working out at about £100 per hour. Yikes.
Does anyone have any suggestions about giving a fun children's party without busting the budget or a blood-vessel?