Diary of a Mum: (3) Claire Bates mourns the passing of proper parties

What happened to musical statues, mass tantrums, E-numbers and the Cokey on a loop? Where did the halcyon days of chocolate crispie cakes and picking snowball marshmallows out of pigtails go?
Not-so-yummy muumy, Claire Bates mourns the passing of proper parties…

OK, so I’m sitting in the car in the driveway, both kids are screaming, my new top is spattered with root vegetable puree, there’s a rising fug of overdue nappies and I can’t find it. The present: I can’t find it.

I ordered it online three weeks ago, well in advance, had it gift wrapped (with sprinkles), put it in an eye-wincingly expensive box and attached an organic, made from renewable forest, unbleached paper gift tag, stitched by Patagonian pygmies.

It came from the same Primrose Hill baby store that size 6 Yummy Mummies, with rock star husbands, are always snapped coming out of by Heat photographers. So, why can’t I find it?

None of this would matter if we were going to Penny’s daughter’s birthday party – a nice normal, grounded Mummy with a nice, normal grounded four-year-old. But we’re not; we’re going to Evie’s party.

I could tell this was going to be no ordinary Disney Princess, pass-the-parcel, marmite sarnie affair, when the invitation plopped onto the mat……and it was a DVD.

Gingerly, I removed the slice of toast already in the machine, and inserted the DVD intriguingly entitled ‘suuuuurrrrprrrrise!!!!!! (yes, spelt in that comedy way, with six – count ‘em – exclamation marks).

With a big pageant-polished smile, ‘sweet’ little Evie appeared on our TV screen. Sat astride a chair, wearing (who knows why?) a bridesmaid’s dress, she began tap dancing her way through a breathless, slightly bizarre rhyming invitation which ended memorably: “So if you can come, email my Mum.”

And so I did. The usual – thank you, we’d love to come, blah, wouldn’t miss it for the world, blah, so kind of you to think of us, blah, can’t wait, blah blah blah, oh and I’m sure there isn’t, but can I bring anything?

WHY? Why? Why do I always do it? Why? Why? Why do I always do it? I know I can’t cook. Why does that always slip out?

I can already see Liza’s perfect mung bean pinwheels, Petra’s non-dairy, non-gluten, non-edible soya straws and – even more weird – their children actually eating them.

I opt for a selection of nuts and dried fruits in a non-dairy, non-gluten, non-edible carrying receptacle – a bowl.

Evie’s mummy said it was a lovely idea and very ‘retro’. I know what she really meant.

Which is why I began the Holy Grail search for the perfect present – to make up for the nut incident. And I found it too. I JUST CAN’T FIND IT NOW.

I decide to go in and bluff it. Make out that I’ve left it with the others on the present pile. Except Number Two (my latest and loudest edition) has decided now is the time to poo spectacularly. Not just stinky, but really runny, really carroty and, no God no, every mother’s nightmare…….. accompanied by a well-matured cauliflower perfume.

Naturally there’s only four wipes in the packet, so I scoop up what I can with a shredded tissue I find on the floor, throw it all into the ripped (why wouldn’t it be?) nappy sack, paste on a slightly frightening, maniacal Extreme Makeover smile and venture past the manicured lawn to the front door.

Talking of frightening and maniacal, there’s a life-size pen and ink sketch of Evie stuck to the door with a speech bubble that reads: “Come in for fun,fun fun!”

So, I go in for “fun, fun, fun”, knowing it won’t be.

Spying the tofu tarts on my way past the dining room, I see four perfectly behaved Boden dressed girls sitting at a potter’s wheel in one room, three slightly less well behaved, but Boden dressed, boys in another room making papier mache aeroplanes and three babies in a third room cooing happily, listening to what I now know to be “womb music” but then could only describe as the sound my boiler makes, when it’s on the blink.

All of this serenity is, of course, made possible by Liza’s two full time au pairs. One for each of her children. Not that I’m jealous.

Number Two turns his head towards Now That’s What I Call Womb Tunes, so I sit him down with the others, ignoring supernanny’s look of disgust, when she cops his smell.

Number One gets amongst the potter’s wheel and I join the other mothers in the kitchen.

To be fair, we have a good old gossip, and despite the camomile and chestnut (I’m not kidding) tea, it’s not a bad afternoon.

Number One and Number Two are both shattered and come away with gift bags the Oscar organisers would be proud of. That night, I join my ‘normal’ rusk-spattered, bleary-eyed, not-so-yummy, but a whole lot more mummy, mates at the village pub quiz.

They ask me how it was at my ‘posh’ friend’s party and I show them the group picture we had taken, by a professional photographer, of all the children surrounding Evie’s throne.

A picture tells a thousand words.

We turn our attentions to the quiz. As mummies you take entertainment where you can get it. Gone are my Bridget Jones-style London single days, with a choice between the achingly trendy new wine bar in the High Street or watching an oh-so-cool live band (that in those days I’d heard of) in one of 376 pubs within two miles.

I live in the country now, baking bread, raising perfect children and relaxing by log fires. Kinda.

So, as you can see, the monthly pub quiz is a bit of a highlight for me.

Not that I’m competitive, but if our team didn’t win again this month, I wasn’t playing again.

We move onto the pop music round.

“Complete the title of the bestselling album: What’s The Story?……”

This is soooooooooo easy, I smile, as I write clearly ‘Balamory’.

Someone, please kill me.