Handbags And Gladrags

Time is spiralling out of control and as I write this the boys’ second birthday is two weeks away. If past form is anything to go by, the end of this blog post will be written sometime after their party.

They say, whomever they are, that starting new jobs and moving house are two of the most stressful things that you will encounter, but I suspect organising a kids birthday party ranks up there alongside these events, if not eclipsing them by some considerable margin. I have no idea why it has to be so traumatic, seeing as Arthur and Henry probably couldn’t give a shiny shit whether they had a party or not – I’m not altogether sure they understand the concept of a party at this age.

Firstly, there’s the cake. It should have a theme, apparently. This is especially difficult with our two because they don’t seem to like the same things as each other. Arthur is very musical, whereas Henry is all about vehicles. A car journey with Henry consists of him listing virtually every vehicle he sees then informing us that it has passed, “Car! Car gone. Lorry! Lorry gone. Ham! Ham gone. (Ham is Henry’s way of saying van). Truck! Truck gone. Nee Naw! Nee Naw gone. (A Nee Naw is any emergency vehicle with its siren operating)” and so on and so forth. Those long journeys fly by.

The only area where they both agree is the Disney film Frozen. Or, more pertinently, the theme song to Frozen, Let It Go. If either of them are having some sort of tantrum, or behavioural episode of a similarly uncontrollable manner, sticking Let It Go on YouTube will usually diffuse the situation. It used to be Peppa Pig, but she is so last year, apparently. I’m not one for gender stereotypes, but I hoped we had escaped the whole Frozen thing by having boys – it tends to be more a little girl thing.

The whole party for kids thing seems to be getting out of hand. At most of the parties we have been to for other kids of late, each parent seems to want to outdo the parents who threw the party a couple of weeks earlier. Everything has to be bigger, better and, crucially, far more expensive. I have heard rumour of well in excess of £100 being spent on a single cake for a one year old, which in my book is completely un-necessary.

Parties we have been to recently included and indoor bouncy castle, a face painter and a man that made balloon animals. All at the same party. This was for a first birthday party. Mrs Aitchworld enquired of the face painter how much it would be for her to attend our party and it was in the hundreds of pounds.

This was the start of us finding ourselves falling into the same trap and the cake area seemed to be one of particular consternation. The current line of thinking is we will have a cake each for them. One will be transport themed, probably having a tractor or a digger somewhere about it.

The verdict is still out for a cake for Arthur. He loves singing so we considered a microphone-shaped cake, possibly pink because he still loves Peppa Pig. We have even bought him a Peppa Pig microphone for his birthday (if I get this published before his birthday, please don’t tell him and ruin the surprise) but it is a fine line between ambition and talent. This left us thinking that if the former was greater than the latter, a phallic shaped cake might be the result, which made us briefly consider buying cakes from a specialist cake maker and have them made specifically for them instead of off the shelf in Tesco.

The research that subsequently went into this revealed the sort of prices some of the other parents are paying for a cake that is going to be displayed on a table in a church hall somewhere for an hour, before being squashed into napkins, then shoved into a party bag, then throw in a bin when it is discovered when the recipient gets home that one ply of the napkin has stuck to the icing. We decided to make our own. Pinterest is our new best friend. Well, it is of Mrs Aitchworld’s as she is the one who can make a cake. I’m useless!

The other area of concern is the party bags. There seems to be a general one-upmanship between party givers, each trying to out-do the previous party thrower by giving away a more complex and expansive party bag. The last one we received for the boys, alongside the obligatory piece of hellishly expensive themed cake, had sweets, chocolates, crayons, bubbles, a squeaky duck, a pencil, a notepad and an eraser in it. The next one I fully expect to have a smart watch and a laptop computer in it. Given a few more parties, I reckon nothing short of a widescreen television and an iPad (other tablets are available) being shoved into a party bag will suffice.

We realised that this was the case long ago and agreed that we would not fall into this trap. I wasn’t going to do them at all and was going to stick to my guns on it. Let them eat cake, I said. And one ply of napkin, of course.

But then something happened. They say things happen for a reason. Well this something was that the local Poundland closed down. Better than this, our local Poundland was, in fact, a Poundland Clearance store. This is slightly confusing, because rather than everything being a pound, there are varying prices – the clearance part of the title refers to redundant stock the company has bought from other shops closing down, rather than tat they have acquired and have to try to flog for a pound and still make a profit. Some of the stuff is actually quite good.

A closing down sale naturally means reduced prices. Not just reduced, but slashed. You’ve never seen so much excitement. The car park of the whole retail park was heaving. Fights were breaking out over parking spaces. The store was rammed – people were barging past others in the aisles to get to the good stuff. People were being pushed out of the way by shopping trolleys and wheeled baskets so that other shoppers could grab a bargain. In the middle of all of this staff were trying to get the last of the remaining stuff from the stockroom out onto the shelves. It was nothing short of absolute chaos. It was brilliant to watch.

And the reason I was there watching it was because we too were there buying things to fill party bags. I relented and changed my mind. In the last couple of days of trading, everything in our Poundland Clearance had 50% off. And a lot of that had already had 50% knocked off. We went mad and filled a trolley. And I mean literally filled it, right to the top. And then the next day we went back and filled another, because we felt like we hadn’t spent enough money.

We haven’t got party bags. We’ve got party carrier bags. And because we didn’t pay for the carrier bags, technically we should be charging 5p for them, which is probably a little more than we spent on the stuff inside each of them, even though they are full of goodies. Okay, so the Haribo (we noticed after we had put them in the bags) is Christmas themed, but I’m sure no one will notice.

The thing is, I’m not sure how we are going to top it next year. If anyone else has a Poundland Clearance closing down anywhere near them, let me know and I will come and clear some shelves in preparation!