We're having a birthday party at the house. Again. Unfortunately there's a six foot sofa currently stuck in the living room doorway, which is going to make things rather tricky when a load of 11 year-old children arrive.
I've ordered the sofa over the internet. This is because a previous sofa purchased locally, back in April last year, failed to arrive and we failed to get any of our money back for it, but that's another story, much too painful to get into now. Suffice to say we eventually moved on from that debacle and bought an almost identical sofa in January, much more cheaply, and sight unseen, and we've been waiting for it to arrive ever since - for six long months. It was meant to arrive on Monday and didn't and here it is today... Two hours before a birthday party.
We've had a few birthday parties at the house before. Wait a moment while and try and do the maths, not my strong point...
So, that's three boys, Eldest now nearly 17, they've all had had a party every year since they were born until about three years ago when Eldest announced that he didn't want one anymore, but Middle One still has one, at least he did last year but we weren't allowed to call it a party, it was just 'hanging out'. Certainly Youngest has always had one, so, that's three children with combined ages of 41 years... I make that 157 parties, at least.*
But then, as I say, maths isn't my strong point and that might be just what it feels like, not the actual number.
Anyway, here we are on Friday about to have another one. We have it down to a fine art. We're lucky to have a big basement, nothing fancy, exposed brickwork and no heating down there, but there is carpet and it's all painted white and there's a door/window thing for some daylight and spotlights dotted around. I've borrowed some disco lights and a party iPod from a friend who DJs part-time and we're all set. Looks great.
I've almost got quite casual about the whole thing. I know what I need - balloons, something for them to do when they arrive, a few more games to scatter between the dancing, some prizes, a piñata and a cake. That's it. I don't do party bags anymore because, a.) I am morally opposed and, b.) too stingy. They all get a Kinder Surprise to take home and a piece of cake. Like the good old days. Almost.
I've planned the party for after school, 5 - 7 pm, because it's half-term next week and lots of families will be going away for the week on Saturday. More exhausting on a Friday night, of course, with less time to prepare, but at least it will get it over with and then we can crack open a few beers and collapse. That's the great thing about having it at home and not carting 13 children off to a bowling alley or a swimming pool or something. We've done all that in the past and it's hell. The go-karting in particular is etched in my mind as a party horriblis - 10 boys, screaming tyres on tarmac, one kid who cried the whole time (why is there always one kid who cries the whole time?) and a windowless cell in which to feed them all pizza afterwards, which was 40 minutes late arriving. Oh yes, and then one parent failed to collect his kid so we couldn't drive home for an hour.
But this time I have the food (pizza) and I have the cake (not homemade this time, sod it) and I have the balloons and all I need now is to go out in the rain to the party shop at Clapham Junction to get the piñata that I've pre-ordered. It's a dragon. I just need these two clowns/delivery boys to get the sofa through the door into the living room because its current position is right in front of the basement door.
"How about we take the packaging off?" I suggest. So together we tear and rip at the plastic and the cardboard protecting it. Then the 'delivery boys' haul it through the door, pulling half the paintwork off in the process, but at least it's through, and it looks magnificent. I'm thrilled.
We have the party and it goes like a dream. The kids are all lovely, they dance, they play all the silly games in good part, they bring lovely presents for Youngest and they leave on time, everything you could possibly ask for. Fab.
At ten past seven precisely we crack open the beers and collapse on the fabulous new sofa. Only problem is... turns out it's bloody uncomfortable.
Well you can't have everything.
* This is a joke.
* This is a joke.