I never did get around to posting about Harry’s birthday.
We were gathered in the hallway about to leave for his party, when Harry, in one of the accidents he so often suffers, overbalanced on the stairs in front of us all and smashed his eye socket hard into the wooden stair rails. I could tell by the thump it was a bad one, although John, also in a tense mood, saw fit to instantly berate me for over-reacting, before he had even inspected Harry’s damage.
So now: Harry has a cut, swollen eye, and is roaring like he is being murdered. I have, strangely, suddenly decided that occupying the same planet as my dear husband is vastly over-rated. I am sat in the living room cradling my shrieking child, tears running silently down my stressed face, as the clock ticks rapidly towards – and beyond – Party Time! Yay! Well, we were late. Half the guests were waiting outside the hall. I turned up at Harry’s 2nd birthday party bootfaced, tear-stained and miserable.
I wanted to grab Harry, flee far, far away to somewhere I could cuddle him in perfect peace, and cry a quiet river into his hair when I got there. The UK ‘BBQ summer’ had rendered the north-facing village hall so cold that we had to make pots of tea simply to warm people up. I suppose I was doing a bad job of trying to adjust my features upwards, because everyone kept asking what the matter was, and then Harry collided with something else which made him cry again, and I had to retreat to the kitchen to do some seriously shaky deep breathing at that point.
I eventually managed to get a grip on some stiff upper lip, and laid the food out. I calmed down a fair bit when I’d got them all sat down and eating, and I began to feel a little less like a trapped animal. Then I cheered up substantially, as someone I knew walked in, who was unequivocally coming to stand shoulder to shoulder with me in my emotionally torrid little corner – bringing two extremely special and immaculately tricked-out little guests:
and I’ve begged all these photos from Shannon, as to my annoyance I took virtually none.
We sang Happy Birthday to my handsome little man.
I helped Harry blow out his candle I blew out Harry’s candle
and we cut his cake.
We had practised blowing (oo-er) but all Harry can manage yet are comical piggy-snorts.
After the party we headed home, and Shannon, poor girl, must have been sadly conscious of the contrast between her and Alistair’s welcome of me to their beautiful home… and… ours. She’d just had a really long drive, during which Nora gave her heart failure at 70mph by discovering how to work the door release catch – and arrived to chaos. John and I had completely forgotten to screw the rail for the roman blind up that morning in the second guest room, obliging me to precariously perch a large art print over part of the window to darken the room for Nick & Nora instead. I also noticed that John, despite having had strict instructions to clean the guest bathroom (he claims I must have dreamed telling him this), seemed to have entirely omitted to clean the tidemark of Harry’s perpetual grubbiness from the actual bath. Sigh. We’re just not good at this at all. Shannon’s pair of utterly delightful babies (Yes, babies! Babies! They are ALL STILL BABIES! I will have no truck with this ageing toddler thing!) occupied me beautifully until it was time to heave-to once more, as we were having a BBQ for some assorted farming friends that evening.
I enjoyed the evening party enormously. I suspect my dear old father, incidentally, much as he loves me, wants to swop me for Shannon. He has THAT MUCH of a paternalistic crush on her. He has told me no less than 3 times how delightful she was, and has enthusiastically quizzed me – uncomfortably closely, in the secret COUblogGH!/deliberately-left-murky circumstances – on quite how we met. Sadly for him, Shannon’s Dad is highly unlikely to accept a late-life adoption of all of my 14 stones quietly, so I think it’s a no-deal situation.
The weather had failed to live up to its threats and had turned out beautifully. John duly carbonised some genuine pig product on the BBQ, and we settled down in traditional British fashion to crunch away at the burnt bits. I had forgotton that Shannon was vegetarian, because I am a bit fucking useless, so she was obliged to subsist on salad (which she had earlier set-to and chopped herself, because she’s lovely like that), baked potato skins and the chocolate fountain. I’m positive she needed the sustenance, because effortlessly memorising names, faces, occupations and personalities for every guest she charmed must surely require fuel. It’s one hell of a social accomplishment: I generally find that memorising the surname pushes the first name out of my head, and five minutes later I’m utterly clueless.
John, a seasoned drinker as a Young Farmer, now only goes out every month or so, and has gently morphed into a 5-pint-limit susceptible Old Git. He gently folded himself into an armchair and began to snore. I would probably have left him there but Shannon is made of altogether kinder stuff and took pity on the pain his crunched-up form would suffer; we heaved him, leg and an arm apiece, onto the neighbouring couch. I predicted that he would, around 5am, awake and crawl shiveringly into bed. As indeed he did.
The next morning hurt my head a little, but not nearly so much as John’s.
Do you remember I told you I had sent a birthday card for Harry to CBeebies – the national UK children’s channel?
Well, they showed it… probably out of sheer GUILT at having RIPPED THE DRAWING OFF TIMMY’S EASEL! You can see the ripped ends and everything! I spent ages on that bloody rainbow! Harry’s is the last few seconds.
Shannon and Alistair between them most kindly ensured that this recording was immortalised for me, as I was stuck in an appalling Bank Holiday queue in the West Midlands Safari Park at the time, being eyed up speculatively by a tiger.