The Really Rather Wonderful People from Bounce & Tumble are setting up soft play activities in the Middle of the Darling Daughters’ home. Their task is made ever so much more difficult by the fact that Mr B,
tired after the drive from home, has nodded off on the sofa, with legs sprawled out all over the floor on which the play mats are to be laid. Try as I may, I cannot wake him up, he is dead to the world. The Bounce & Tumble people say, not to worry, they
will work around him.
Before our very eyes, the living room is being transformed into a Soft Play Palace. There’s a colourful, padded ball pond full of blue
and red plastic balls, a red and gold circus tent housing a variety of musical instruments, lots of soft play shapes, an activity table, and assorted ride-alongs and bounce-alongs, including my absolute favourite, a white bouncy cow. (Let’s face it,
bounce is not a property one would normally associate with a cow, which makes His Royal Moo-ness even more appealing in my eyes.) In no time at all, the smart wooden flooring has disappeared under brightly coloured slot-together play tiles – except under
Mr B’s feet, of course.
All this is, of course, in aid of Young Faris’s First Birthday Party and his mum, the Middle of the Darling Daughters, has
been, perhaps, a trifle ambitious. We are expecting no fewer than eighteen children, ranging in age from 7 months to 9 years, a gaggle of teenagers, plus lots of family and friends who wouldn’t miss helping Our Soldier to celebrate. “Some
people may well just drop in for a quick drink...” suggests my daughter. Some do, but mostly they all stay, perching on the soft shapes and enjoying the food, the drink, the conversation and the general and overwhelming feeling of sheer happiness which
pervaded the room. There really was no place you would rather be.
Faris accepts the kisses, hugs and cuddles with good grace. He has no idea, bless him, that
all the brightly wrapped parcels being handed to him contain Presents Galore – he is just pleased to see everyone. Our Boy loves to be the centre of attention and today, of all days, he is basking in the limelight. His Adoring Public are crowded into
his house and he smiles upon them all benevolently. Another knock on the door? Come in, why don’t you – it’s the More the Merrier, where this party is concerned.
My cheese sandwiches (cut into fingers, in case you want to know – we were going to have jam ones as well till I discovered we were right out of jam) are going down surprisingly well, with only three fingers left on
the plate after all the Small Fry have helped themselves to party tea. The chilli and curry cooked by the M of the DDs for the grown-ups go down even better.
Pride of place on the jungle-themed party table goes to a truly magnificent cake – see photograph – which features two of Young Faris’s favourite babyhood toys, Monkey Monkey and Giraffey (since becoming a mother, the Middle of
the Darling Daughters appears to have totally mislaid her powers of imagination when it comes to names.) The singing of the traditional Happy Birthday song by the assembled crowd is, quite simply, one of the most splendid renditions of that most famous of
ditties that I have ever heard.
My older grandchildren all come to perch alongside me on the sofa where Jack proceeds to try to teach me how to play Flappy Bird
on his phone. It looks so easy, watching him tapping at his phone and sending the Flappy Bird through its paces; when I try it is disaster for poor Flappy Bird who keeps dying ignominiously at the first hurdle. Katie tells me it took her a week to master
the art of Tap and Flap. At that rate I can see myself tapping away hopelessly for months – can we play something else? I ask. Jack introduces me to something called Plague Inc, the aim of which is to infect the whole world with a deadly
virus (where do they get these ideas from? I ask. Nobody seems inclined to enlighten me.) “Which country do you want to start with, Nan?” Jack asks me. I suggest Norway. Jack doesn’t think this is a good idea and so it turns out
to be – the Norwegians manage to contain the spread of deadly infection. Well done, Norway, you may be remembered for scoring “Null Points” in the Eurovision Song Contest once but you have got the better of Jack and me and conquered the plague.
Jack doesn’t say “I told you so” but asks me to come up with another country. Denmark? I offer. Jack rolls his eyes and tells me we will start with Russia, which will give us a much better chance of World Domination.
Towards the end of the party, before Bounce & Tumble arrive to dismantle our Soft Play Party Palace, the ball pond is invaded by a number of children and adults who then proceed to hurl balls at
anyone standing within striking distance. I have to admit to being one of those in the ball pond. Well, not completely in the ball pond, I was, sort of, perched on the side. It was decidedly manic and a grand way to finish the festivities.
All birthdays are special – but there is something about a First Birthday, don’t you think?
My Darling Daughter did her precious boy proud.