Storm Ciara threatens the party plans.

The final event in the birthday celebrations was for family. This is no mean feat; between the two of us we have around 54 people in our immediate family. So we often find that restricting these events to family only, works very well. A family party when the family are as plentiful as ours does place a serious amount of pressure on the organisers. You have to tread carefully since you don’t get to refresh the crowd that often obviously, unless there is a new partner (possible with some of the young crowd) or another baby has arrived (and they generally have no idea what’s going on anyway, as long as there is milk).

The party, if left to chance, could prove calamitous since there is a danger of creating a “Groundhog Day” with the same people always in attendance. This means that not all parties are attended and there is a danger that, with no preparation at all, no-one would come; this is social suicide for the family member hosting. It has become vitally important in these circumstances that a big hitter makes a commitment early on, according to Kevin Bridges anyway, and so in our family we have our very own big hitter- Marilyn. No party is complete without our funky, funny, adorable Marilyn. She works shifts so getting her to the party can be critical in terms of the timing of your event. And given the volume of people in the family, there are likely to be a few family parties in a year. No-one should underestimate the challenge of pulling this off as a straightforward gig, complacency is not an option.

Of late there has been a recent trend of fancy dress parties, usually the younger crowd drive this, so it has been 21st birthdays or birthdays at Halloween. eBay and Amazon, thankfully, accommodate such events and have enabled us to get our hands on pretty much any outfit for any occasion at cut price. People arrive in sharply coutured (albeit weird and wonderful) outfits. On the downside however we seem to have lost a bit of the creativity for outfits with the easy to access and disposable outfits, gone are the bunches of grapes from balloons kind of costume. Nevertheless, costume parties are a trend and one that required me to put a little thought into the planning of this party. If it was costume AND Marilyn could come then success was inevitable. Seeing as this was the big 60 birthday extravaganza and this combo was necessary, in addition for success to be ensured it needed to be an untried theme and so the sixties choice evolved.

What I hadn’t planned, given the intricate nature I have explained in pulling this party off, was that behind the scenes my sister and daughter were also planning the event. While well intentioned they have no idea of the nuances of such a big occasion in a family like this, nor the social implications. As a bit of a control freak and as my reputation as a hostess was at stake I didn’t want to renege as much control as they might have liked. I needn’t have worried and couldn’t have been more wrong. I assumed control of the food, (as Gayle says “you’re a feeder”) as my future reputation as a hostess may well hinge on this. Therefore I gained control of the food planning early on. This was a bit of a strategic coup, since once I had control of the food, the organising twosome saw it as a defeat and let me in on their plans. AWESOME as they were.

On the day before the party, a surveillance team were deployed to ensure I was not around. Conveniently celebrating a birthday with my friend ( after all other people were also having birthdays) I was out sufficiently long enough for three Gazebo’s and 1800 lights, bunting, chairs, tables, a juke box and cocktail bar all to appear on my patio area. I was actually moved, it looked stunning and my only regret is not taking pictures of all the hard work that went into this. It looked so inviting, so colourful and bright. I began to feel excitement stirring in my veins. Storm Ciara had other ideas. The lion’s wee brother dropped off a bright orange 60’s TV and we had other props that were strategically placed for optimal experience after all many would not recall the 60’s.

On Saturday morning the double-glazing in our bedroom had worked its magic and drowned out the fiercest of winds and rain overnight. But imagine my horror when I looked out to see half of the gazebo’s missing and brightly coloured bunting, napkins and cups scattered around the shrubs at the edge of the garden. Once outside it was worse, the sandbags holding the gazebo’s in place, were futile in the clutches of Ciara’s gusting winds, they jostled about like chicks looking to hide inside their mother’s wing. I raked around the street and surrounding woodland and recovered some of the missing gazebo, then I started to look at ways to ensure we didn’t lose any more. The weather forecast was not promising and drastic action was needed.

A bright spark led me to Hobby Craft where I bought 6 meters of Velcro, hoping this would ensure the flapping side panels resisted the winds and were kept in situ. That made little impact, I gathered large stones, boxes of tiles from the garage, concrete slabs, to no avail nothing could hold the three gazebo’s in place. Ciara was relentless and wining this battle – perhaps if I had invited her she might have given up just a little more. After 2 hours of battering against the elements and 20 minutes before my make-up appointment. I gave in and summoned the construction team back to remove them. Defeated I felt the party might be a disaster after all.

Following the transformational work of Fiona at Fabulous on my ageing and withered skin, I emerged luminous with the Mary Quant look, complete with beauty spot. The strong winds just managing to blow the wrinkles away. I returned home in time to see the gazebo’s, defeated by Ciara, laying desolate on the ground folded up and awaiting the imprisonments of the bags, no longer colourful and inviting but lacklustre and unwelcoming. The patio was remarkably bare.

Unstinted by this setback the organisers had taken over the house which had been transformed with the lights and bunting, the 60’s props and a VW Beetle photo booth erected in the snug. Photographs of me at various stages of life were peppered around the room along with balloons, banners and colourful ribbons. With 560 60’s tunes downloaded, snowballs with maraschino cherries, pork pie, cocktail sticks bearing sausages, cheese and pickles the scene was set for the party to get off the ground. As a final touch, and one of complete self-indulgence, I printed some old pictures with my name below and taped them to the Tennant’s lager cans in a fit of nostalgia, they never had a Tennant Girl with my name before. Now we can get this party started ………………………

Three years of total T. Chapter 3 Book of the family

Three years ago tomorrow around about 10pm we were introduced to our first grandson. We knew it was going to be a boy because advances in modern technology means that there are very few surprises left other than the date and time of delivery. But we even knew the date of this little one’s appearance because his mother was so ill and the risks associated with his safe delivery were extremely high. So it was that he arrived in a bath of lovely hot water with his mummy and daddy caught by surprise and the midwife catching a cup of tea.

I was at the birth of my first grandchild so waiting and wondering what was happening in the labour ward was the most excruciating silence you might experience. You cannot concentrate on anything other than the fact that your child might be in terrible danger and you won’t be there to help her. You will be pacing the floor, staring repeatedly at the phone, checking you have a signal, calling it to make sure its working and all the while there’s a little life, that has your genes inside him, fighting and wriggling his way into the world. Finally, after an eternity but in reality a few hours, the phone rang and a hurried, if excited and a little overwhelmed, daddy called to say he had arrived, I’m guessing he was overwhelmed because it was nothing more than an announcement that he had arrived.

Relief was palpable, the little thing that had been such a threat and risk to my daughter had become instead a little bundle of delight and joy but how would that play out for everyone? We couldn’t wait to meet him. We already have a grand-daughter who was also now a big sister, the family dynamics were already beginning to alter. She had worried ever so much about this little one’s arrival as children often do, she’d ask us frequently if we’d love him more than her. Her little face would tilt upwards to see into your eyes then, as she does so often, stared deep inside your soul, you could not be caught lying on any terms, this was such a big question for her. She’d been number one so long, her little fears about how love could possibly be shared among them were actually, if we are totally honest, the same for adults but we often didn’t have the courage to articulate them.

No manner of reassurance was enough to appease our mermaid but the experience of meeting this little bundle for the first time was confirmation for me at least that love was already there and plentiful. Despite her fears she opened her little heart to her brother and over the past three years has been such an exemplary big sister; so patient and tender despite his endless demands. She read him stories, sung him songs, taught him to hoop and how to dance. He’s taught her patience, what it is to love a sibling, to care when he cries, to find ways to distract him when she needs him to be quiet. All her initial fears were gone, the endless questions disappeared and slowly but surely she has matured into the big sister we all knew she could be.

From the beginning little T was a papa’s boy, they bonded early and he expressed such joy when his papa arrived for a visit. He would see the car arriving, and wait at the door in anticipation keeking past me waiting for the bigger prize and not concealing his disappointment if papa wasn’t with me. It’s been lovely to see this special bond grow and develop over the past few years. Don’t worry I’m still a delighted bystander.

So what has our Wee T become? The culmination of his first three years demonstrate how far he has come in his development. He is an expressive child, his delight is always visible often tangible, he’s inquisitive and in awe and wonder of the world around him, he’s impatient but easily distracted, one thing then another takes his fancy, and he smiles and laughs much more than he cries, but his sorrow is real and he won’t let you ignore it. He’s learned to say please and thank you at just the right times, and he sits at the table savouring his dinner and drinking now, from a big boy’s cup. He doesn’t need to try too hard to make me love him, he’s such a darling, gorgeous, loving boy.

Everyone says that being a grandparent is so very different from being a parent. Well that’s true in many ways, so often it’s good to pass them back, but any real absence is just an aching and longing to have them back. When we are on holiday WiFi is essential so that we can FaceTime or WhatsApp them and see their little faces, such is the joy they bring to us, words could never explain…………so tomorrow we will be wishing happy third birthday our little T x love from Gran (and Papa of course).