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 ………………………

2020 vision in January.

Let’s face it January is not a great month; most folk are skint, blue Monday is slap bang in the middle of it confirming, if not in scientific terms, what we all know from experience – it’s depressing. And now, the only thing left that offered any escape from these doldrums, the only thing making the long dark winter nights bearable after two weeks of hard partying and twinkly lights, the glass of wine has finally been banished from January by the fun police.

Hoovering up any leftover joy from December, you cannot escape their piousness; whether they have you in the grip of the inevitable but now highly respected January diet, the fun police, have sucked what little joy left in the month by introducing Dry January ! What does all this dictatorship, now assimilated into every day living as the cultural expectation and social norms of the proletariat, actually mean for those of us trying to have a birthday this month? Never mind that it is a whopper of a birthday!

Having a birthday in January has never been the most fabulous timing of the year. Before we were forced, en masse, to alter our lifestyles this month because we were “christmas obese” or “liver conscious”, it was always a hard up month anyway. For some of us this usually impacts on presents. Most of my family ( I mean the Lion) had no money in January having maxed out the credit cards for Christmas. This inevitably leads to them giving you left over at best or at worst unwanted christmas presents. Embarrassing of course if it was you who bought it for them in the first place! I mean I’m not the kind of person who looks for presents anyway, nor am I concerned at the use of the last of the christmas wrapping to cover it. I am after all as environmentally conscientious as the next person and would never advocate buying birthday paper when there’s plenty good christmas wrapping left over.

However socks are a bit of a give away, and chocolate liqueurs are just too obvious. Of course there are always the sales, where you can buy the most expensive gifts at knock down prices, (yes still waiting for that one). But honestly I could live with all of that, I really could, except that now any celebration is likely to be tainted as everyone is on a diet or abstaining from alcohol.🥺 So I’m likely to be the only one dancing on the table at the end of the night with an increasing large part of the buffet stuck to my stilettos.

January birthdays can suck. But this one more than all the others. When I got my driving licence in 1978, I was 18 and I scoffed, with all the mindless wisdom of a teenager, at the date of expiry in February 2020. It was meaningless. I laughed effusively at the very idea I might be sixty one day. I mean you do when you’re 18, don’t you? You just cannot imagine that anything will change from that moment, you’re invincible and for ever young. And yet somehow, despite the fact I was born in the worst month for birthdays (unofficially of course) I’ve managed to negotiate, quite successfully, 42 January birthdays since that driving test only to find myself looking at that date on the driving licence renewal letter and wondering what the hell just happened.

So here I am making dry January as sopping wet as I can, maintaining the twinkling lights by partying and ensuring the buffet laden stilettos dance on the table as often and as hard as possible. 60, is the new 40 I heard someone kindly say when I allowed myself to display disgust at my impending old age. But it is not really. I’m 60, eligible for a bus pass, retired, a grandmother, going grey, blind and turning the music down it doesn’t get much worse age wise than that. Yet strangely enough life has prepared me for this moment. I’m realising that it doesn’t really matter about presents, not a jot about the wrapping paper, its the friends hard up or otherwise, the family dieting or abstaining, that make it special. I’m planning on making 2020 a blast, after all I’ve been practising for it long enough. Follow me to see what happens as the big birthday grips me by the throat…….. and I fight back. 🥂

A little bit of Christmas Fun. Chapter 1 Christmas

Here we are in December; I love Christmas and all that it promises, family, faith and fairy lights. I’m usually quite religious about putting my tree up 12 days before the 24th and taking it down on the 12th day too, but when I was working in the early days, driving about our home town in Livingston in 1979, it was my guiltiest pleasure to play spot the Christmas tree.

In those days it was exceptional for trees to be put up early so spotting one was rare and spotting one in November was extremely rare. You were guaranteed to see them in December of course and I always found it strangely marvellous that people chose to put them up as soon as December burst onto the scene. I loved to search for the sparkling lights; the multi-colour ones were best, so pretty fanning out in the window like a preening peacock staring out into the wet bleak nights of winter. It wasn’t such a bad way to spend our time, as the roving car all we had to do was drive around, being available or looking for fairy lights while waiting on someone to call for our help.

As a woman (it was the 70’s) I was rarely in the driving seat so I used this prevailing order to give me a massive advantage over my colleagues in this game. As the passenger it left me free to scan the houses and flats that lined our route and spontaneously shout out “Xmas tree!” while they were consigned (in this job) by gender to concentrate on the road. I know for the most part they were humouring me; I was a young naive girl trying to find my way into a man’s world. So my fascination in all things Christmas was almost stereotypical and provided a form of light entertainment for them.

Of course there were the hard nosed individuals, who were not enamoured by my game, but my naive persistence bit into their stoic repudiation to humour me (or ignore my ravings). This was actually a test of their tolerance and acceptance of me and let me know where I stood. By the end of the shift, it was not unusual that they too would be sucked into the search by my girlish enthusiasm for something as simple as looking for Christmas trees in what could often be an otherwise difficult day.

My most guilty pleasure at this time of year in my working life, was the opportunity we had to creep on other people’s Christmas. No matter where we were in the town when you went into a home, there was the chance to glimpse Christmas and all its splendour. Everyone had their own traditions and take on the celebration; sparkling lights, wrapped presents, chocolate advent calendars, bright baubles and flickering candles that added to my catalogue of ideas and developing my own style.

It wasn’t until the late 90’s outside lights began to appear, by which time I was working in Edinburgh. It was a real treat to explore the various parts of the city, to see whether tat or taste was on show. I loved the bright, staccato pulsing colours that lined the roofs, inflatable Santas chained to chimney’s, trains and reindeers pulling present laden sleighs that were most frequently on show in the council estates. While among the bourgeoisie there were single colour white or blue lights gracefully adorning trees, or reindeers and snowmen standing tall, burning brightly and fashionably alone in and among the shrubs and conifers of stately addresses in Edinburgh.

If I was working on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve the sheer excitement of both days was some times tempered with the reasons for us being called to homes during the holidays. On those occasions, the lights were dulled by parents fuelled by drink or children for whom the promise of Christmas had not yet been delivered. Bright lights often belied what lay behind closed doors, all too often we were called in when the lights went out. The thrill of Christmas lights helped to mask the realities of life and everything we had to deal with in our working days………………..