Saturday, 26 January 2008

Let them eat cake? Oh, go on then...

I know not to go to Tesco on a Saturday, but somehow the din of the great unwashed as they mill around in between rows of tat, bagged nappies and unseasonable fruit, like the pain of childbirth, gets forgotten.

So this morning I found myself amid the throngs. We had a good reason to be there, of course, otherwise we wouldn’t have been there. We’d have been somewhere else instead, somewhere more wholesome, somewhere without the clanging of tills as Tesco picks our pockets. What we needed was a birthday cake. The sort of sugar confection that blackens teeth and loosens fillings – and that’s before the packet is even opened. It is the only cake that will do for next Saturday’s 6th birthday party, although the cake for Hannah's real birthday the following Wednesday (like the Queen, she has two this year) has to be home made, she tells me.

We fought our way to the cake section, hitherto a place we have never before darkened, surprisingly, though, the soon to be six-year-old with the wobbly lower incisor knew exactly where to find it. We passed a bank of boxes of Pomegranates, clearly labelled ‘Mangoes’. We skirted hoards of oldies, clutching at single decker trolleys like zimmers. Why were they there on a Saturday when clearly so afflicted as not to work they could have gone to Tesco on a Wednesday say? They leaned painfully on their empty trolleys, moving at a funereal pace, pausing only to meet 'The Wife' at the end of each aisle, in the middle, blocking the way. 'The Wife' had her own zimmer-trolley too, empty save for a huge cream cake and foil pouches of Whiskas. We ploughed grimly on.

We reached the cake aisle, more or less intact, save for grumpy husband’s good temper, which, conveniently he had abandoned at home as soon as I had muttered the words ‘Tesco’, ‘cake’ and ‘Saturday’. He hung onto our trolley and thought longingly of his afternoon shift at work. We surveyed the ranks of cakes, Smarties cakes, Spongebob Squarepants cakes, In the Night Garden cakes, Boobies cakes...

“I’ll have that one,” Hannah ordered, Andy Pipkin-style, as I gritted my teeth, switched off the ‘parental control’ button and said: “Yes, dear, of course,” in my best Butlins Red Coated kind-not-shouty mummy voice. The cake is pure sugar, with saturated fat and artificial colours thrown in for good measure. It has a vivid pink My Little Pony on the top. It’s perfect.

Heady with the success of the cake, we forged on, pausing only to mop Rosie’s tears after she had been flattened by an obese salad shelf-stacker brandishing a box of Little Gems. We selected jelly, ice-cream, hula hoops, Pom Bear crisps and blackcurrant squash. We bought a banner which, hopefully, says HAPPY BIRTHDAY; it certainly says ‘HA’, but I can’t vouch for the rest. We bought streamers and I crossed my fingers that I can find the six candles left after Rosie’s fourth birthday in December. Then we left.

Now, of course, all I have to do is buy the fresh things the day before the party (and here I am guided by my ‘bible’ Annabel Karmel’s ‘Complete Party Planner’), pop a few presents into party bags, make a few rounds of sandwiches, wrap, wrap and wrap the Pass the Parcel parcel and gird my loins for an influx of little girls next Saturday. Valium, anyone…?


  1. My thoughts are with you.... but i;m glad i'm not!! A 6th birthday party ! yikes I look back with a rosy glow thinking haaaaaa remember and then i do !! Good luck and don't forget the Goody bags xx

  2. I can predict things will get really busy once the little poppets have eaten that lovely colourful cake. I'm still trying to forget what the Thomas the Tank Engine cake (lovely blue and black icing) did to my sweet little grandson and his friends.

  3. You send a shudder down my spine. I loved having young children for everything except the parties. Hated the whole thing, particularly the conspicuous consumption and the competitive mothering. Sorry, sound a real grouch! Hope the birthday girl enjoys it.

  4. Written well as always PM and very amusing. I wonder how much of it you believe yourelf?

    I personally used to love little ones birthday parties. I suspect most other mothers enjoy them too. Unless I'm wrong and its all a headache and competition about who can provide the best do.

  5. I know this is not compatible with the image I like to project of a caring, indulgent mother of far to many (stop sniggering!!!) but I hate birthday parties too. I used to put som much effort in that I set a rod for my own back and it is expected now. Thing is, I've been doing them for nearly 25 years now and there's no sign of an end!! Sorry, I'll stop moaning now xx


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