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Birthday bash

Claudia Savage-Gore frets over how best to entertain a troop of 10-year-olds

I’m back in Birthday Party hell. Hector’s this time, in August. When he was born, I remember thinking that a holiday birthday might absolve me from organising elaborate parties. LOL. All his August birthday means is that I have to frantically organise a party in July, and schlep his presents to and from Paxos every year. Also, he’s terminally behind at school.

Plus, I’m still recovering from organising Lyra’s last party — a sleepover for nine. Admittedly this was less expensive than past celebrations, but cost me double in emotional labour.

First there was a panic over whether her BFF Aurora had accidently eaten a slice of non-gluten-free pizza (she hadn’t, but vomited anyway), followed by some kind of relationship crisis between Seraphina and Bay during the third film, and Lyra’s own existential crisis at 4am when her friends were asleep and she was wired on Haribo.

Back to Hector’s party. At ten, he’s too old to invite the whole class to watch a clinically insane person create dubious shapes with balloons. But it’s a while until underage drinking. In other words, we are now in the terrible middle ground where several “special” friends are to be invited to an exorbitant, day-long activity.

The shortlist is now down to: hiring a whole Everyman Hampstead cinema for a handful of children, going to a Safari park (shoot me now), an escape room (still not entirely sure what this is), karaoke, paintballing or — as he helpfully suggested — flying everyone in a private plane to Penzance for one-to-one surf lessons and a night at St Moritz Cornwall, as his friend Rudy’s mum did. Great.

I asked Chat GPT, as I do everything now, and it produced a baffling list of suggestions about archery, zip lines, axe throwing and pizza making — none of which were in London — ending with a cheery “have fun organising the party!” Read the room, robot! Literally why would anyone choose events planning as their job?

Meanwhile the group chat in Lyra’s class has blown up over end-of-year teacher presents. This was simple at her oligarch heavy Hampstead prep — we all had to contribute £100 of John Lewis Vouchers once a term and that was it. If you needed the head to put in a good word for you at Highgate, you might consider “gifting” the school a bronze statue of your child, or a new theatre, but this was optional.

But Lyra’s new school being alternative and Steiner-esque we are very much not in bribery and corruption territory (or John Lewis territory) and the deeply annoying class rep mother has suggested we all make “a hundred origami cranes to be strung on a garland”. Cranes as in birds, not diggers, as I assumed. I mean, WTF?

I said I had intense carpal tunnel syndrome to get out of it, and then bumped into the rep mother at yoga. Because she caught me mid-downward dog, I had to say that my wrists had miraculously recovered, and act madly enthused about the crane idea.

Over on the class chat some smart arse pointed out a traditional senbarazu is more traditionally a “get well soon” gift than a thank you present. Someone else rejoined that it technically comprises a thousand cranes, to which someone else decided we should “step up to the plate” and fold 100 cranes each because there are only ten pupils in her class, obvs. Yay!

This article is taken from the July 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

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