Tag Archives: party

For your little Drama Queen – Theatrical birthday parties at Royal & Derngate

Here’s a press release from Royal & Derngate about their new birthday party idea. Rather them than me . . .

For parents looking for something a bit different for their child’s birthday party, Royal & Derngate now offers a new option – theatrical birthday parties packed with music, games and activities and with the excitement of a starring role in a mini theatrical performance!

Taking the hassle out of organising a party, the theatre considers every detail, tailoring it to suit each individual’s needs and catering for the ages of the children. Armed with the perfect party music, bold and beautiful craft materials, exquisite face paints and fabulous costumes for dressing up, Royal & Derngate’s professional team will be brimming with creative ideas and will lead the party from start to finish, ensuring each and every guest experiences a truly special birthday party.

The theatre can also provide a delicious selection of party food, so all that is left for parents to do is to enjoy the event in a safe and relaxed, family friendly environment.

Parties cost £150*, with an additional £5 per child if food is required. Parties are available for children up to 14 years, with a maximum of 25 children per party.

For more information or to book, please contact Natalie Diddams on 01604 655777 or email natalie.diddams@royalandderngate.co.uk.

*prices went up fifty quid after I originally posted this

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The Girl is Four

A few days old . . .

First Birthday












Second birthday


Third birthday












Fourth birthday










THE Girl is Four. It seemed a straightforward enough caption for a picture posted on my rarely visited Facebook page, but I didn’t expect quite as much incredulity.

What? She’s four already?

Yes, four years ago I wrote in these pages about the new arrival to the family, The Girl: Bonnie, a surprise to us all after three beloved and boisterous boys.

Looking back at the photos scattered around various hard-drives, memory sticks and cloud sharing sites (it would have been far easier if I’d printed some), you see that four years is quite a long time.

For a start, she was born with black wavy hair like her dad. Now she has pin-straight, wayward dark blonde hair like her mum.

For the first year she was a laid-back, compliant baby (well, as much as a baby can be), and now, well, she pretty much refuses to do anything she’s asked unless it’s on her terms.

I did congratulate myself on her fourth birthday because I wasn’t pregnant, nor had I been delivered of another baby in the previous four years.

When Jed had his fourth birthday, his little brother Dougie had already arrived. When Dougie turned four, I was pregnant with Billy. When Billy celebrated his fourth, I was pregnant with Bonnie. This time there’s no fifth baby on the way!

We’re well past the milestones that all you new parents will be facing: the endless nappies, night-feeds, weaning, walking, talking, potty-training and (most of the time) tantrums.

Birthdays have been developmental stages too.

The first birthday is for the relatives and the one-year-old is fairly baffled by the whole palaver. The second birthday might see more relatives and friends in attendance, and Bonnie’s third was the first time she had friends over. Two of her pals came to our house for games, dressing-up and cake.

The fourth birthday was the first ‘outside catering do’ as we took Bonnie and ten friends to the Wacky Warehouse and let them all go bonkers in the ball pit for a couple of hours. They had a brilliant time.

At four, she’s now fairly independent – wanting to dress herself, take herself to the loo, write her name, count to 20, walk without holding your hand and tell you in no uncertain terms that “I can DO it!”

Yes, she’s utterly unself-conscious about singing loudly and without any discernible tune, and will dance in a shopping aisle if the opportunity arises. But she’ll also hide behind you and be shy with strangers, and jump on your lap if something is ‘scary’ (which at the moment seems to be everything from polystyrene dinosaur bones to bedtime).

When I carry her to the loo half-asleep at midnight each night, it always startles me how much she’s grown, from the tiny baby who could nestle into the crook of one arm to the girl who rests her head on my shoulder while her feet dangle at my knees.

She’s ready to start school in September which will be another milestone for both of us, especially for me as I know there isn’t another baby coming up behind to distract me.

Inevitably, she’ll always be my baby, but not because she’s the youngest. I look at all four of them and think exactly the same thing.  But don’t tell them I said that . . .

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Sorry for (Not) Party Rocking

HOW many Christmas parties have you been to this year fellow parents? One? None? The latter for me. And New Year’s Eve means staying in, watching telly.

And the truth is, I really don’t mind. No, really.

All those years I spent pre-kids getting neurotic about parties, the number of invites, what to wear, spending ages getting ‘ready’, only to drink too much and look like my face had partially melted by the wee small hours.

Then the inevitable drunken rows (not necessarily me, but you’ll see them on every High Street), the bucket by the bed, the hangover that lasted until teatime (when you finally got up).

Nah, I don’t miss it.

But I am aware that in a couple of years it will be my elder sons out on the town, and there’s not a lot we can do about it but educate them, hope they don’t get into trouble, and be prepared to let them in at 4am when they’ve forgotten their keys.

To those of you who are already living with older teens, I wish you a peaceful New Year’s Eve . . .

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The Hangover (or why parents should just stay home for at least a decade)

OPENING one eye at a time seemed like a good way of minimising the potential pain.

‘Oh, OK’, said my brain. ‘That one works. Now the other.’

The expected skull-numbing throb didn’t come. I swung my legs out of bed and sat up, marvelling how I’d somehow avoided a deserved hangover.

Then I realised I was still drunk.

This was a phenomenon I hadn’t experienced for the best part of 14 years.

The last time I was a carefree drunk, someone who doesn’t have to consider the consequences of excess because they can selfishly stay in bed for an entire day, was possibly when I unknowingly became a parent in the first place.

Getting selfishly drunk just isn’t an option for parents. At least, it shouldn’t be.

Once you become a parent you naturally curb your excesses. Not only for your children’s sake, but for your own sanity. Dealing with a baby who wakes up and cries every two hours in the night is hard enough when sober. Getting up at 6.30am to feed and entertain toddlers when you fell into bed just a few hours earlier gives you a headache on its own.

And have you changed a nappy with a hangover? I wouldn’t recommend it.

Then there’s the babysitters to think about. It’s not terribly civil to fall in the door at 2am and not be able to string two sentences together or find your purse to pay them.

For more than a decade our social life has been decidedly less wild. We don’t have family nearby and babysitters can cost as much again as the night out itself.

And however marvellous the babysitter, and we’ve had many, you find yourself checking your phone and heading home just as everyone else is finding the Dutch courage to show off their dancing skills. And quite honestly, you’re just too knackered to enjoy staying up late.

We’ve opted instead for the occasional trip to the cinema where the strongest beverage has been a fruit slush, and we’re home before midnight.

When we do see friends, we’re hardly the dinner-party set. We invite one or two over to ours where it’s less Come Dine With Me and more What Do You Fancy From the Takeaway.

But during the last month we’ve been out twice. Twice! That’s equal to the number of times we went out during the whole of 2010.

Both times were to celebrate friends’ birthdays, and the latest was for the 40th of former Chron hack and PR lovely Jessica Pilkington.

I’m not sure of it was because I was in familiar company, or the fact that our 14-in-a-fortnight eldest son was babysitting, or that Bloke had offered to drive, or simply because of the free-flowing home-made cocktails, but I was a mess. I

Somehow I’d forgotten all about the usual duties of Sunday that would still need doing: the breakfasts, the uniform washing, cooking, homework and transport.

I woke up feeling so jittery that for the first time in over a decade, I just couldn’t function. And it seemed even more painful because everyone in the house was so nice to me.

While Bloke took two kids to rugby, and Bonnie came to watch Cbeebies in our bed, Dougie went to the Co-op to get me a medicinal Lucozade and a Mars Bar.

By lunchtime I’d evened out the blood sugar enough to cook bacon egg and chips for everyone, albeit a little crispier than expected. Then I needed another lie down.

By the evening the headache kicked in, just as I got a reminder of the night before as someone had loaded the photographic evidence into Facebook.

One of our sons looked pityingly at me: “Just remember Mum, we’ll always find out what you’ve been up to.”

Next time, I’m driving.

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There’s a teen in the house: Y’get me?

MY little boy became a teenager this week. Scary, huh? Everyone tells you, when you have kids, how quickly time will pass. And how right they are.

That 13th birthday is a milestone. It may not really mean anything much legally – I think you can take on a paper-round and Facebook is no longer a no-go – but it’s the first tangible step out of childhood.

As well as having an embarrassing mother who puts embarrassing photos of you in the paper, Jed’s become unlucky by virtue of birth dates. His youngest brother, Billy, was born six days before his sixth birthday. He went from being the subject of unadulterated September celebrations to having to share the same week with someone younger.

Billy is still able to have a knees-up in the traditional manner, with the chaotic pass the parcel, cake and ten friends party, because he’s seven.

Jed gave up the ball-pit, bouncy castle and party-bag fun at the age of ten. It must be hard. What fuss is made when a boy turns 13? Nothing much. He’s chosen his present. He gets to choose where we go for a family meal to celebrate. He’s altogether underwhelmed with the whole birthday thing and has perfected that teenage ‘not-bothered’ shrug already.

There’s a famous parenting book from the 1970s which says you have to view teenage boys a little like babies rather than adults. For example, a 13-year old will forget all means of communication and you’ll need to do everything for them. A 14-year old will be frustrated at everything and everyone and throws tantrums, much like a toddler during the terrible twos. A 15-year old will try to push the boundaries and will argue with inanimate objects if there’s no adult around to appreciate their wisdom.

I’m pretty sure he’d hate me saying so, and God knows I don’t want to tempt fate, but so far, Jed’s been a pretty great, easy-going kid.

He’s had the pressure of being the eldest, with his next sibling very close in age, and the expectation that he should help out with everyone else. He’s good company, but has the advantage of a brother close in age so doesn’t feel he has to go knocking on doors to see friends. He cooks, he cleans (when nagged), but still leaves underpants and damp towels where they fall and argues about how unfair bedtime is every, single night.

He’s suddenly had a much-longed-for growth-spurt, and is now taller than his brother and both grandmothers, and almost as tall as me. He’s now enduring the hilarious voice-breaking stage, and can waver from sounding quite manly to literally squeaking the next. He’s cynical, exasperated with life and if he wasn’t disturbed, could sleep until noon. I know I’m biased, but he’s delightful. I wish I could give him everything he ever wants. I’m grateful that he still talks to me, and will even deign to give his old Ma a hug. How long this will last, well, only time will tell.

It seems an impossibly long time ago that I became a mum, and was handed that tiny, scrunched-up, red-faced baby boy, who is now on the cusp of becoming a man.

Happy 13th birthday Jed, oh, and don’t forget to pick up your laundry from the bedroom floor. . .

Jed and Doug, some years ago. Aww.

Sorry, poor quality pic but they hide when they see a camera now

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They broke my house

I once got hate mail from a reader who was incensed that I recommended not giving out party bags, on the grounds they are full of plastic junk and the kids just want sweets.

She took the time to write and tell me she thought I was a slobby mother who obviously didn’t care for her kids. She said this was evident by the home-made cake and drinks cartons in a picture of one of my boys’ celebrations.

She was glad her daughter wasn’t acquainted with my offspring as she would be devastated not to get a party bag. I was sorely tempted to fill a party bag with something from the park bin and pop it through her door. I resisted. For once.

However, when it was party time for Billy this weekend, as he reached the grand-old age of seven, I did do party bags: they were Lidl freezer bags with two tiny bags of Haribo, a collectible Bean and some cake. Job done.

Some of the other mums and I were discussing how our attitudes to parties changed the more children we produced.

I’ve always been disorganised (and tight), so I never managed to stage the truly spectacular children’s party, with entertainers and bouncy castles, matching tablecloths, paper plates, treat bags and wrapping paper.

We agreed these were only ever staged once, usually early on with your first-born. We quickly realised the kids wouldn’t even notice the Bob The Builder theme and were most happy to be stuffing down cake and running around bonkers with their friends.

As I’d left it too late to book a party at an-oh-so-easy-no-clearing-up-venue like the Wacky Warehouse or Berzerk, Billy asked to have some friends over to the house. I groaned, silently. OK, but none of this North London nonsense about inviting the entire class.

To make one party: Ten friends, invites hastily printed out on the home computer. Two hours on a Saturday lunchtime, balloons, a load of cakes, sandwiches, pizza and crisps, two older brothers to marshal party games, some confectionery bribes and a DVD set up to calm them all down before handing them back. It’s never as bad as you first fear.

Everyone behaved well, even if the noise levels were ear-splitting. No one cried and all seemed to go home happy.

However, I’ve just noticed a new crack across the living room ceiling, which must have been made when Dougie had 11 under-sevens hopping and jumping up and down in the bedroom above.

Perhaps I’ll diary in an early booking for next year’s party to be held somewhere else. I’m not sure the house can take them getting any bigger.

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