Friday, 27 May 2011


Before I had my son the thing that most worried me about parenthood was the thought of the parties. 

Dinner parties for grown-ups: fab.  I love cooking and entertaining (in the hosting sense, I mean; my stand-up audiences might sue over misappropriation of the word 'entertaining') and I've been poisoning cooking for people since I was 18.  (Most - if not all - of my guests are still alive. And the person who once broke a tooth on my rice [TRUE] was extremely understanding and gracious.  And remained in contact with me for, oh, minutes afterwards). 

Birthday bashes for rampant toddlers, however: hmm.    

One year, when Sam was 4, we invited a bunch of his friends to our house with their parents - the idea being we adults could socialize whilst the children were having fun. We couldn't understand it when assorted mums and dads accosted us in the street asking us if we were mad.  You'll find out they said, mysteriously...

...and so we did.  After the last visitors on party day had bidden their farewells, we surveyed the crayon marks all the way up the expensive embossed white walls of the Victorian stairway, the broken toys, the vomit on the carpet.  As luck would have it I had made some orange boats, floating on a sea of blue jelly; only being new to this kind of catering, I'd put far too much food colouring into said jelly, with parents relating to me a week later how the cobalt blue dye was only just passing through their childrens' bodies. (Use your imagination).  


So the next year, when Sam was 5, we hired the school hall.  Sam wanted a dressing up party.  


Why are kids supposed to love dressing up?  I always hated it. Whenever I was invited to a dressing up party, my mother never asked me what I wanted to go as, it was a given that I always went as a nurse.  


(You only start to think about gender stereotyping when you realize my brother was sent as a Senior Otolaryngoloist specializing in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.  But things have happily moved on since then, thanks to EU legislation).

In those days, of course, there weren't X-Boxes and i-Pads and Wiis.  No, children back then were entirely reliant for their amusement on something called crepe paper. Wahoo. Seconds of fun. Yards of it were routinely acquired in bright blue and white to transform me - a sensitive, bookish child, madly in love with music and art and Paul McCartney - into a sodding nurse. Every. Single. Time.  (Just say 'ahhh' for me.  Thank you).

And so, when my son requested fancy dress, I had to think carefully. Not least because parents now have very busy lives, and are naturally considerate about putting extra pressure on their friends to ensure their kids are kitted out appropriately for their social occasions.  Apart, that is, from one mother who organized her son's 'do' requesting 'Medieval Dress'.  WTF? (Although I happened to be directing an actor at the time whose professional dressing up box contained a knitted 'chainmail' balaclava.  Phew.)

Anyway, I and the Then Husband (if you don't know now, frankly I'm not going to bother) thought up the most wide-ranging category we could, erm, think of, and invited everyone to a Cartoon Party.

I made Sam's Fred Flintstone costume, and also the party bags, out of fun sabre-tooth tiger fabric (we were living in Brighton, OK?  It's not uncommon to dress like that around those parts), and I also painted some large posters of favourite cartoon characters with which to decorate the hall.  The Then Husband worked on lots of games, expertly recording sound FX onto his laptop, from which the impressive voice of Darth Vader would boom out from time to time frightening the bloody life out of me.

The day came.  And so did the little brats children.  They were totally uninterested in any of the formal games and activities, affected to be bored with the (pricey) magician we'd hired, and were completely unimpressed by the (real) voice of (ficitious) Darth Vader.  Couldn't you get the real one? was the question of the day.

Why am I telling you all this?  Well, because I wanted to arrange some sort of farewell thing the night before I left Nice. (And it's goodbye from me). I know I go on about the horrible people, but I actually know a lot of very nice folk indeed, many of whom I will stay close to for the rest of my life. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to spend one last night on the beach, and I sent out invitations to drinks at a particular favourite spot of mine on the pebbles.

Most were delighted to have been invited. Some people residing miles away made the effort to brave the horrendous parking nightmare in the city and be there. People brought bottles, and snacks, and food. 

However...I had this email from one particular ex-pat invitee:-

Nice Etoile, It is supposed to rain on Thursday and THIS  IS APRIL, not July. It's going to take more than a bottle to warm us up. I don't fancy sitting on the beach huddled on a concrete slab unless we have a space heater overhead. When you said beach , I thought that's what you meant.  Call me a wuss but let us know when you come up with a plan B.  Best, Godzilla.

In truth, even I - someone who had spent the past couple of years in a place where there are seemingly no rules of engagement with how you talk to or treat others - was completely taken aback by this response to an invitation to my party.  Elsewhere on this blog I've discussed the sense of entitlement that is pervasive in the town, but being set upon merely for having asked someone to a celebration, well, words (almost) fail me.

I could understand the Queen of England turning me down.  I could understand it not being quite grand enough for the wife of a Russian billionaire. But being castigated by another ordinary ex-pat for having under-performed in the party invitation stakes was a new one.

I wrote back saying that it would be inappropriate for Godzilla to turn up after all, should she subsequently condescend to grace us with her presence.  She wrote back telling me how much she admired me for what I'd achieved in a very hard town, to which I replied her opinion was no longer of any value to me, but thanked her for convincing me beyond all doubt that I had made exactly the right decision to leave Nice.

We had a lovely time on the beach. Lots of friends, much laughter, a very nice meal in a restaurant after drinks.  And no, it didn't rain. Even though it was supposed to.

Thus, the sun started to set on Nice Etoile's final night on the Cote D'Azur.  Only for it to rise again the next morning...but tomorrow is another post...


1 comment:

  1. Medieval? Nothing simpler. My little brother, on an Army initiative test, was required to procure a suit of chain mail. So he ambled into a pub and asked if anyone had such a thing about them. And was shortly marching smartly into barracks in the latest thing in C13th battledress. Of course, I'm not saying that Edinburgh is a little behind the times... Or indeed that a flight from Nice to Edinburgh is easy to fit into a busy mum's day.

    Anyhow, where are these fine friends of yours now, Ms Etoile? THAT is what enquiring minds want to know.


Please be nice, but not funnier than me. Thanks.