Surprise party


It’s Saturday tea-time and the phone rings. “It’s Jeanette’s birthday tomorrow. We’re having a surprise party at the yard from 5.30pm. Would you like to come?” asks Justine.

I don’t have to think about it. I’d love to.

“We’re taking her for a hack and that will give time to set everything up. Everyone who is coming will hide in the tack room.”

It sounds fun.

The next question throws me a little. Would I like to bring my husband and children along? That one I have to ponder. I’m not sure I would.

Quent is driving back to London either Sunday evening or Monday morning and his scale of sociability varies enormously from delightful through to disdainful. I am amazed he holds down a job where he has to be not only polite to people, but also has to be charming on a regular basis. And as for the boys, well their behaviour has a similar scale, ranging from angelic to demonic.

So I run it past them, would they like to go. If they don’t that’s fine, if they do, that’s also fine. I would like them to go if they all tow the line.

Do we need to bring anything? I was thinking along the lines of wine, crisps, salad, dessert, serviettes , that kind of thing, but I learn we need burgers, sausages and buns. Mm…not stuff we’ve got in the fridge in any great quantiites.

I say I’ll run over to Co op afer I’ve had a bath. I can’t do anything till I’ve had a Radox ‘Muscle Soak’ bubble bath.

Incredibly Quent offers to go and get some, but he returns empty handed from Co op, which had reverted from Olympic opening times to ‘inconvenience’ store times and was shut already. I ask why didn’t he carry on to Tesco and wonder why I didn’t go myself.

The next morning I am nearly late as I have to write Quentin a note about what to buy and have to run out to the utility room for a couple of bottles of wine to take to work with me, in case Quent forgets the cool bag with them in later. At least, if he fails with the sausages, there will be something to drink!

All day at work, I wonder whether Quent will manage to get the sausages, be pleasant and amiable, and whether the boys will behave.

It’s 5.30pm. Balloons are in place, candles are on cake, guests are hiding in tack room, wine is poured in plastic cups, barbecue is smoking and …

“Surprise! Happy Birthday!” Jeanette looks… I’m not quite sure how to describe how she looks, a combination of surprised, moved and mortified. Becky pours drinks and everyone chats.

The boys pat Larry. Not a horse I’d recommend they shower with affection and I suggest they go find another horse to pat. They go off and when I go to check they are okay, find them patting Little Ted, a Welsh Section A, whose teeth marks are regularly on my arm. I guide the boys back to the barbecue.

They eat a hot dog but it doesn’t take them long to be drawn back to Larry, who seems to have magnetic powers over them. He doesn’t seem to mind them. In fact he seems to be rather enjoying the fuss. They feed him grass.

“Remember flat hands!’

The boys remember flat hands, Larry loves them and keeps them good for hours. They feed him more grass, eat hot dogs and drink lemonade.

The evening finishes with a delicious birthday cake, which tastes as if Nigella had baked it

… and a good time was had by all.