• Author:Ben Jones
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Parents, parties and punctuation

We are party people. Party animals. Twenty-four hours party people. For those of you who know us well, that will seem unlikely, but it’s true. We party each and every week. Jolie’s Barn. Playtown. Farmer Ted’s. Ok, I know this is not the underground rave scene, or in true Partridge-style a barn dance at Yeovil Aerodrome, but in this part of the world, they at the three big ones.

Mrs J and I seem to spend every weekend at a three-year-old’s birthday party with Miss J. They all follow the same form. Arrive with some awkwardness; not knowing all of the parents of the birthday boy or girl. I’m pretty sure we have handed over presents to more than one grateful random party attenders! Then there’s the abandonment; little people whip off their shoes and head off into a softly world of fun – not looking back.

Parents then have to navigate the minefield of where to sit, who to sit with and the rest. It is just like being back at school, which for those of us who were bullied in our own Grange Hill hell it doesn’t bring back universally happy memories. Mrs J and I hunt in packs, always going together to the parties. Safety in numbers. A problem shared. Early on we fell into the trap of siting on a big table only to find ourselves joined by others – or worse, not joined by others! Definitely like being back at school.

We have one other parent we really like and so if she is in attendance job’s a good ‘un. On Saturday she wasn’t there – her daughter hadn’t been invited. Ouch. But we are now hardened party guests so we took a table with only room for two for me and Mrs J. Yes. We got to chat for a hour or so whilst Miss J has the time of her life. I am baffled though why the owners of these establishments haven’t clocked yet that they have a captive audience – literately captive. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to provide something for the grown ups – something more than stewed tea and stale cakes.

I’m not asking for a lot; some live sport; a well-stocked bar; decent tea and coffee; some super fast Wi-Fi and a collection of the latest periodicals from around the world. It surely wouldn’t hurt them to get the Racing Post, Le Monde, the New York Times and Die Welt ordered and spread out on tables around the joint!

After the departure, with a very red-faced small person, hot and giddy after riotously running around – they are brilliant places for the little ones – we head home. Then follows – from most – the obligatory thank you text messages. Here is the real parental test. Is it a standard message to all (sadly it is very often) with no personalisation about name or gift? Is it sent that day or the following day (again, sadly mañanais is the trend)? Does it pass my strict grammar, tone of voice and punctuation standards (almost never!)? I have often thought about red-penning the text and sending it back with some “suggestions” but that would probably not be in the spirit of the party atmosphere.

We now have a break before the next party. Time to take a breath. Time to regroup, before the next invitation lands in Miss J’s nursery bag; like a summons to appear in court. At least I know there’s a good chance I will get to feel superior when the thank you text lands. It is some consolation for the bullying flashbacks.


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