Parties: Ginger Spice in the zoo

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The Independent Online

A Sunday afternoon tea party at London Zoo to launch Geri Halliwell's children's book, Ugenia Lavender, with 70 children, their parents and a host of celebrities invited along for an afternoon of games, face-painting and a reading. Bar April showers, what could go wrong?

Plenty, according to the paparazzi, who were looking increasingly grumpy while lining the lavender carpet leading to the zoo's Mappin Pavilion, as the promised Patsy Palmer, Tamara Mellon and Gabby Logan failed to materialise. Instead they had to make do with the hairdresser Nicky Clarke and designer Kelly Hoppen, both remarkably styled for what became a rather low-key gathering.

This had been billed as a magical afternoon, but inside the pavilion was more like a corporate buffet than a children's tea party. Muffins and fruit-on-sticks – hardly the stuff of tea-party legend – had been laid out on china plates on linen tablecloths, while attendants scurried around, beseeching children to keep the food off the carpet. Then, finally, a figure of note arrived; into the scrum for tea and cakes walked the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, and his brood. But where was Geri?

A game of musical bumps was played to the strains of the Spice Girls' "Who Do You Think You Are?" and the children's entertainers began drilling the younger guests to shout "Hi Geri" for her expected arrival. Osborne looked bored, and stood beside a pillar, checking his Blackberry, while Clarke and Hoppen huddled in a corner to view the menagerie, before eventually popping off to see the gorillas instead.

Finally, Geri arrived, settled herself into a white armchair in the middle of the room, and read to the by-now restless kiddies. As the afternoon drew to a close, it was time for party bags, stuffed full of Ugenia Lavender merchandise. "But where are the sweets?" one child moaned – quite the epitaph.