Brian Viner: 'Pass the parcel has become pass the alcopop at my children's parties'

Share
Related Topics

From teenagers consuming too much alcohol to grown-ups not consuming enough, our garden has seen it all lately. The fun started with my daughter Eleanor's 16th birthday party, which she shared with her best friend TJ. There were 80 people on the guest list, ranging in age from 15 to 18, and 80 concerns in my mind, ranging from under-age drinking to the well-being of the flowerbeds to the prospect of us ending up on the front page of The Hereford Times – "Birthday Party Turns Into Rave: Three Thousand People Turn Up From As Far Afield As Kentucky: Bewildered Parents Blame Facebook."

Happily, that did not come to pass. But all the same, it doesn't seem like five minutes since our children's birthday parties featured pass the parcel, not pass the alcopop. We didn't try to stop the booze, figuring that Prohibition didn't work in 1920s America and nor would it in our garden. Besides, the deal in these rural parts seems to be that teenagers invited to parties sleep in tents pitched in the adjoining fields, so by the time the thing got under way there was a mini-Glastonbury situation over the fence where the sheep usually are, making it even harder to keep tabs on alcohol consumption. Yet I was determined to register an adult presence, so ambled around with TJ's dad Patrick trying, and probably failing, not to look like two coppers on the beat. I invoked Parental Power only once, relieving an 18-year-old boy of an industrial-sized bottle of gin which he appeared to be drinking neat.

Dancing was in the conservatory, where we had the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, live. Unfortunately for Elly and her mates, they were the red hot chilli peppers that I have been growing from seed, next to the basil, but then I'm not sure whether the band of the same name would have cut the mustard either. It's hard to know with kids these days. One minute they're listening to Abba, the next minute they're rolling their eyes at you because you haven't realised that the Kaizer Chiefs are so, like, yesterday. Anyway, we had a DJ, although he was nearer my age than theirs, and said he hadn't received the playlist. So he played the Rolling Stones and Dusty Springfield and stuff like that which certainly got the grown-ups on garden patrol singing along, but didn't quite have the desired effect on the under-45s. Never mind. Apparently the consensus on Facebook the following day was that it had been a cool party, and the flowerbeds survived too, though I did find a boy behind the yew hedge having a pee on my runner-beans.

That sort of thing never happens at the Docklow church fête, which took place in our garden the very next Saturday and was a strikingly different affair, although actually we wished it could have been marginally less different. Not that I'd like to see the vicar swigging from a two-litre bottle of gin, still less any two members of the parish council snogging in the porch, but it was arguably a fete in need of a few more stimulants. On the other hand, it is never less than charmingly parochial, and this year we did have the racy addition of a man giving archery tuition, with folk shooting from the garden into the field. Just under a week earlier and we could have offered a prize for hitting a teenager, zigzagging between tents.

Besides, in its low-key way the Docklow fete has yielded its fair share of excitement down the years. There was the time that Mrs Clayton, a guest in one of our holiday cottages, mistook the portable toilet for the ticket kiosk, and stood outside it forming what she thought was an orderly entrance queue, only to tentatively push open the door after a few minutes to reveal what was unmistakably a loo.

And then there was the terrible business with Milo, our golden retriever with the surfeit of testosterone. It was the morning of the fete, and the son of a parish councillor had brought along his girlfriend, a woman in her early twenties, to help put up stalls. Regrettably, she made the strategic error of getting down on all fours to bond with our terrier, Paddy, presenting Milo with an aspect he found irresistible. He pinned her to the ground and started energetically humping, a spectacle that will live with me for ever. Not even teenagers behave that badly.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Crabtreeof the San Francisco 49ers misses a catch during 2013's Super Bowl XLVII  

Super Bowl 2015: It's the most ridiculous sporting event of the year, but I absolutely love it

John Rentoul
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would halt the charitable status enjoyed by private schools

Rosie Millard
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links