Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'What do you mean I can't hire the cast of Barnum or book a bouncy castle? This is my daughter's first birthday!'
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The Independent Online

So I knew it was getting a little out of hand when I cried because I couldn't hire the Red Arrows.

Let me explain. Two days ago it was my daughters first birthday. Now, the first birthday of any child is a REALLY BIG DEAL. It's not like a "come round for some cake and maybe we'll have a glass of champagne", it's a "COME ROUND AND WATCH ME CRY AS I HOLD HER A LITTLE TOO TIGHT AND THANK GOD SHE CAME ALONG". Oh yes, it all gets quite uncomfortable.

Put it this way - exactly a year ago, I met her for the first time. Just 366 days ago, I didn't know whether I was having a boy or a girl; I didn't know she'd look alarmingly good in red-gingham dungarees; I didn't know how much she'd like yogurt, especially apricot; and I didn't know that she'd sound like a toucan when she woke up in the middle of the night.

Exactly a year and two days ago, I weighed something like 22 stone, my arse was too big for the toilet, I had a pile the size of a sheep's skull, and my husband caught me eating butter with my hands. I had terrible indigestion (no shit, Sherlock), and all I kept saying was, "Just get this thing, this parasite out of me!". I was miserable and looked like a heaving, grumpy cow.

Then she arrived. And the sun shone and the birds tweeted, and since then I've been in a rather good mood. This is all in my defence, you see. This is why, a week ago, I booked a bouncy castle and enquired whether I could hire the cast of Barnum to sing at her party. This is why I did all of those things.

You see, I don't really like adult parties. I like gangs of four and a bottle of vodka, and, at some point, a phone call to the local curry house. Grown-up parties are so dull they make me want to throw a tantrum and hurl red wine on the nearest cream-damask armchair.

Number One: everyone stands up. WHAT IS THAT ABOUT? I'm done with standing up. Walking round the corner to buy chewing gum is already incredibly annoying. What could I want to do less that put on very high heels and then stand up all night?

And then you get to pick at warm smoked-salmon parcels and slightly stale posh crisps. It's hardly a sofa and a jalfrezi.

And so you're standing up and you're talking absolute gibberish to someone whom you sort of like but don't love. If you can't name their brothers and sisters, if you can't describe that person's greatest fear and favourite sandwich filling, then, quite frankly, you're never going to be great friends. So what's the point? "Hey. How are you? Are you going away this summer?" "Excuse me, I'm going to have to take that skewer off the shrimp and poke it right into the back of my eye."

How's this for an answer: "I'm shit because my feet hurt, I'm not going anywhere this summer because I can't even pay my ridiculous mortgage, and I have a sneaky feeling my husband's on the other side of the room trying to look down another woman's top. How are you doing?"

And this is why a children's party is so much more fun. There are cupcakes (with baby-pink frosting, if you're asking) and there's a face-painter (I was a witch - whatever) and there are children. Once you have 10 three-year-olds running around and shouting, "You can't catch me! Nah nah nah nah nah!", a party is immediately more fun.

So, she was one year old, and my husband (ahem) put his foot down. No, I couldn't have fireworks. No, I really couldn't hire a man to walk outside the house on stilts just in case she would think it was funny. No, absolutely no, she wasn't old enough to have a puppy. And no, not a tortoise either. No, it wasn't OK to take her and her brother to New York for a birthday breakfast at the Plaza. No, hiring a troupe of baby farm animals for the day was just too much, and finally, no, no and, indeed, no, we couldn't ask Christopher Biggins to pop in and juggle and pose for photographs.

"Claud, she's one. Do me a favour. Please. Can we just get back to basics? It's just about you and me and the family and a couple of sandwiches."

BASICS. BASICS? Has he met me? Anyway, I said yes, of course we could just have a miniature packet of raisins, sing, and that would be it. Well, imagine my surprise when a puppeteer and a dancing seal turned up. Weird coincidence, eh?

This whole experience has made me find some respect for a woman I've never really warmed to. Yes, she always looks grumpy; and, good God, she could do with a shepherd's pie; and her clothes choices are almost grotesque. But, in just this aspect (Brooklyn got a life-size wooden fort for his fourth birthday), Mrs Victoria Beckham, I salute you.

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