Me and Isy are celebrating. She's just taken part in a talent contest and absolutely annihilated the opposition, and now we're leaning against a bouncy castle and celebrating with a couple of Fabs, watching the other kids slope away, their dreams in tatters.
Isy's my niece, and we're at a fête. She's just sung a Tim Minchin song and scooped a £10 Amazon gift voucher for her efforts, and now she's waving that at the less talented kids, her face covered in ice-cream, the world at her feet.
I love a fête. It's a real symbol of summer, and I'm grateful that, through my brother's offspring, I have access to one and can come to gather material for my Independent on Saturday column. Everywhere you look there are people selling bags of sweets to children, or adults being coerced into buying raffle tickets in order to win adult things like spa treatments or headphones. There's also a lady selling Pakistani food and an Honest Burger concession. They've got the lot! Add to this the coconut shy, the blazing sun, and the visibly reassuring presence of the paramedics, and the whole thing is well worth the £1 entry fee.
The focal point of the whole thing, however, was the talent contest; and its centrepiece – my niece. They'd thrown up a stage in the playground, framed by bunting and speakers, and on the stage two smiling primary school teachers wore giant bow ties and compered a wondrous assortment of under-tens as they waddled up to knock out their shtick. Singers, dancers, beat-boxers, sword swallowers, contortionists – I forget who did what. But one by one they came and they went. And, throughout, I ate my Pakistani food and awaited my niece.
I'd heard her in rehearsals, of course, so I knew she had raw ability, but the temperature and the pressure appeared to forge this into something magical. From the moment she opened her four-year-old gob, I must say I felt sorry for the other year one's in her category. I felt for their uncles, too. They'd be the ones picking up the pieces. Those who had already performed looked crestfallen, those still to come realised they were done for and implored their uncles to take them away; take them to the swings. Anything. Just take them out of competition.
We all loved it, of course. Isy's brother, Edward, was happy – he'd already smashed the bejesus out of a coconut to win some stickers – and Eliza did what she always does, stared proudly up at her big sister and tapped her foot. Ned's only a baby, but he's no fool. He knew Isy was a cut above and he gurgled accordingly. A twinkle in her eye, Isy belted out "Naughty", clasping her mic like she'd been playing the clubs for years, only losing composure when the chap behind the decks suddenly pulled the plug after exactly two minutes. On a tight schedule? Or couldn't bare to break the other little boys' and girls' hearts for a second longer? Not a problem for Isy, though. The look of confidence as she dismounted the stage was almost disgusting.
We sat through the rest and the judges went away to consider. Though, in truth, there was no decision to make. They would have done well to spend that time patting themselves on the backs – a talent show well organised. The winner had to be Isy. Her voice was incredibly close to being in tune, and so loud. It was sensational.
My brother and his wife took it in their stride, nodding calmly as Isy's name was announced. Edward went mental and I welled up. Even Ned was chewing his dummy smugly, like it was some kind of cigar. Then we went and bought three kilos of sweets before finishing up at the ice-cream van. And now we've crashed by the castle. The victor and her cornermen. Basking in the sun. Enjoying what's left of the summer fête.