In our family, bad planning on the part of the fates has ordained that my son’s birthday in mid-March begins two months of exhausting birthday celebrations.
My birthday, at the end of April, is followed by my daughter’s a week later, and my husband’s a week after that. In fact, disastrously, three out of the four of us are Taureans, charging headlong into activities and stubbornly resisting anything but our own ideas, while my Piscean son charmingly floats through life, following the smoothest course.
This year, in my birthday week, I thought to myself, ‘Right (apparently I always say ‘Right’), right, this week I am going to stop dashing about doing things for other people and do things for me’. Cue a very messy house, piles of washing and nil birthday pre-planning for my daughter.
Said daughter did do her best to remind me of her own impending birthday, but I ignored her. The countdown began in earnest on May the 1st. ‘Now it’s my ACTUAL birthday month!’ she shrieked in my ear one morning. The consecutive mornings were merrily counted down: ‘7 days to go, 6 days to go, 5 and a half days to go’, and so on.
Literally two days before I had done almost nothing for her birthday, apart from buy her three very small presents. And, because I am a) a mother at home, and b) my mother’s daughter, there is an unwritten, strict and masochistic birthday rule that reads, ‘I am not allowed to cheat in any way. All must be handmade, home-crafted and basically an immense and time-consuming faff’.
So, in those two days, I went into manic birthday overdrive. I arranged for two little friends to come over (no one does whole-class parties any more), bought decopatch craft for party, bought lots of presents so that she could have a ‘pile’ to come down to on the table (very important), made 35 chocolate nests with eggs in for her to hand out to her class, put up bunting, blew balloons, bought and arranged flowers, bought party tea food and drew a picture of her on my handmade card.
On the day itself, having risen at dawn to ensure my princess descended to a candlelit birthday scene downstairs, I only had the cake left to make, and luckily, she had pointed out the one she wanted months ago. A Mary Berry bunny cake. It involved baking three sponge cakes, covering them in lemon butter icing, toasting some coconut, assembling into a bunny shape and creating a face. No probs, easy-peasy.
The baking bit went fine, although my oven is pretty ancient and being of the non-fan variety, it’s basically a fire in a box, and cakes tend to burn on the bottom and stay raw on top.
Then I had to CUT BITS OFF, to form the bunny shape. Now, one thing that I really am averse to is waste of any sort. I still habitually eat whatever the kids leave at tea, keep all leftovers in half-a-dozen Tupperware boxes in the fridge, and never stick to use by dates. So, when it comes to chopping bits off perfectly good cake, the obvious thing is to eat all the chopped off bits. Also, I needed a sugar rush to complete the marathon icing task that lay ahead.
Then the lemon butter icing. Really, really yummy, and far too much than needed, even after I’d gone over the whole cake twice, so a few spoonfuls of that get eaten too. The toasted coconut ended up being ‘charcoal-effect’ coconut, and even I wasn’t going to eat that, so that was binned and bunny ended up being a white bunny.
Then I discovered that my comparative lack of preparation meant that I had to forage for bunny face decorations. So the eyes were two chocolate buttons, with half a yoghurty raisin squidged on top with icing. Effective, but also really quite evil-looking. Then very old pink writing icing from the back of the cake-stuff shelf, and squashed mini-pink marshmallows for inner ear effect.
It didn’t look much like the one in the book, but I didn’t think she’d mind. She didn’t. ‘Wow’ she said, ‘A bunny!’ She then proceeded to lick the icing off and discard the cake, so I ate that too.
At the end of the day she looked sad. ‘Why are you sad, sausage?’ I asked, tenderly (I’m always tender on their birthdays, not so much on other days). ‘I’m sad because my birthday is nearly over’, she said, making it all worthwhile, even the slightly acidic cake indigestion.
It’s my husband’s birthday today.
He got a homemade card. And socks. And a cup of tea in bed.