It's a narcissist's paradise. Which must be why Louie Spence is so happy.
Sunday's pre-schooler shindig was the fourth birthday party of one of Amelie's nursery friends, who not only has close links to showbusiness (I presume), but also happens to live in Worthing. It meant that after Saturday's tardiness disaster, Lisa and I had a second bite at the pre-party shoe shop cherry (there's a phrase I never thought I'd write), and this time, having risen at seven in the morning and done nothing but prepare for departure, we made it to Clarks Kids on time. At just after 1pm.
As a result, Amelie's now the proud owner of the summer sandals on the left. Although she hasn't worn them yet as it's constantly raining and her feet are cold. They're called 'Rio Flower Rose Hip', and according to the Clarks website, they "capture a carnival feel", meaning that this is officially the closest she's come to Brazil since I offered her a chocolate-covered nut at Christmas. And that was a lot cheaper. These cost £32, so I think shoes are a bit like underwear: the less material they contain, the more expensive they are.
Having maxed-out the credit card in Clarks, we then journeyed on to Worthing for some free food and drink. And we weren't disappointed. The dance studio is conveniently situated on a small industrial estate, three doors down from a mosque, and the parents of the birthday girl had hacked into the stage school's electronic coffee machine and ordered it to vend hot drinks free of charge all afternoon, so Lisa was in her element, and I was knee-deep in hot chocolate. Somehow, they'd managed to get a full size bouncy castle upstairs to the main dance hall, so while the kids were distracted by that, I had free reign at the buffet in the next room.
Tragically I don't know my own limitations, and the indigestion I suffered on the way home was enough to put me off samosas for life, but at the time, my happiness was roughly equivalent to this photo of Amelie...
To be honest, Lisa and I had secretly hoped that we might be allowed to dump the girl and leave, but as it transpired, I was glad we stayed. And not just for the free food. We got chatting to the mother of the only one of Am's nursery friends who will be going to the same school as her in September, and it turns out that she's the modern day equivalent of Quincy. Which is probably House. Either way, she's listed on the IMDB for her work on true crime shows, so if Amelie comes home from school with any suspicious injuries, we should be able to unmask the culprit.
Having blown out the candles on the fairy castle cake, the afternoon was rounded off nicely with a game of pass-the-parcel, which highlighted the one drawback of modern parenting principles. The organisers had clearly decided that every child should win a prize, so not only did the parcel have about twenty layers, but they'd put a bag of sweets in each one. As a result, it was the size of a pillow and too heavy for a four-year-old to lift. It wasn't so much 'pass-the-parcel' as 'heave-the-sack-with-the-help-of-a-parent'. And by the time they'd all got a bag of sweets, the kids lost interest in the game, and just sat there munching.
But that aside, it was a complete success, and by the end of the afternoon, Amelie was on the kind of manic high rarely seen outside of a bad case of bipolar. Despite my buffet-related stomach cramps, I managed to drive everyone home while Amelie drove us all mental. At least I think it was my daughter. When I told her to calm down and behave, she informed me that her name was Amelie Pickles, and denied all knowledge of that Gardner girl. At which point she carried on misbehaving. I think it might be time to stop her watching Rugrats...