Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Eve Of Lily's First Birthday.

I have spent the last 72 hours in a frenzy of domestic activity, preparing for Lily's First Birthday celebrations tomorrow.
The garden is weeded, the shrubs are neatly pruned, the patio has been swept and power hosed and the hanging baskets have been spruced to perfection. The house has been rigorously cleaned from top to bottom; I have polished the windows, hoovered the carpets, buffed the taps until they sparkle, ruthlessly de-cobwebbed, and filled every available window ledge with vases of Roses, Freesias and Lilys.
This morning Idragged my weary limbs out of bed, fortified myself with three espressos and drove to Waitrose to buy the food for Lily's Bithday Picnic. My heart sank when I saw the over flowing car park. I had to circle like a hungry shark for 10 minutes waiting for a space; when i finally pushed my trolley through the doors and caught sight of the seething mass of people, i almost turned around and went home.
My nerves were jangling from too much caffeine as I edged my way through the crammed aisles. I longed to use my trolley as a battering ram to knock people out of the way. Everywhere I turned, I was obstructed by dithering shoppers, blocking my path with their stupidly angled trolleys as they gazed vacantly at the shelves. One hellish hour later, I finally arrived at the checkout. It's only a few things for a toddlers tea party, i told myself. It won't be much more than £50.
"That's £103.87 please Madam."
"What??!! Sorry, I mean, how much?"
Oh buggery bollocks. I only had £55 on me.
"Do you take cheques?" I squeaked.
"No Madam." she replied in a bored voice.
A Supervisor hovered at a discreet distance. I could feel people staring.
"I'm so sorry. I'm afraid I'll have to pop to the bank." I mumbled, prompting an orgy of eye rolling, tutting and head shaking from the long queue forming behind me.
"This is nine items and fewer! " whinnied a horse faced woman. She snorted crossly and waved a hoof at her hand basket containing two bottles of Bombay Sapphire and a packet of Quails Eggs.
"It's fritefly annoying!" she neighed, glaring at my heaving trolley.
My apologies were drowned out by the chunters of agreement from the growing line of boot faced shoppers.
I grabbed my handbag and slunk off towards the exit, crimson with embarrasment.
My ignominious departure was halted when the jobs worth supervisor stepped forward, barring my way.
"I'm afraid You'll have to leave those in store until you've paid for them!" she boomed officiously.
I glanced down to discover that i was still clutching a box of Tampax. I should have unwrapped a couple and stuffed them in my ears to block out the chorus of disapproval. Instead, I handed them over and shuffled out, clenching my bum cheeks in horror.

I arrived home two hours later to find Mark The Farrier waiting in the stable yard. I had totally forgotten that he was coming to shoe the horses at 12.30. It was now 1.15. He was, understandably seething, having spent the last 45 minutes attempting to collar Charlie and Casino, who had thus far evaded capture and were careering around the field bucking and farting with glee.
Mark glowered at me as i scrambled out of the car clutching bursting shopping bags and gabbling apologies. He sucked angrily on his cigarette and remained stony faced as I bowed and scraped like an errant gun dog returning to it's furious owner.
"SOOOOO sorry....burble burble....not enough money....had to go to bank....burble burble...they thought I was stealing Tampax....burble burble.....can I get you a cup of tea?...."
"You can catch those F***ers" he growled, stamping out his cigarette and gesturing to the horses who had stopped cavorting in order to smirk tauntingly at us from over the fence.
"Yes of course, right away." i simpered and shot off to find a bucket of pony nuts.
I spent the next 20 minutes running up and down the field behind the horses, swearing like Benny Hill with tourettes as Mark sat in his van with the engine idling, scowling at his watch.
Jasper eventually took pity on me and drove them into the barn with a pair of tractors.
Once they were safely shut in their stables, I set about making Lily's Birthday cake. I'm normally rather good at baking, and was confidently expecting to produce my usual pair of light fluffy sponges. Pride comes before a fall. The Gods were conspiring against me, and for some inexplicable reason, every single one of my increasingly frantic attempts ended in disaster. The first effort collapsed in the middle, the second was as flat as a pancake, the third was so sloppy that it ran out of the bottom and congealed in a bubbling stinking puddle on the floor of the oven. The fourth one was perfect. When i peered fretfully through the oven door after 20 minutes I was overwhelmed with relief to see that it was golden in colour and rising beautifully. This cake was going to be a resounding success. Hurrah!
I glanced outside. Mark was moodily banging nails into Charlie's appalling feet. He was still obviously very grumpy. I took him a triple bacon sandwich and a huge mug of tea, hoping to atone for my blundering ineptitude. Having devoured the lot in less than three minutes, he looked marginally less murderous. By the time he had consumed a large scotch egg, six rounds of homemade short bread, and a flapjack, he had thawed sufficiently to regale me with the hottest Hunt Gossip since my illustrious spell as a drug smuggling hooker. I was so engrossed, that I forgot about the cake until I heard the smoke alarm. I ran into the kitchen blaspheming; smoke billowed as I pulled the tin out of the oven and threw it into the sink where it sizzled and hissed in the soapy water. I scowled down at the charred crater before picking it up in a rage and hurling it out of the kitchen window. It bounced across the garden scattering ducks and bantams, before rolling to a stop outside the hen house. Dennis appeared in the doorway, and strutted cautiously down the ramp, warning his harem to saty well back until he had inspected the smouldering missile. Having ascertained that it wasn't dangerous, he called them over; I watched, seething as they gathered round and pecked idiotically at the blackened crumbs.
I was still gibbering to myself ten minutes later when there was a tentative knock at the door.
"Yes!" i barked. Lucy's head appeared.
"Hi, I just thought i'd drop in on my way to pony Club Camp." she said glancing nervously around at the detritus created by my failed cake making attempts. It looked like a bomb had gone off in the kitchen. Every surface was liberally coated with flour, the overflowing bin was spewing egg shells, and bags of shopping lay everwhere. I stood amidst the carnage, wearing a filthy apron and muttering darkly about throttling Delia Smith.
"Are you alright?" Lucy asked.
"I can't even make a bloody cake!" I hissed at her dementedly.
She stared at me. "Who were you shouting at just now?"
"Myself. What's wrong with that? I always do it." i added defensively.
Lucy bravely stepped into the kitchen and switchen the kettle on before steering me gently to the rocking chair.
"Sit down. I'll make you a cup of tea."
"I can't! I must bake! " i shouted, making a frenzied lunge for the flour.
"No more baking for you today." she said firmly.
I goggled crazily at her.
"I mean it." she went on. "You need to chill out - you look like a lunatic."
I glanced in the mirror an d recoiled in shock. My eyes stared wildly out of my flour streaked face. Oh God. I sank down into the chair. Lucy picked a large blob of margarine from my hair with a piece of kitchen roll before handing me a cup of tea.
"What am i going to do?" i moaned.
"You can buy one . No-one will be able to tell the difference. Pop into Waitrose in the morning."
I shuddered with horror, recalling the contemptuous glare of the supervisor as she relieved me of the box of Tampax.
Just then, Jasper walked in holding the blackened cake tin.
"What's this doing in the garden?" he frowned.
"I threw it out of the window." i said sulkily.
"That was a naughty thing to do Bun!" he said indulgently , rolling his eyes at Lucy.
"Let's get this mess tidied up and go to the pub." he said, as he started shredding stale bread into the dogs bowls.
"That bread's for the geese." i said.
"What geese?" he demanded.
"I meant ducks." I said quickly.
He searched my face with narrowed eyes and i tried not to blink. Thank God my face was covered in flour so he couldn't see me blushing. He strode over to the window and glared outside suspiciously.
He still doesn't know about the Geese - I've hidden them out of sight around the back of the stables......

I write this having just enjoyed a long soak in the bath. After hearing about my baking disaster, Mother in law has valiantly offered to make the Birthday cake, so all is well. Calm has been restored in the Miller house hold - for now.
I am just about to sneak out to feed the geese, before we meet friends in the pub for a Friday night drink.
Just the one, of course.....

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