Last night, we popped out to the pub for "a" drink at 7pm, and got home at 11.oop.m. It is the Story Of our Life.
I started out with good intentions, sipping virtuously on my (small) glass of white wine, and politely declined offers of another one. Then Lucy turned up, went inside, and came out with a LARGE glass of Pinot which she plonked in front of me - "If you're going to have a glass of wine, do it properly."
Ten minutes later, Kate and Ben arrived and bought a bottle.
"No thankyou, I only popped out for one." I said as Ben topped up the glasses.
"Haha! Very funny! " he chuckled, shaking his head and filling up my half pint bucket.
I listened to the glorious glugging sound as the the golden liquid sloshed into the glass. It would be churlish to refuse it now, i told myself. I would hate to hurt Ben's feelings by not drinking it after he had poured it especially for me.......
I awoke at 7am to the sound of rain hammering on the windows. I lay in bed, waiting for the dull throbbing in my head to subside before tottering downstairs for nurofen and tea. I sat in the rocking chair and looked out grumpily at the horizontal rain. The wind was buffeting the trees along the river bank and the horses were huddled against the hedge with their backs to the downpour. I looked hopefully at a chink of blue in the clouds, and willed the sun to break through the impenetrable grey, and incredibly, it did. By 9, the sun was shining from a clear blue sky and Lily and I went into the garden. She was enchanted by the rain drops sparkling on the cob webs, and pointed at them whilst trying to articulate her sense of wonder "Ooo. Oo. Uh."
Invigorated by a pint of Alka Seltzer and a bracingly cold shower, I started to prepare the food. I was surprised by how long it took to rustle up three varieties of sandwiches for a dozen toddlers. I was still at it half an hour before the party started.
Jasper came in and watched as i frantically buttered bread, applied fillings and and used an assortment of kiddies pastry cutters to form an aesthetically pleasing array of toddler sized yummies.
"What shapes are they suppose to be?" he frowned, pointing at a plate of wholemeal peanut butter.
"Houses." I muttered, glancing at the kitchen clock.
"They look like dicks."
I took a deep breath.
"Thanks for that constructive comment Jasper. Really helpful."
"Well they do. Look." he persisted, picking one up and shoving it under my nose.
I carried on buttering bread in dignified silence.
"Look at that bulging bit on the end." he tittered.
"It's a roof." i hissed through gritted teeth.
"Looks more like a - "
"That's quite enough thankyou." i interjected primly, straightening a doilie.
I glanced furtively at the plate and grimaced. Jasper was right. My carefully arranged display of appetising titbits resembled a platter of wholemeal penises, complete with firemans helmets.
I pursed my lips, and surreptitiously tried to squeeze their bulging "ends" into line, but they stubbornly resisted my attempts to mould them into less deviant shapes. Jasper sniggered as cream cheese oozed suggestively.
He opened a can of lager and watched as I arranged the various plates of sandwiches, cakes and shortbread on the kitchen table.
"Why are there two dozen pink balloons tied to the car roof?" he asked.
"Bugger - i'd forgotten about them. Can you tie them at the end of the drive?"
"Okay. You'd better go and get ready. They'll be here in 20 minutes." he said, popping a wholemeal penis into his mouth.
I looked up to see him wearing the bright pink Afro Clowns wig I had bought for him to amuse the toddlers. I rummaged in the kitchen drawer and handed him the red plastic nose. He stuck it on and admired the effect in the mirror. I shuddered. I have always found clowns rather terrifying.
Suddenly, the ground trembled almost imperceptibly beneath our feet, like the low rumble of distant thunder. We looked out at the clear blue sky and exchanged baffled glances. The next minute, a herd of cows charged past the kitchen window sending bantams flying in all directions and almost trampling a dozing Trevor, who scrambled out of the way just in time.
There must have been thirty of them. The sight of them stampeding across the back garden into my lovingly tended vegetable plot, rendered us speechless with shock for a few seconds. We could only stare dumbly as they cavorted around, flattening courgettes, obliterating runner beans and demolishing the cucumber frames.
I have only seen Jasper lose his temper twice in almost ten years of marriage. He is so placid, with such a huge capacity for tolerance, that his anger is truly terrible to behold. There is a dreadful incongruity about his fury; rather like watching the Andrex Puppy turn into a Rottweiler.
I cowered by the sink, awed by the force of his wrath, as he stormed out of the house, incandescent with rage. The air was blue as he effed and blinded his way through an epic diatribe, aimed at the "useless f***ing tosser" who owned the errant cows, and his chronic inability to keep them fenced in.
The cows skipped and mooed around the devastated vegetable garden with Bandit, Jasper's lunatic Springer Spaniel, snapping at their heels and compounding their excitement and panic. Jasper approached them from behind with a view to herding them back towards the drive. They bellowed with terror at the sight of this pink afroed, bulbous nosed monster, and surged forward in panic against the flimsy frame of the fruit cage. There was a crunch as the whole thing gave way and was kicked to splinters beneath their pounding feet.
"That's the end of my strawberries." I thought grimly as they charged back across the garden and disappeared over the grass bank.
I pulled on Jasper's wellies and rushed after them. If they got into the farm yard all hell would be let loose! I managed to beat them to the gate by the skin of my teeth. I waved my arms at them to drive them back towards the lane.
"SHOO! SHOO! Get out of here!" I shouted.
They stared at me and stamped their feet. The biggest one, presumably the ringleader, lowered his head and began pawing the ground.
"Go away." I squeaked.
Bloody hell, were they going to charge? I looked around desperately. i had nowhere to hide if they came at me and I couldn't run very fast in Jasper's wellies which I had just noticed were on the wrong feet. I flapped my hands at them without conviction. They advanced slowly. Uh-Oh.
I considered throwing myself into the slurry lagoon and wondered which was preferable; drowning in cow poo or being trampled to death by a herd of bullocks? There wasn't much in it, I decided. I was just about to kick off the boots and make a sprint through the knee deep poo, when i heard an engine roaring and Jasper, my Knight In Shining armour, came zooming across the farmyard in our silver Audi. There were a succession of ominous crunching sounds as the car bonnet see-sawed over the deep rutted trenches like a ship on a rough sea.
At that precise moment, a pair of elderly ramblers emerged from the bridleway. They watched open mouthed, as Jasper shot past them, ritzy pink wig askew, as he roared obscenities from the open window, and blared his horn like a psychotic clown, as two dozen sparkly pink balloons bobbed and danced merrily in his wake.
"Lovely day!" I trilled as I shuffled along behind him like the village idiot.
My heart sank as a car turned into the driveway. The first guest had arrived......