It has been a bad fortnight. Not only am I off the sauce for a few weeks to help my liver grow back, last weekend saw me preparing for a children’s birthday party. This was one I had to attend, seeing as the children are my godchildren (or whatever the secular version is).
This meant shopping for children’s presents. Now I could have done as I do for adult friends and relatives on birthdays, which is arrange to take them out for a brace of Martinis followed by a Jo Allen burger. I rejected this for the kids, however, as Jo Allen is not that suitable for the under 5s.
There are some advantages of living in Crouch End. One is that the only riot you are in danger of being caught up in is if Harris and Hoole run out of soya milk. The other is, if you are forced to buy children’s presents, there are more shops catering to this nonsense than there are fried chicken shops in Brixton.
In Crouch End there are children named Mason, Raphaela, and Hermione, as well as the usual ruling-class colonisation of proper names such as Jack, Vera, Bert, Sam and Olive. No wonder the working class now have to name its children after film actors and chat-show hosts.
First stop, JoJo Maman Bebe. The name alone makes me want to take a sledgehammer to its windows. I considered buying matching rucksacks for the little critters but was unable to get to the bank in time to raid its entire loot, so ended up looking for any sale items in the neighbouring Niddle Noddle. ‘I am looking for birthday presents for a 3, 4, and 5 year old,' I told the hessian-clad owner (who doubtless went to Nicaragua in her gap year to help pick coffee). ‘Are they girls or boys?’ she asked. ‘What does that have to do with anything?’I replied, holding her by the throat against the overpriced babygrows. ‘Little girls tend to like pink’, she answered.
Realising I was going nowhere in Niddle Noddle I happened upon Olive Loves Alfie. ‘Olive Loves Alfie is also one of the few places to stock the highly sought-after Salt Water leather sandals (which can be worn in the sea) for little girls, with prices starting at £35,’ reads its website. I won’t bore you with the argument I had in there about paying the cost of dinner for four at Le Gavroche for three ping pong sets, but you can imagine how it went.
Back home and present-less, I have a look on line and find BabyccinoKids.com, which describes itself as ‘daily inspiration for the modern family', and see pictures of Casper, the family toddler, dressed like a cross between an Old Etonian and Grayson Perry.
The party went OK; the kids were satisfied with playing in the dog basket and throwing old shoes and bones around the room. After stamping an entire birthday cake into the carpet and spilling sticky fruit juice over every available surface, they were taken home, where the sugar-free diet I had lovingly prepared for them made them vomit and cold-turkey. Next year I will shove a bit of money in a card for them while I toast them in absentia with a brace of Martinis and a nice juicy burger.