I have now been to many, many children’s parties. They usually take place in venues like ‘Krazy Kingdom’ – which is basically a soulless hangar on an industrial estate in County Durham. Rather than eat there, I usually take the children to enjoy the superior fare at the truckers’ café in the layby up the road.
Aurora often gets invitations from the girls in her class and the gifts are invariably ‘Hello Kitty’ or ‘Barbie’-related. Today was unusual. It was a boy’s party and I got the impression from the tasteful invitation that the family was ‘arty’.
I was right.
The party food was surprising: baked potatoes with a range of crudités. The cakes and biscuits looked homemade. There was a professional storyteller. If we think of Krazy Kingdom as the factory farming of play, then we had moved into very organic territory.
After the conventional joys of 'pass the parcel' the mother rallied the group for some drama games. The children were placed in small groups and each group was urged to use the power of imagination to create a ‘frozen scene’ for the rest of the kids to decipher. I watched as each group froze in turn: a football scene, a tableau in which 3 little girls enjoyed an imaginary afternoon tea. Those efforts were guessed fairly promptly and the young creatives were congratulated on their ingenuity and stillness.
‘Brilliant!’ enthused the mother. ‘Next group please.’
Then another food-related scene took shape and Aurora was involved. I looked on and thought that it looked like some kind of buffet – as she and 2 other little girls looked as though they were about to pick up some food. I wondered if the kids were fantasising about some conventional party food and dipping imaginary spoons into imaginary jelly. Their faces had a kind of ‘Oooh Tasty!’ expression as they reached towards the invisible dishes. The mother looked around to solicit guesses from the other children. A well-mannered boy raised his hand:
‘Is it Yo Sushi!?’