Birthday parties

Birthday parties used to be so simple… I mean of course children’s parties – I’m sure adult parties were always more complicated…

A few friends would be invited to a party, maybe six or eight. most of us lived in small houses with small rooms; they tended to be the same friends so you would meet the same gang every time, but sometimes a new face would appear… or, oh dear, someone would not be invited who had expected to be… much hurt and private heartache. If you weren’t invited to a ‘friend’s’ party you took it on the chin, with a stiff upper lip, never betraying the hurt, disappointment, and a sense of failure – that somehow you’d been cast out without knowing why.

Invitations would be written out, usually on a card in an envelope, with RSVP at the bottom, and a reply was returned, on a card, in an envelope – all the cheapest Woolworth’s stationery of course. A present would be bought, for a girl it might be bath cubes – do they still make bath cubes? They usually came in a box with a fancy ribbon, a very nice little luxury in those days! The cubes dissolved completely in bath water and washed away safely.. Talcum powder, notelets, fancy colouring pencils,.. I remember my friend gave me two pots of poster paint, one was my favourite colour, Prussian Blue, but I don’t remember the other… a simple gift by today’s standards, but then it seemed imaginative, exciting, and just what I wanted – she must have saved her pocket-money to buy it!

Presents would be nicely wrapped, and proper thanks would always be given (even if with a prompt from a parent) There would be the same games played, pass the parcel, musical statues, charades, ‘how green you are’… and then at one party we had a strange activity which we all thought was so exciting and scary. We sat in a circle on the floor and the lights were turned out; things were passed round which were supposed to be part of a dead body (pretty gruesome, actually) peeled grapes for the eyes, tinned spaghetti for the intestines, a rubber glove filled with warm water for the hand… and so on. We were so excited, horrified, and amazed at the parents who had thought of this!

These parents might have been the same ones who gave us such an original party tea. Usually it was sandwiches, bread and butter, buns, jelly… they gave us poached eggs… except they weren’t, they were peach halves in milk jelly… gosh, how sophisticated we were!

In the summer we might go outside for the games, all the usual running around sort of games; as with the indoor ones the winner received a little prize. This was so exciting and so appreciated – to go to a party with a gift, and come home with something, even if it was only a single bath cube, a sherbet fountain, a tiny notebook! The last game we played before our parents came to collect us was Pass the parcel. There were no sweets hidden between layers of paper, no jokes, riddles or forfeits, only a single prize hidden in the middle! How exciting to win!

The last birthday party I had was several years ago; we had my husband’s band playing, we had loads of guests, a buffet, loads of drink, lots of dancing… and balloons! My featured image is of a party much longer ago, my sister and me!


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