I can tell you what you don’t need, two hours before you’re playing ‘hostess’ at a soirée for the p2 mums, and that’s The Mothership on the telephone.
I’m hosting a night for my friend who sells Tropic products. I’m totally smitten by Tropic with all its green credentials and the fact that it makes me look visibly more youthful, which is no easy feat, I can tell you.
I’m stuck in a traffic jam at the Rosetta roundabout, having collected two fatigued children from dancing. I’ve stopped off with the crew at Harper’s Yard to pick up grown-up cupcakes and rocky road bars, when the phone goes. I answer in a weary tone, which is instantly detected.
MOTHERSHIP: I’m just ringing to see how preparations are going for your ‘do’. I’m assuming, from your tone, not well.
SWB (irked) : I’m fine. Just nipping home to clear up a bit (in other words, gather armfuls of shite and hide behind the sofa or in a laundry bin or shove into one of the many ‘drawers of doom’.
MOTHERSHIP: Well, what I was really ringing for….
(Ah fuck, here we go, I think)
…is to check that you’ve cleaned the downstairs toilet. I would heave in a good capful of bleach: LEAVE for half an hour, NO LESS, then give a good scrub round with a brush. Don’t forget to flush.
SWB (through gritted teeth): RIGHT.
MOTHERSHIP: You can tell a lot about a person from the state of their toilet. And I’m sorry to say, yours is often in a terrible state. I’d be ashamed, actually, if anyone were to come in, and see it. With regards to the sink, I saw on Monday that it was grimy around the plughole. I advise taking an old tooth brush and a spray of Dettol to that.
SWB: Is that it?
MOTHERSHIP, (AKA MRS HINCH): No, it is NOT all. What I want to know is this: what do you intending feeding these people?
SWB (sighing): Gin and tonic cupcakes, rocky roads, homemade guacamole, an assortment of crisps and a ‘mayonnaisey’ dip from Alison.
(I am very pleased, proud even, with the range of refreshments I have gathered. There are four bottles of Proscecco chilling in the fridge, plus an assortment of red and white wines and 2 non-alcoholic alternatives. I have even scrounged some wire off a child in school and intend to craft little ‘glass charms’ to fix to glasses so people don’t mix up their beverages.)
MOTHERSHIP: Excuse me? Crisps and a dip?
SWB: Two dips. And buns.
MOTHERSHIP (aghast): I’ve never heard the like. I thought a fork supper would be more in keeping. Some of these mummies might not have had time for their tea! They could end up on their ear, with all that drink.
SWB: It’s not until 8 pm, they’ll have had their dinner.
MOTHERSHIP: Would you not put the oven on for a few cocktail sausages? Hard to beat a sausage, I think. Denny are probably your best bet.
SWB: I’ve made a lot of dip.
MOTHERSHIP: Come to think on it, I have some vol-au-vents in the freezer. I could take a run up and they’d almost be defrosted.
SWB (in a state of mild panic, envisioning the Mothership arriving and causing all manner of chaos in the kitchen): NO. Absolutely no need.
MOTHERSHIP (ignoring me and sounding increasingly animated at the prospect at the prospect of a jaunt): I have a lot of mushrooms I could make into a sauce with a tin of Campbell’s Chicken Soup, and you could have mushroom patties. Do you like my mushroom patties? They go down a treat up at the church.
SWB: I think we’ve enough, honestly. Now I’m nearly home here…
MOTHERSHIP: You sound very crabbed. I’m only trying to prevent another incident like last Easter.
(Oh God. So last Easter, I over-exerted myself. I had all the family for Easter Sunday, then a party on the Monday, with about 12 people and consumed a significant amount of Rioja, and then, on the Tuesday, I had my aunt and her daughter and HER daughter. I was ill-prepared and hungover, if I’m being truthful. Normally, my children don’t eat much, but on that occasion, they ate all round them. There was very little food to go around in the end, and the disappointment was evident).
MOTHERSHIP: ONE pizza. ONE pizza, between how many of you? And then there was supposed to be a soup, which never actually materialised. And left over cheesecake. One slice. When I THINK about it, I’m embarrassed all over again.
SWB: I digest this with a stony, mortified silence. Tragically, she has more or less summed up the situation accurately, except there were a few crisps and some sandwiches; chicken, if I remember correctly.
MOTHERSHIP:Well, before you go, take a duster to those window sills. And put out napkins. I hate it when I go out, and there’s not a napkin; it shows a distinct lack of foresight.
SWB (frostily): Will do.
Despite my mother’s reservations, doubts, even, the night is a success. One by one, mums arrive, bearing bags of wine, crisps and chocolate for children. The Older Child is very taken with the Tropic party, and writes little notes beside products. : ‘Go on, buy me!’ ‘Take me home, I smell fruity!’
The Small Child is ‘serving’ which means I hover around her with a look of desperation to make sure nothing’s smashed. She’s actually very careful. I, on the other hand, have been clumsy of late (I think the period is due) and with that in mind, have borrowed several large plastic glasses. They are much easier to wash and dry, as I can be heavy handed and many’s a wine glass has met its end because of my vigorous washing up style.
People in Belfast, I find, are a most magnanimous bunch. Even friends who can’t make the soirée, lend chairs and plate stands and send up foodstuffs. With at least 6 unopened bottles of wine, I try to press them upon my visitors as they leave. They look almost offended at the prospect. I enjoy a mini-facial from Pauline, our delightful Tropic rep, and as I sit, glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand, savouring the hints of vanilla and lime from the cleanser, I think, really, there are worth ways to spend an evening all right. At 12-30 though, my stomach starts to grumble. ‘Feck, I think, ‘a wee mushroom pattie would have gone down quite nicely after all.’
(Rocky Road with dark chocolate, almonds, cranberries and pistachio. Below, gin and tonic cupcakes. Harper’s Yard on top of their game, as always)