The following day we enjoyed a lazy morning, getting up a little later, taking our time in getting dressed before heading out to the reason why were there in the first place, that’s right Mama’s birthday lunch.
We arrived at the hotel after a bit of a hairy ride in the car. Having only been insured for a matter of days, it’s safe to say that the Lover wasn’t the calmest passenger in the car. And on twisty turny roads that were unfamiliar probably wasn’t the place in which to learn how to handle the Astra.
I’m pleased to announce that we did arrive there in one piece and made our way to the bar where the Lover decided a pint was in order. I would just like to add it was just before 12 at this point but I was convinced my driving hadn’t been that bad.
Now I’d already given the Lover a rundown of who was who in the family, not that it made any difference when everyone arrived, but for clarity purposes I’m going to lay it all out for you…
So there’s Mama and Mama’s partner, we’ll call her Mama El.
Now Mama has four children:
Auntie S from the North
Auntie S from the South
And my Mum. All of which were present at the lunch.
Auntie S from the North has for children: the Twins, a son (Cousin L) and a daughter (Cousin F). Her husband Uncle D was also there.
Auntie S from the South has two children, both girls: Cousin A and Cousin M.
Uncle M has two children, only his daughter was present: Cousin Ally.
There was of course my Stepdad present, my brother CJ and the Lover.
Does that sound confusing as hell? Yes, I imagine it probably does. So I’ve taken the time to put together a family tree:
Now you can refer back to it when you need to.
The first people to arrive after us were my Mum, Stepdad and CJ. Having not seen my Mum since August, you can imagine I was thrilled and also slightly stunned by her dramatic change from white blonde to dark brown. Don’t worry, I didn’t say anything stupid, she’d given me the heads up the day before my sending me a picture.
CJ was as tall as ever. Being only 16, you’d imagine him to be, oh I don’t know, around maybe 5 foot 8 or something similar? Well now that he’s 6 foot 4 and towers over my modest 5 foot 4 (and a half) frame. Always hilarious for Mother to see us together.
I collected my tea, the Lover collected his beer and we moved into the dining area where a banquet table had been set up. I say a banquet table because it was huge.
There was the awkward hellos and hugs all round as we found seats and settles down. I hadn’t seen some of my family in over 7 years. In Fact the last time I’d seen Cousin A, she’d been about six. Well now she was 14. Scary stuff. It was actually quite embarrassing because I had to get my mum to tell me exactly who was who. The Twins, Cousin L and Cousin F were a different matter. Mainly because I had them on Facebook – oh the joys of social media – but also mainly because I’d kept up to date with their lives and my Auntie.
We waited patiently but didn’t have to wait long before Mama and Mama El arrived. They walked through the door, saw us standing their expectantly and Mama burst into tears as she went round and hugged each child and grandchild. Mama El had helped planned the whole thing so she wasn’t overly surprised to see all there, but pleased none-the-less.
We stood around and chatted a little more before the grand birthday cake was revealed and it was delightful. Now Mama is known for her dog agility and the cake was a great attribute to her skills. With Mama stood in the middle, there were the weaves (the poles), the see-saw, the tunnel and the A-frame. Did I forget to mention that both of her Border Collies also featured? One had its bum hanging out the end of the tunnel, and the other was balancing on the see-saw of course!
There were presents and cards to be opened and I received a customary telling off after having taken both Mama and Mama El to Crufts earlier in the year. I’d only bought her a wooden spoon, so I think it was an acceptable gift. And not just any wooden spoon, but one that was engraved ‘Happy Birthday Mama’ and had a delightful picture of a cupcake on it too.
And for those of you who don’t know what Crufts is, you should be ashamed of yourselves. But I won’t leave you in the dark. Crufts is the world’s largest dog show. Held in Birmingham’s NEC it includes unique dog events, competitions, agility shows, and of course the Best in Show competition. It’s really an amazing place to visit. There are thousands of stands selling an array of dog items. Everything from a dog treadmill to dog portraits and of course there are lots of dogs there too. But it’s not just for adults. In fact there is a Youth Kennel Club where youngster can compete for the best Junior Handling.
I got a hug from Mama as a way of saying thank you and then she couldn’t resist hugging me a second time, claiming she doesn’t see me very often. It made me smile at least.
I returned to my seat and where I’d abandoned the Lover to wait patiently for lunch to be served. CJ, annoying as always, was going about something or other. I took the opportunity to show Mum the pictures from Chatsworth and she was, as expected, jealous.
Lunch was finally being served and I was excited to look down and see the ham, egg and chips on my plate. I cautiously pushed the fried egg to one side and tucked in. Only after everyone had been served, of course. It was a mammoth task keeping tabs on who had meals and who hadn’t. And poor Mum who had organised it all was taking charge, checking her list of preselected, pre-ordered meals to make sure everything went okay.
Only once everyone had been served could she finally relax and enjoy lunch.
I didn’t manage to finish my meal, as is tradition. (I never finish my meals basically because not only am I small and don’t provide much stomach space for food, but food establishments always insist on delivering meals that are huge and full of food – I have no idea how I’ll cope in America next year…I’ll have to children’s portions!)
We were very aware of the fact that we had to vacate the premises before 3pm. There was a wedding that the hotel needed to prepare for, so as 2.30pm loomed, it was decided it was time for some photos. So first it was Mama with all her kids: Mum, Auntie S from the North, Auntie S from the South and Uncle M. Then it was Mama with the Grandkids: Me, CJ, the Twins, Cousin F, Cousin L, Cousin M, Cousin A and Cousin Ally. There were a lot of us.
Considering CJ is heads and shoulders above everyone else, and Mama barely comes to my shoulders. It was considered funny to have him pose with Cousin L (also getting rather tall despite being a year or two younger than CJ) and Mama. What a hilarious sight that was. I think the two boys were practically double Mama’s height!
We all vacated into the car park, giving our thanks to the members of staff and climbed into our cars. Not wanting to end the family reunion there, we’d decided to reconvene at Mama’s house, only two minutes down the road.
So you may remember me mentioning the fact that I was driving. Well, we got into the car, ready to go and waited for a moment for Mum to pull out of her space and for a few cars to go first, that way we would have someone to follow because to be honest, I wasn’t too sure where I was going. We pulled out of the car park, turned left and got caught behind the traffic lights as we watched the convoy speed off down the road. Great.
Then it became a game of guess the road. Luckily the road name was familiar to me but I did sail past without enough time to pull in, so down the road we went, I pulled over, did a miraculous 3-point turn and made my way back up the road, ensuring that this time I didn’t miss the turning. Terrific. And of course I knew what the front of the house looked like so we were able to pull up within minutes and without any further problems.
We walked into the house to be greeted by a spread of party food on the table, more people than I think the house had ever seen at any one time and two overly-excited dogs, one of which was still locked in his cage whilst he calmed down.
I walked into the conservatory with the Lover, after grabbing a can of Coca-Cola to be greeted by all my cousins, Mum in the middle, and every single one of them on their phones. How sociable. I won’t deny that it didn’t take long until CJ annoyed me so much I had to leave and then it wasn’t too much longer after that when Mum needed to say her Goodbyes. Having driven up with an 11-week old puppy at home, she wasn’t at liberty to stay the night and hadn’t been able to put the puppy in care whilst they were visiting because of her vaccines, so they needed to head home and get there before midnight. Poor pooch.
We left not that long afterwards, promising Mama and Mama El that we’d stop by the following day once everyone had left and it could be a little more chilled out.
We got back to the hotel and there was a very important question on my mind. I turned to the Lover, and asked him ‘Do you still love me after all that?’ It’s okay, he said yes, but made me promise we’d never do a family reunion ever again…