Saturday, 1 September 2012

Code Name 'Book Club'

I know I haven’t been near my keyboard for a while and for that I apologise. But I have a good reason. I haven’t forgotten my promise to keep you updated with my quest to get published, but allow me this digression…I’m sure it won’t be the only one. My husband turned 60 a couple of weeks ago, and I have been planning a surprise party for him.  You will be pleased to know that it all went well, the secret was kept, and the surprise was indeed a surprise, a well-received one at that.

Has anyone ever organised a surprise party? It’s a lot of work isn’t it? I am pretty confident that I won’t do it again. The hardest part for me was not being able to talk to Peter about it. Sitting in front of the TV at the end of the day, I would have to constantly stop myself from saying,
‘Do you think I should organise games for your party?’ or
‘Do you think there’ll be enough food for your party? And so on.  Luckily I tend to think before I speak, and as a result I was able to stop myself from saying anything.

I started planning way back in February, sending out Date Holders, stipulating that all future correspondence about the party would be referred to as 'Book Club', and knocking about with a few ideas. The planning started to get more intense a couple of months prior to the party, and the last three weeks before ‘P’ day were full on. My main problem was how to get organised while keeping Peter in the dark.

Peter and I live alone with our girls, Willow and Alba, and we have enough of everything to comfortably entertain 8 people, chairs, cutlery, crockery, glasses etc. and space to accommodate 4 guests.  I had 44 RSVPs with 15 people wanting to stay overnight!  I won’t bore you with all of the details; suffice it to say that many of our guests came prepared.

In order to throw Peter off the scent, I planned a fake BBQ for the following day (the Sunday) with just the immediate family; five guests.  That allowed me to explain away the extra cheeses, crackers and other party nibbles

I arranged caterers for the food; they were very good and supplied everything needed for the meal.  Our local party hire supplied the extra tables, chairs and a few braziers for the evening; and the balloons which lasted about 30 minutes thanks to the wind and Willow. Some good friends collected the cake on their way to the party, others were kind enough to bring some ice, (I still owe you for that,) my dad-in-law did a brilliant job in getting Peter out of the house so that the pandemonium could begin, and my mum helped me to finalise everything and to put up the marquee from hell. (That is a blog all in itself, I’m still traumatised over the act of erecting that damned marquee, but I might be willing to write about it…one day.)

The party was on the Saturday before Sunday’s fake BBQ and the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before that were pure chaos. Last minute shopping, and hiding of the shopping, last minute planning, re-planning, panicking and finding a solution, only to do it all again.  My dad-in-law arrived, and I have to say was duly ignored while mum and I continued to run around like a couple of chooks with our heads chopped off.

Saturday morning found us all enjoying a relaxed cup of coffee over breakfast, chatting easily about this and that until dad finally convinced Peter it was time to leave. He did well, at 8:40am, 20 minutes earlier than expected; they were gone, with a friendly reminder to refill the gas bottle for the “BBQ” on Sunday as they went on their merry way.

I closed the gate behind them and strolled casually down the driveway waving to them as they left the estate.  Once they were out of sight I started to run and I didn’t stop until…well, it felt like three days later. Between 8:40 and 12:15, mum and I faced the evil marquee, it put up a valiant fight, and found an ally in the strong westerly wind, but in the end we won. The caterers arrived minutes after we had defeated the marquee, which was a good thing as it was for them. Hidden away at the east end of our house, they set up their spit roasts and started cooking a selection of meats and fresh veggies, yum. The party hire stuff arrived and was promptly hidden. Why hide it?  Oh I forgot to tell you. Well instead of Peter walking into the house on his return and having everyone jump out from behind the furniture yelling, surprise! I mean let’s face it, we haven’t got that much furniture, I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted him to walk into the house, to see everything was the same as when he left, then he would answer a knock at the door. Get the picture?
So where was I? Oh yes the marquee was beaten, the caterers and party hire bits and pieces had arrived, morning tea was set up behind closed doors in the laundry and the guests started to arrive.

The cars were hidden from sight on the far eastern side of the paddock, my Belladonna tree being the cut off zone. I was running around trying to place all of the clues for the treasure hunt (yes I did plan some games) stopping only to welcome more guests, then ignoring them, one of my closest friends yelled out at me every time I was within hearing range:
‘Jo, go and have a shower.’
You know who you are, and you were right.  I was sweaty and still wearing my daggy house clothes and time was running out.  Finally there was no more I could do, everyone, and everything was here and out of sight, it was indeed time for me to have a shower and get into my party dress.

All that was left to do now was to wait for Peter to arrive home. We got the word that he was close, and we all hid behind the marquee and set a sentry to watch the entrance of our housing estate.  After a false alarm, he was finally home. As the car drove into the garage we all began to tippy-toe around to the front of the house, only to have me hold up my hand to stop them as he walked out of the garage to say hello to Willow & Alba. Quickly, and I must say silently we tippy-toe-ran back around the side of the house. He disappeared again and again we started on our tippy-toe way. We got a bit further this time before I heard him call out to dad, ‘I’m going to close the gate.’

Well that could not happen, he’d see everything! Once more my hand was raised and back they all went to hide while I ran through the laundry door and called out to mum,
                ‘Tell him to leave it open, I have to go out!’
The message was passed and the crisis was over. Then the bugger called out:
                ‘Ok. I’m just going to get a coke.’
Now the coke is kept in the fridge in my hobby room which backs onto the garage. Unfortunately that is also where I had stashed all of the party hire stuff. I called out.
                ‘I’ve got one in here all ready for you love, ice and all.’
I waited until I heard his footsteps coming up the hall before I bolted back out through the laundry door. I knew he was inside now, so I didn’t hesitate, everyone was rushed around to the front of the house where they took their positions while I ran up the driveway and into the neighbouring property, to get the best photographic vantage point. Within seconds we were ready and someone stepped forward to knock on the door.

‘SURPRISE!’ We all yelled, and it was.


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