Alfie’s current obsession is Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. And when I say obsessed, I mean really obsessed. We have read every book in the series, all the annuals we could find on eBay, visited Corfe Castle (Blyton’s original inspiration for Kirrin) and endlessly played out various mysteries and everyday scenarios (I’m George, he’s Julian, Kitty is Anne, Harry is Dick and Peggy is Timmy). So, when it came to his sixth birthday party I had an inkling of the theme he’d want. It so happened that we finished the Famous Five series and started on Blyton’s Circus stories about a month before his party, and thus the amalgamated theme was born (the Five are always bumping into circus folk on their adventures anyway. We booked the same hall as last year and the retro theme actually made life easier. The Famous Five didn’t have fancy balloons and party poppers, so we decorated simply with paper chains and bunting I made from a vintage Famous Five card game I snapped up on Etsy.
As there were going to be 25 children, I decided to book two instructors from Circus Brighton to come along and teach the children circus skills. It was a big hit – they were let loose on poi, hula hoops, flower sticks, contact staffs, gym ribbons, juggling scarves and balls, stilts, clown bikes, diablos, plate spinning and pedal balances. The entertainers were great and really engaged the children for over an hour, playing musical statues while the kids tried out the equipment, organising a great pass the parcel involving different coloured bags (and a prize of juggling balls for a delighted Alfie), then getting into teams and rehearsing and putting on a show. Things got quite competitive with the parents!
Meanwhile, my crack team of grandparents and I got to grips with the food. I decided on a picnic theme for tea – red and white gingham paper tablecloths, cheese and jam sandwiches, wrapped in baking paper tied with butcher’s twine and presented in gingham-lined baskets, crudites in old Bonne Maman jam jars (the ones I used as vases for Kitty’s naming day), cheese scones and (veggie) sausage rolls. My dad made George’s boat from a watermelon and filled it with fruit ona jelly sea and mum made Timmy biscuits, campfire and Famous Five cupcakes, plus an amazing cake featuring all the gang camping out. She used edible pebbles and yoghurt raisins around the campfire and for the river banks, modelled the faces and tents and Timmy herself. For drinks I discovered some amazingly bargainous mini milk bottles from Ampulla (we use them all the time now) and teamed them with red and white stripy straws and apple juice masquerading as ginger beer.
I wanted the party bags to be like an adventure kit, so the kraft paper lunch bags contained a metal adventure compass (which I bought in bulk from eBay, but are also available from John Lewis), small keyring torch (again bought in bulk) and printed ‘Lashings of Ginger Beer’ pencil from Pobble & Ping, along with a Boo Bear Bean camping badge from our very own Shop BG, plus a packet of Bear Paws fruit snacks. Small siblings received a Lanka Kade wooden Timmy from Adventure Toys, along with Bear Paws. I sealed the bags with round stickers I made from a picture of the Five found in The Enid Blyton Adventure Treasury. Alfie chose to wear a Boden mystery t-shirt with his La Loi fire eater leggings, perfectly combining Famous Five with the circus! It was a great success and children have been talking about/revisiting their circus skills in the playground ever since. Such a marvellous party – I will definitely look at retro themes again. Stay tuned for Kitty’s 3rd birthday party next month…