Alison Goulding: ‘Which-It-Is Day’

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When you are three, with curly blonde hair, blue eyes and a cheeky grin, you don’t realise how popular you are.

Unless you are taking part in a toddler pageant, you are by default the most interesting and cutest person in the room.

My brother came back up North at the weekend for some early birthday celebrations, bringing with him my young nephew.

Despite his tender age he threw himself wholeheartedly into assisting with the party planning.

My family courted his opinion on the type of cake we should make, the decorations that should adorn it, and the sort of entertainment that would follow on from there.

Bombarded by options, he renamed the gathering ‘Which-It-Is Day’ before retiring to draw pictures of trucks.

But a consensus was reached and a sophisticated arrangement of cat-shaped jelly, monster cake and pass the parcel drew a gentle arc around my brother’s 34th year.

It was lovely.

Candles and cake can be a sober affair when you’re all grown up – but when there are little ones around it’s good times and no mistake.

Before we’d even sat down to eat he’d demonstrated his seagull and JCB digger impression, the latter using the dustpan. When I pretend to be animals or machinery I rarely get the same support or applause – I’m not sure why.

After he’d finished being a bird he let me cuddle him.

He was covered, inexplicably, in salami, and still clutching four pieces that he’d bunched into his fist for later.

I think you know you really love someone when they’re covered in meat and you still want to pick them up.

Dinner was followed by Lego construction. He requested a tractor, trailer and a combined harvester and stared at me beadily like a pedantic foreman while I tried to think what those things might look like.

My trailer and combine harvester were roundly jeered – poor colour choice and the wrong shape no less – but the tractor passed muster.

He then helped my brother blow out the candles. Before the wax had even cooled he was busy extracting them.

“I’ll just get these because they are quite hot still,” he said, demonstrating a flair for protecting his family from minor burns and a determination for cake.

He danced like a dervish during musical statues and triumphed over the adults, whose balance was compromised by mild arthritis.

The prize was a pink Quality Street which he hastily dispatched and spread up his arms and around his face.

Allegations of cheating by the adults soured pass the parcel a little, but we were soon back on track with Chinese Whispers. While my nephew trudged off for bath time with his mum and dad, the remaining adults gathered wistfully in the kitchen.

One of my siblings piped up hopefully: “Which one out of us was cutest when we were little?”

My mum paused for a moment then smiled in an evil way: “You were all equally... revolting.” she said laughing,

“And have continued in the same vein ever since.”

Humph.