All women who have ever entertained at home know it’s no small feat.
It started on Thursday. Usually, for just the two of us, I shop around the corner at the Co-op and with smiling Sakti at the Fruit & Veg, but this party called for a trip to gourmet-splendiferous Waitrose.
Because we don’t own a car since moving to the big city, and being impossible to haul 20 bags of groceries on the bus, we hired a car from the Connect club to pull off the mammoth shop.
When sis-outlaw Christine touched down at Heathrow on Saturday morning, fresh from the Land of Oz, she set off with Andrew to pop in on Liz at Buck House while I got stuck into the wonder dips.
In the midst of the messy business of baking eggplants, (that’s aubergine to you English readers), boiling chickpeas, chopping garlic and chilli and squeezing lemons, I wondered ‘why bother’ with whipping up homemade dips when I could rip the lid off the fantastic plastic in a snap and be done with it! Nevertheless I was eager to show off my healthy new cuisine to the party throng so I ended up with a mountain of Baba Ganoush and Houmous fit for an Arabian feast and Guacamole any Mexican mamma would be proud of.
The gooey lentil burger mixture was left to bind in the fridge overnight and the hand-ground pesto, bursting with fragrant basil, was set to go.
On Sunday, the day dawned bright and sunny. What a lucky break in Autumn which can swing either way. So we borrowed some chairs from the neighbours, Andrew zapped the mower over the tiny patch of lawn that is our backyard and we assembled the seating and tropical drinks trolley alongside the squirrel feeder and jasmine bush.
I whipped up the now famous vegan chocolate cake loaded with the last of the summer raspberries. This was Justine’s 22nd birthday cake. She was in Australia for her 21st with her larger-than-life, adorable boyfriend, Andreas who threw the most spectacular surprise birthday bash so this was our chance to give her a homespun party in our new digs.
As coincidence would have it, seemed every stray Aussie under the southern cross decided to blow in right on cue for the celebration; Auntie Chris was returning for the first time ever to Old Blighty after migrating in her parents’ arms as a baby. Tom’s beautiful girlfriend, Hannah had arrived with her dancing shoes ready to take on West End. Emma’s parents Andy and Cathy were over from Bris Vegas and the marvellously mellow Marcus had jetted in, all sun-kissed from Bali.
What a delightful collection of friends Justine has gathered around her in just 18 months of moving countries and getting established in London. It was a hoot to meet animated actress Teresa who could launch into an entertaining performance with every turn of the conversation.
Jussy’s bubbly flat mate Gillian is the genuine article Brit amidst a bevy of Aussie chicks. Sweet young Emily is a girlfriend from Jussy’s high school days doing her Overseas Experience (OSE).
Big Brother Daniel was looking sharp in a new jacket. He has made his little sister welcome in the UK by including her in his vast circle of friends, amongst them the amiable, fun-loving Michael and his stunning finance Alma.
And the muso lads, Andy and Tom, Jordan and Kano were fast converting to my pitta pizzas, while soaking up the fading rays stretched out on the sun loungers. I’m sure the beer helped the chewy crusts go down!
My new gal pal, the flamboyant Chrissy made the trip from Derbyshire to join the festivities and witness the extravagant speeches, our great family tradition. After proud dad, big brother and me had all made lavish tributes toasting our adorable Jussy, exuberant boyfriend Andy stepped up and sent shockwaves through everyone’s spine and sparked a collective gasp when he dropped to one knee to propose! But it was just a teasing practise run for the real thing.
And then Devoted Dad suggested we go around the circle and everyone got to say nice things about Jussy. The love and genuine affection flowed like honey for a gorgeous girl with the kindest heart. But as her dad stated proudly, she is no longer a girl but a young woman in all her radiant beauty, on the threshold of her glorious 20s.
As if all this wasn’t enough to fill a mother’s heart to the brim, once we could coax Tom to pick up the guitar, the Beatles sing-along session got underway. My lover-man was on the other guitar and everyone was in fine voice. Young Jordan graced us with a dramatic flourish on the keyboard.
It was outrageous fun belting out old favourites until late into the night and if the neighbours didn’t know we were Aussies before they sure did after our rowdy rendition of Still Call Australia Home!
It was a night to remember and worth every bit of effort and all the washing-up (thanks Chris!) These celebrations are the reward for years of parenting, gifts from above, that make life rich and wonderful and make your heart swell with gratitude.
And by the way, for those of you curious about the results of my 28-day Detox, I have lost a total of 53 cms and now fit into my party dress and skinny jeans! We’re off to Ireland tomorrow. There’s no stopping me now!