I think that I can safely say that the most surreal part of the twins baptism day was trying to explain to the Taiwanese elders that I really wasn’t joking when I said that there were no toilets within walking distance on our New Forest walk, and that I was serious about the English convention of nipping behind a bush. But anyway, I am getting ahead of myself.
The baptism was to take place during 9.15 am mass on Sunday, meaning that Saturday was to be spent catering and making the house look a little less like a tornado has been through than it usually does. I find that the key to successfully preparing for a party is to offload the infants on unsuspecting friends and family.
Attempt one was sending the twins out with Grampa for a walk so that they would sleep in their pram. In my mind, they would be gone for a good two hours during which time I would whip up sufficient quiches to feed the masses. I understand that making quiche may sound a little yummy mummy. It isn’t. The yummy mummy may make homemade quiches using Waitrose recipe cards, and serve them with a variety of appropriate accompaniments. I am serving quiche because we have 4 chickens who lay an egg a day each. Despite endless promises from the sprogs when agreeing they could have chickens, none of the little buggers will eat eggs. I cannot eat 28 eggs a week by myself, so we tend to have what you might call a bit of an egglog. Quiche is the only thing I can cook using eggs, so we are having quiche. I do not use a recipe. I just chuck in a variety of ingredients then add a shed load of cheese to cover up the taste.
Sadly, attempt one failed. The twins were returned minus several items including a hat and a welly, and a teddy within 30 minutes. Apparently they had devised a new game which was essentially a competition to see who could undress and lob their clothing out of the pram fastest. Grampa was not amused. He spent the next hour retracing his steps to find the missing items while the twins laid siege to the kitchen smashing eggs wherever they went.
Call in the Uncles. One took the eldest, Grandma took the second child and the other two took the twins. This allowed just enough time to clean up the smashed eggs before the emergency parental assistance calls started coming thick and fast. I gave up. I will cook and clean during the night. I mean it is not like the little sods sleep anyway, so I won’t be missing out. I think the yummy mummy may have something in considering the merits of just ordering the whole shebang from Waitrose and declaring it homemade. Unfortunately, I am too bloody stubborn to be outdone. And I need to use up 56 eggs, so there it is.
So it came the morning of the baptism. Believe it or not, I had actually laid out clothes in advance. I hadn’t bothered ironing them though, nor had I factored in the time it would take to wash the kids, clean the floor, clean the kitchen etc. I found an amazing solution. Apparently if you lock the kids in a room with a Solero ice cream each for breakfast, and put Horrid Henry on, you will get at least 20 minutes grace as they will be so bemused by this behaviour that they reckon they ought not to chance their luck. The downside is that you really only secure 15 minutes as you lose the other 5 trying to sponge Solero out of a twins hair.
On masse, we made it to the church, guests, family, friends, and the twin we forgot but went back for. The service required a sense of humour, but to be honest, I have developed a thick skin so all but the very most embarrassing moments pass me by. We were allocated the front seats. The yummy mummy probably would have seen this as an opportunity to display her little darlings to the whole congregation. I just thought damn it. The probability of the twins trying to pick the pulpit flowers, blow out the candles or peer up the Fathers robes is significantly increased by the lack of obstacles between them and the pulpit. Up until the actual moment oft he baptism itself, the only moment of note was one twin shrieking “I need a big pooh!” During a prayer, to which the other twin yelled the standard response ” And I need a wee!”. I find that in these moments the best thing to do is to take their hands and lead them to the toilet without actually meeting the eye of anyone in the congregation while reciting to myself “You have potty trained twins by the age of 2 and no yummy mummy will ever have achieved this. Despite all appearances to the contrary you are a genius.” Undoubtedly, the yummy mummy’s child would discreetly whisper something like ” Mummy, I need to use the bathroom.” Or something to that effect.
I am not going to describe the actual Baptism in detail. Suffice to say that pouring water on their heads did not go down well, the twin wailing caused much amusements within the congregation, and I am not sure the Father will ever apply the baptism oil with such bravado again following the biting incident. The less said about that, the better. We also escaped with only two candle inflicted injuries, which I class as success.
Objective achieved, we all proceeded to the house for a celebration. Amazingly, no-one seemed to suspect that the reason they weren’t allowed to open the cloakroom (I cited faulty hinges) was the fact that I had stuffed half the household contents in there to make the house look tidy, and to open it would result in an avalanche. The only minor catering hitch was that I had only made quiche, pavlova and trifle (actually, the grandmas made those, but let’s not be picky) and one guest had a dairy allergy. Cue junk food raid of freezer!
We were truly blessed to have our previous au pair and her family travel from New York and Taiwan to share our day. Having failed to make any proper plans, after a couple of glasses of bubbly, I suggested a New Forest trip to look for ponies. In my mind, I pictured a wonderful family walk followed by a fireside roast dinner. This was greeted with great enthusiasm by my guests. The yummy mummy would probably have taken a well planned local riverside walk and brought everyone home for a homemade dinner. I had nothing but quiche, so having promised dinner, I frantically called New Forest pubs to find someone who could accommodate us at such short notice. Mission achieved, we set off in several cars. We ploughed our way into a truly soggy car park in the forest, and my family leapt out applying puddle suits and wellies. We set off across the grass and quickly realised that the Taiwanese contingent was not following. Instead, they stood shivering, and then we looked at their feet And saw the pumps. Change of plan, we decided to stick to the path.
As we left the car park, following some whisperings with the elders who do not speak English, I was asked where the toilets were. I laughed, then realised that they were serious. I advised that we could get in the car and drive a few miles to somewhere there were public toilets, or they could just nip behind a bush. They laughed (following a translation). They asked again where the convenience store was, pointing to a path leading into the depths of the forest. After 5 minutes of questioning we established the following:
1. In both New York and Taipei it is pretty much impossible to go 1 minute without an accessible public convenience.
2. They have never been anywhere that there is not an immediately accessible public convenience.
3. They finally accept that I am totally not joking about nipping behind the bush as they have confirmed they can’t hold on for long enough to drive to the nearest loos.
4. I have persuaded them that it is a local convention that no-one will look if they nip behind a bush.
5. I think this is one of the funniest conversations I have ever had in my life.
Loo stop behind us, we set off. I spend a lot of my life cursing Peppa Pig, and one of the main reasons is the total encouragement to jump in muddy puddles. Any parent will know that kids wellies are stupidly short and will only protect against the most shallow of puddles. Peppa pig has indoctrinated kids so that if they see a puddle of any size, they must jump in it. We made it approximately 200m from the bush, which was approximately 200m from the car before a twin jumped in a proper puddle. I had to pour the water out of the boots to a chorus of screaming. We abandoned the Forest and proceeded to the pub where I ordered lots of wine, and we sat by the fire. Our Taiwanese guests only took an hour or so to defrost.
Unbelievably, despite the puddles, lack of ponies and bushgate, we have been invited to Taiwan. Given the difficulty in surviving a day in England, I think we will leave it a few years before we brave Taiwan!