Who wants to stroke the grumpy boa constrictor? 

My family don’t really like animals. We also don’t really like mud. We’re not overly keen on being outside in the freezing cold. So for our daughter’s third birthday in January, we booked her a farm party, complete with a stroke-the-creatures package.

My first faux pas was inviting more than the maximum amount of invitees allowed. How was I supposed to know that babies counted as people? And also not inviting people I wanted to, and then realising after the party. 

Secondly, I was a bit miffed that last year I had booked the ‘party room’ for a tenner and this year we had to pay ten times that. Apparently they had cottoned on to people like me ignoring their party packages and having a farmy rave on the cheap. 

So I invited ten thousand children, forgot some of my good friends, and bought some cake with Paddington’s face on it. It felt really disturbing to cut into that. I couldn’t afford party bags after paying out for the farm, kids’ overly-sugary lunch and cake but I justified this to myself by hoping that parents wouldn’t mind not coming home with more plastic toys so soon after Christmas.

It was a delightful start to the day. Party day was here; excitement was high and, as a result, there were a few meltdowns. Surprisingly not from my daughter. My husband and I did not handle the build up well. Our crowning moment was dropping all three cakes on their faces and both swearing in front of my sister-in-law. Thankfully our daughters didn’t seem to notice and our eldest didn’t learn a new word that day. 

Once we had calmed down (well nearly. My brother was desperately trying to be helpful in setting up the childrens’ lunch bags and got snapped at for not ‘sticking to the system’) our friends started to arrive and we got some time to go and ‘enjoy’ the animals.

The farm-man gave us a bucket of feed with strict instructions to only feed three types of animal with it. I instantly forgot which three he had said so handed out bags with vague guesswork and prayer that we didn’t accidentally kill any alpacas. I haven’t had any letters through the post or seen any news items so we probably got away with it. 

I helped my daughter and her friends throw some feed at the sheep. I want to say to the sheep but that wouldn’t really be accurate. They needed some encouragement by demonstration to let the goats eat out of their hand so I, begrudgingly, stuck my hand near enough to let a grimy goat nibble and lick pellets from my hand. I gagged inwardly but was willing if it meant it would give the children confidence to try something new. It did not. They watched me get mauled by this creepy creature and then flat out refused to have anything to do with it.

The time then came for us to congregate in the party room for the stroking ceremony. The farm-man (maybe he is called a farmer on reflection) brought in four helpers and five animals between them all. His helpers looked little older than our bunch of toddlers which concerned me slightly. What if the animals decided to make a break for it…? I didn’t hold out much hope that the mini farmers would be able to do much to stop a mutiny.

There was a seemingly gentle guinea pig, an oversized rabbit who looked suspicious…as if he had possibly eaten all the other rabbits…two nasty looking ferrets and a snake. I had not expected them to bring a snake. A boa constrictor they informed us. To a children’s birthday party. I’m no expert but that didn’t seem sensible to me. Mr Farmer introduced the animals who all had names like Barry, or Sir-eat-a-lot. I can’t actually remember what they were called. I was too busy making sure that bloke had a firm enough grip on the baby reptile.

After his pleasant introduction, he casually dropped into conversation that the children mustn’t touch the snake’s head or he might get grumpy. Brilliant. I knew from the look in his eyes that he had secretly brought a killing machine into the room. My husband had taken it upon himself to ‘give our baby some air’ which was a great excuse to avoid this whole situation.

I counted it a great success that the sharp-fanged, stretchy ferrets didn’t snap anyone’s fingers off and the rabbit didn’t eat the guinea pig in front of the children. You could tell he was tempted. The snake also behaved itself and I didn’t stick around long enough to see if he was indeed getting grumpy or not. 

The cakes also survived our earlier mash-up and we piled plenty of sugar into everyone. Our daughter was sung to, which was actually all she wanted from a party: “cake and everyone sing to me”. Mission accomplished. That was it for another year. Although we now have another child so we need to do this kind of shindig twice a year.

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