It was interesting. I remember these from when I was a kid, running around in plastic black shoes and touching the font (would it, oh would it open up into Narnia?). I'd forgotten how loud they were though - Petra was eerily silent in her vast cake of a gown, but the other babies squealed all the way through.
The exception was Kate's Amelia. Kate's always had A Very Hard Stare that's worked wonders on a succession of boyfriends. Amelia tried out a tentative wail and Kate just glanced at her. Amelia closed her mouth and went to sleep.
But what to get as a present? A tankard? In the end, I went to a bookshop and grabbed all the books that meant the most to me when I was a kid. Wasted on Petra, who is a mere few months, but I figured Gemma and Serge would find them funny when they'd finally got rid of their dull Dutch cousins ("oh! London is craaaaa-zy, yes? Wild, huh?").
So Gemma and Serge got:
- Alice in Wonderland - dull but obvious
- Miffy - she always seemed so sad. And now kids get a version they can stroke.
- Flat Stanley - still as weird as ever
- Richard Scarry - although the Rainy Day Activity Book is long out of print. Boo.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar - the first book I ever read. My appetite has been regulated ever since by the belief that if I eat enough, I'll become pretty.
- Eloise - actually never read these, but saw an article about them in Vanity Fair and decided they're just the kind of books I should have read.
- Mr Happy - is happy. Therefore good.
I left out Mog the Cat (dated - Mog foils a robber stealing cutlery), and a Moomin story book (yikes! how creepy were they?). Also figured Tintin/Asterix are barred until Gemma and Serge decide which language Petra will enjoy them in.
Most of the fun came at the lunch party afterwards. Especially the pack of slightly deranged single women, surrounded by tired young mums and fat young dads.
Appallingly aware of our singleness, we all started to drink very quickly, and laugh loudly and brittly. "You're gay," they bayed, "Surely you're having a lot of sex!"
"No, not really," I explained. "There's this nice man, and we go out for drinks and hold hands."
"Awwww," they all said.
"Now, there's my friend who's just come out of a relationship. He's very attractive, he's a single gay man, he doesn't feel like another boyfriend, so he's working his way through gay London at warp speed."
"Oh, how sad," they all said.
"What? He's having the time of his life."
"No, no, no, not really," they all said. "He's doing it to hide the pain."
"Then he's hiding it very thoroughly. And in a lot of different places. Five last Sunday."
"That's so tragic!" they sighed.
"But he's just come out of a relationship. He's cheering himself up, proving that he's sexy and desirable, and making a lot of rough men happy. What's wrong with that?"
One broke away from the chorus - "It's... it's.... it's just wrong."
"Basically because he's having a lot of sex?"
"A lot of sex and no emotional involvement?"
"There's no such thing as meaningless sex! How can you say that!" they all roared.
"I didn't say it was meaningless. Casual sex makes him happy and it makes me happy - on a dull Sunday afternoon there's really nothing like a blow job behind an oak tree for cheering you up. It's fun... and if you learn their names and how long they've been over here from Brazil, then it's pleasant and polite, but that's it."
They just stared at me. One of them shook her head.
I suddenly realised - I really don't understand women.