One of the wonderful things about my parents is that their house has always been open to, well, pretty much anyone. I hope that I have been able to carry that forward into my adult life, because it is one of the things that I most admire about Mum and Dad.
Of course, I didn’t really appreciate this as a child (there was one incident which ought to have alerted me to it, which I will write about one day) but as a teenager they did something which many people have since told me that they find astonishing. They allowed my friend and workmate Amanda Sharp to have her 18th birthday party at our house.
I should say that Amanda wasn’t a total stranger to my parents. She was, in some way, related to one of their oldest friends and we had actually taken her on holiday to Scotland a few years before (again, in a later post I will explain just why I have a photo of a teenage Amanda wearing little more than a pair of navy blue knickers). By this time, though, Amanda – or Manda, as she liked to be called in those days – had grown up and was living in a hostel which didn’t allow parties.
Upon learning of this, Mum and Dad promptly offered their house as a party venue, on the grounds that they were going out that evening anyway (and, in a moment of true revelation, it has only dawned on me as I write this that I have absolutely no idea where my three siblings were that evening).
Of course, I can’t remember much about the party. It was an 18th, for goodness sakes! What I can remember is:
- Drinking sangria before the party even began, because Amanda had just come back from holiday there
- Phoning McDonald’s to ask the people coming on to the party after work to bring some of the little silver disposable ashtrays with them (because you could smoke in McDonald’s in those days, often even if you didn’t want to)
- The local taxi firm, when asked to collect/drop off another batch of revellers, wearily replying “Oh, you mean that party
- Nick Gardner, the floor manager on duty at McDonald’s that evening (the lowest level of management, designed to discover if you had the messianic complex necessary to become a fully fledged manager) turning up and not only showing a surprisingly high level of responsibility and maturity in dealing with the drunker elements of the party, but gaining a stunningly high level of respect for a man who looked like a reject from Hall & Oates
The party ended at about 12.30pm. This was the point at which my parents and their friends arrived back from their night out and did the conga up the drive. You might think that this was a typical ‘parents embarrassing the kids’ moment, but far from it. Remember that my parents had me when they were teenagers. I was 17 at this time, so they were in their mid-thirties. They were having as good a time as we were and soon vanished off somewhere else to continue their party whilst Amanda’s wound down.
You might think that this was the most memorable part of the event, but you would be wrong. Obviously, having the home owners turn up put a swift end to the party for most people, but a hard core (or hard corps) of Amanda’s friends stayed behind to help me tidy up. I remember Nick washing up glass after glass after glass, whilst Katie Sizer and Diane MacFarlane vacuumed.
In Diane’s case, this was particularly heroic, as she had been very, very drunk earlier and didn’t seem to have come out the other side of it. I wouldn’t say that the house was spotless by the time that she and the others had finished, but it was a damn sight neater than it had been.
It was only on the Monday after that I found out what had really happened. Mum had been doing some cleaning and had noticed that, no matter how hard she cleaned, it didn’t go away. Then she thought to check the vacuum cleaner.
There’s no easy way to put this. Diane had been very keen to help with the cleaning because she had been sick pretty much everywhere upstairs and had just hoovered the vomit up. The vacuum cleaner was therefore full of it, which was why the smell wouldn’t go away. Poor Mum had to dismantle the by now rather crusty machine and clean it all.
There have been many parties down the years, but I don’t think that any of us will ever forget this one