*The agent donsÂ video messageÂ sunglasses.Â A voice recording begins to play*: ‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to plan your son’s eighth birthday party.’
‘Your team will be: Deb, onÂ butty production, Linda, onÂ ‘stop kids fromÂ strangling each other’ dutyÂ and Husband on…well, just use him as you wish.Â This message will self-destruct in five seconds.’
BANG!Â A puff of smoke escapes into the air as the glasses self-combust and crumble into a pile of ash on the table.
AgentÂ 36BÂ (formerly known as 34D) checks she is wearing appropriate uniform for her party plan mission: spotty pyjamas,Â fingerprint-smeared glasses, smelly slipper boots, unwashed hair and greasy face.Â Check.
She scansÂ the items on her list and sets out the equipment she will need for Stage 1: scissors, Sellotape, wrapping paper, Haribo sweets and fifty novelty gifts.
She barks instructionsÂ at her husband: ‘First, Sellotape, short pieces, all around the table, fast as you can.Â Then, brew up.Â Then, make egg mayonnaise and tuna mayonnaise.Â Well?Â What are you waiting for?Â The party is at fifteen hundred hours.Â GO, GO, GO, GO, GO!’
She grimaces as sheÂ turns toÂ the task in front of her: fourÂ rolls of wrapping paper in various designs toÂ be used for ease ofÂ identification in the following categories: ‘older boy’ (OB); ‘older girl’ (OG); ‘younger boy’ (YB); ‘younger girl’ (YG).
She works relentlessly,Â head bowed in concentration,Â raising it only when she suddenly hears the yelled oxymoron: ‘Batman has a nosebleed!’
She pauses briefly to wonder atÂ the ironyÂ that a superhero, usually impervious to injury, could become so undone by aÂ weak blood vesselÂ beforeÂ grabbing kitchen towel to mop him up before it goes all over the ‘dry clean only’ costume.
She resumes her task, muttering onlyÂ a couple ofÂ expletives underÂ her breath when she cuts the wrapping paperÂ fifty millimetresÂ too small, deftly patching it with scraps ofÂ un-matching paper whilst fighting off a toddler who is trying to ‘help’ by passing paper that isn’t needed, screwing up pieces of Sellotape and narrowly avoiding standing on the scissors.
Then catastrophe strikes.Â The SellotapeÂ runs out.Â She calmly(ish) tries to think where there might be some more.Â SheÂ has a vague recollection of a rollÂ in the loft left over from Christmas so she stealthily(ish) climbs the step-ladders and swings effortlessly(ish) into the loft, nimbly(ish) stepping over the huge pile of general crap but to no avail, so she goes to her back up plan…and her husband is rapidly dispensedÂ to purchase some more.
Once the gifts are wrapped/cobbled together, categorised and crossed offÂ her list, Agent 36B turns her attention readily to potato salad, such is theÂ razor-sharpness of her mind.Â She occasionally pauses to wipeÂ ice-cream from her pyjama-clad backsideÂ where her semi-naked toddler hasÂ grabbed her to get her attention as he spirals into yet another tantrum.
Her mental agility allows her to zone him out completely whilst she chops spring onions, carelessly tossing them into an awaiting bowl, then barely breaksÂ pace as she bends to pick upÂ the lumps of poo he has kindly deposited on the floor before sanitising her hands and boiling her peas and sweetcorn.
Undeterred by the chaos and mess around her andÂ boys in various state of dress-up and undress,Â she sets up her own butty production line, with an enviable spreading actionÂ followed byÂ deadly prowess with a bread knife as she cuts the sandwiches intoÂ perfect triangles.Â A final garnish of lettuce and tomatoes and she’s good to go on the cling film…
Her arch nemesis: bastard cling film.Â She can’t help feeling resentful that things always run like clockwork until it comes to the bastard cling film.Â She scrabblesÂ with unfiled fingernails to peel off tiny, uselessÂ slivers.Â AÂ vein pulses dangerously in her temple as she fails time and again to draw out a piece big enough to cover her carbohydrates.
Aware of the potentially crust-curling warm air, made warmer by the stream of expletives coming from her mouth, her intensive training kicks in and she approaches this particularÂ stumbling block from a different angle: imagining she isÂ extracting stubbornÂ clumps of ear wax andÂ firmly attached bogeys from the facial orifices of her offspring,Â she gently she begins toÂ tease out the cling filmÂ until she finally has enough toÂ wrap her baps.
She proudly surveys her handiwork and checks the time: fourteen hundred hours.Â Only thirty minutes remaining before Operation ‘Buffet Drop’.Â She won’t have time to shave her legs and top up toe-nail polishÂ if she’s to pluck her eyebrows too.Â Think, think. Always have a Plan B, that’s what she’s always been taught.Â Aha!Â A Maxi dress it is.
Disaster has been averted once more and another mission successfully completed.Â Thank f*** there’ll be a bar…Batman, Christmas, cling film, Haribo, humour, Maxi dress, Mission Impossible, nosebleed, party, Sellotape