Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Friday, July 18, 2008

How Nelson Mnadela spoilt my birthday party

Actually it wasn't mine but I was organising it for my daughters. Because their birthdays fall in February, June and November, and 2 of them never had good weather, we tried for a couple of years to have a joint summer one in July.

It worked fine in 1987, when there was a Pink Picnic in Highgate Woods, even though my half brother-in-law had turned up to stay unexpectedly and, at 18, was not keen on wearing a pink shirt!

So the next year, when the girls were 11, nearly 9 and 6 respectively, we booked a big swimming party for their three groups of friends at the Hornsey Road Pools, followed by a tea party on three floors at our house with three separate cakes.Money was a bit of an issue 20 years ago so this was a considerable outlay for us.

We set off in the car, plus my sister, in good time, and then ran into a traffic standstill. The minutes ticked by and after a lot of stress, we realised we were never going to make it to the pool before the end of the booked session and turned back. This was pre-mobile phones of course.

One or two guests made it to the pool and most got to the house at some point.

The reason for the delay? Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday. He was still in prison and there was a big demo in London. I think there was a concert in Wembley too but maybe earlier.

It was difficult to explain to three bitterly disappointed little girls who this man was and why his birthday party had taken place at the expense of theirs. It's hard to take the long view when you are six.

But as time went by they did understand. Only we never had another "joint birthday" party after that.

Happy 90th from us all, Nelson Mandela. And I hope nothing happens to disrupt your celebrations.



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