In Search of Families In Search of Adventure
A Family on a Bike Tour: New Zealand, Samoa, USA and Canada 2004/2005

A surprise party

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From:       Kirstie
Subject:   A surprise party
  Date:       23rd March 2005
     Kaoutunu, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand


The rain pelted noisily on the tin roof of the sparsely furnished cabin. Sodden clothes hung off every hook, rail and chair, desperately trying to dry out in the steamy atmosphere. A cheap plastic Tupperware carton lay on the table brimming over with golden ready salted crisps. Next to it, a plate of cheese and crackers and a bowl of chopped apple. "We're ready," shouted the kids excitedly. "Are you ready Daddy?" "Yes, we're ready, but we're not coming out until everyone's singing." Stuart pulled back the dividing curtain on the cabin bedroom and came out arm in arm with his brother, specially dressed for the occasion in cycling gear and an orange helmet. "Happy birthday Uncle Robert, happy birthday to you." We all sang and cheered. But Robert didn't look all that impressed, or indeed very happy, his skin anaemic in the harsh striplight. Matthew and Cameron ran to him, gave him a big hug, then pushed him into a chair. "Would you like something to eat Uncle Robert?" Cam thrust a cheesy cracker in his direction. Suddenly their uncle lurched forward to the floor, as though to be sick, then fell in a heap onto his cycling helmet. "I think Uncle Robert didn't like cheese." Cameron explained, jumping on the body of the helmeted figure. "Has Uncle Robert been drinking beer Dad?, " asked Matthew with concern.

It had all started with a family size packet of crisps. After a long days cycling we still hadn't reached our destination; a wild camp halfway up a steep mountain road on the excessively hilly Coromandel peninsula. We had to push on, as we needed to catch a ferry from Coromandel Town to Auckland that only runs once a week . But the kids were restless and complaining they'd spent enough time in their buggies. So, like all good Dads, Stuart went shopping for bribes. He returned clutching the large bag of ready salted, a block of cheese and some Cookie Bear biscuits. "Right guys, it's another hour or so in the buggy I'm afraid," The protests were raised immediately, "Ah, but listen now, when we get there we are going to put up the tent and have a..tent party" The children's whining stopped immediately. "A tent party, yes!" they cried, jumping up and down on the bag of crisps.

We got on our way, accompanied by blackening skies. But before we'd turned the first corner it began to hail, and we'd picked up a strong coastal headwind. We were hopeless adversaries against the onset of dark and a storm and both knew without discussing it that we wouldn't be going much further that night.

Riders in the storm

We turned around and headed back to a campsite in the town we'd just come from. By the time we arrived we were soaked and a tent just didn't seem a viable option, so we booked a small cabin. But the children were distraught. They had been promised a tent party. As Cameron lay on the floor and screamed, Stuart and I put our heads together to come up with alternative entertainment for a stormy night. "Isn't it your brother's birthday today?" I asked Stuart, "Why don't we have a party for him?" The idea went down well, especially when we explained that Uncle Rob was going to be a surprise guest at his own birthday party.

Games of musical bumps, musical statues, and pass the puppy; everyone won a round apart from poor Uncle Robert who sat with his head between his legs. Now and again Matthew would help lift him, prop him up and give him a comforting hug. "Did you have a horrible flight Uncle Robert? Are you still feeling sick?" At the end of the party, when all the food had been eaten, and all the crisps trodden into the carpet, it was bedtime for exhausted children. "Thank you for a lovely party Uncle Robert," Cameron dutifully gave his Uncle a goodnight kiss. "Ah," said Matthew, "now we all need a pillow for bedtime. Sorry about this Uncle Robert." He tugged at one of his Uncle's plump arms, almost pulling it out of it's sleeve. Then he changed his mind and delved for Uncle Rob's head, grabbed it out of it's neck socket and hit his brother over the head with it. "Hey, don't do that," said Cameron, hauling Uncle Robert's bulky right leg out of his trousers. The other leg came out easily as it was thin and less feathered than the rest. Uncle Robert was dismantled in less than thirty seconds, and the children were tucked up in bed with various parts of his makeshift body.

Uncle Rob, the mysteriously shaped guest of honour arrives for his party

We made a cup of tea and toasted Stuart's brother, fast asleep in England. "Robert feels a long way away tonight," Stuart remarked. "He was here in spirit," I said, rearranging Robert's head to get a bit more comfortable on my chair. "It was a fun party." As the rain continued to beat down on the tin roof, I felt thankful for my own family who through a bit of imagination could turn a set of manky old pillows into a special guest from England, and create a two hour party out of a packet of ready salted crisps.



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