We’ve been looking through quite a few old photographs lately, many of them from when Russell was much younger. A large majority are of his birthday parties, several of which were fancy dress, so we thought we would share some of the best with you. Generally, the ideas for the parties and the costumes were Russell’s own, John and I were just the party planners and costume makers. Several of the costumes are still in our loft; after the amount of time and effort that went in to the making there was no way they would get thrown out. So if you know a small child that wants to dress as a spaceman or a crocodile, let me know!
One of the best parties has to be the Pirate Party when Russell was seven. Our house was transformed into a pirate ship, complete with Long John Silver’s cabin and buried treasure in the garden. Everyone dressed as pirates or parrots; I remember one small boy (no names for fear of embarrassment!) who came wearing a bedspread covered in feathers, he spent most of the afternoon crying when they started to fall off!
Another one that springs to mind is the Animal Party (I think this was SJ’s party not Russell’s) anyway Russell decided he was going to go as a crocodile, so instead of buying a costume (far too boring) I decided to make one out of cardboard. It was a success, so much of a success in fact, that when the Little Kingshill School “dress up as your favourite book character day” came around he decided to go as the crocodile from Peter Pan. Sadly, the cardboard crocodile hadn’t survived, so I had to make another one, this time out of fabric (and yes, we still have it in the loft!). He managed to wear this costume all day, even when eating his lunch!
Another feature of those early parties was the birthday cakes; I’ve never been a very enthusiastic cake-maker (don’t complain too much SJ, you did get a cake this week!), but I always managed to put together something for birthdays including trains, a dustcart, a snake and of course “Treasure Island” for the pirate party. When Russell was about 10, a week or so before his birthday he sheepishly asked me if I would be offended if he asked Granny to make his cake, my cakes just weren’t as good as Granny’s cakes! So that was the end of my cake-making career.
As Russell got older, the fancy dress was overtaken by bad hair days (or weeks) – strange colours and styles. He was sent home from school once for having green hair. However, the worst hair must be the permanent blue/black colour when he was about 15. He had asked me a couple of times to get him some black hair dye but I always said NO! (Strange that isn’t it?). So he waited until I was out one afternoon and asked John to give him a lift to Wycombe, where he bought some permanent black dye. It turned out more blue than black and after a couple of weeks he’d got tired of it and wanted his own hair back again – so he bought some bleach… However, the bleach wasn’t strong enough to get rid of the entire colour and his hair turned a sort of orangey-grey. Not pleasant. Undaunted, he bought some more bleach, stronger this time (hydrogen peroxide to be exact) but this was a liquid rather than a paste. It got his hair back to a nice blond colour, but because it was so runny it ran off his head and all down his back and chest, bleaching his skin as it went, leaving him looking like an anaemic zebra! He then tried out more than a few dodgy hairstyles, including one with tiny plaits all over his head!
And then of course, we mustn’t forget the hats. It all started with a red and white bobble hat that his Granny gave him when he was about a year old. He wore this hat everywhere; people started asking me if he was bald as they had never seen him without a hat on! There was always a panic when it had to be washed, just in case it didn’t re-emerge from the washing machine, but it always did, and we’ve still got it in a chest with some of his other treasured possessions. I remember him getting very upset one day (I think he was in year 5 at Little Kingshill School) when there was a school outing to Little Missenden. They walked to Little Missenden, and because it was sunny, he wore a hat – one of his favourites, a baseball cap with a propeller on top. Mr Smith (remember him??) told him he looked silly and shouldn’t wear a hat like that to school! We still have this hat as well! He was always very fussy about wearing the correct hat for the occasion, and even quite recently could get into a panic if the hat he wanted to wear was missing. I’ve included a few pictures, does anyone else have pictures of Russell in a hat? If so, we’d love to see them.