With this terrible gloomy half light, mogul horde and no peripheral vision my defences are low and I am terrified. I spend four hours hiding behind the hostess. She is wearing a sexy pink wrap dress with just enough cleavage showing, holding a glass of wine in one hand and an elegently rolled ciggie in the other and is completely unfazed by the riot. Occasionally she wades into the melee to scoop up her own son and deposit him on safe ground but she doesn’t interfere.
‘It’s a bit of a nightmare isn’t it,’ she says thoughtfully, deftly toeing a discarded nappy into the bushes.
Later I find a seat and immediately am besieged by a small monster covered in a mixture of dirt, blackberry juice and snot. Its hand is outstretched towards my face.
‘Olive’ it demands.
I glance uneasily over its head to its father who is sprawled, relaxed and unconcerned on a wooden chair opposite. He winks at my breasts and carries on drinking.
‘Olive’ growls the Animal Sam look-a -like.
As the dad seems not to be worried (about anything really…what IS he smoking?) I carefully place a green olive into the monster’s hand. It disappears into its mouth.
‘Olive!’ screams the child its gory fingers reaching for the jar.
I become curious. How many olives will it take, with their salt water and sourness, to make the child queasy? There are what seem like several hundred children here, all under three and each one as screamingly hyper excited as the next. They have been chowing on crisps and berries and bread and peanuts and pizza and more crisps. They have been jumping up and falling down, rolling in the grass and fighting. I feel like the John Cleese waiter in Monty Python’s ‘The Meaning of Life’ just before the fat man explodes. . ‘ ‘It’s only wafer thin,’ I say handing the child another few olives.
The dad smirks. He did this a while ago whilst watching his other child battering the hostess’s partner to his knees with a whippy branch.