Blogger: Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer

‘Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom’ Shirley Conran famously said. I couldn’t agree more Shirley, but it’s not too short to ice a cupcake or twenty. In fact it took me a whole morning of craning over the kitchen counter, spatula in one hand, handful of Smarties in the other to minutely decorate cakes and prepare dishes full of delicate treats for Robin’s third birthday party.

My own mum has always been a bit of a party food genius. I remember cakes as beautiful as they were delicious and I wanted to at least try to emulate her successes for Robin. I think I did OK. The cupcakes went down a treat with the grown up’s and children alike. It has to be said however, I’m no domestic goddess and it was the more wild bits of the party that I felt most ‘at home’ with.

If you walk down beside the house you come to a glade fringed by ancient trees. The day was bright with an occasional warm wind and as we threaded our way through the knots of velvety grass and the purple globe-heads of thistles, the glowing shadows of trees shone across us, coming and going in time to the clouds as they scudded across the sky.

In the clearing in the wood, laid deep with bouncing leaf litter, we set about creating our dens. Paul had strung together an ‘A’ frame of wooden poles and the children gathered crackly old branches and sticks covered with the grey smears of lichen to form crooked, uneven walls. Then whole hands of whippy lime twigs bearing yellow-green, heart shaped leaves were laid over the sticks creating two perfectly camouflaged hideaways.

We crawled our way in to them and sat sheltered from the wind, then burst back out to gather bugs, or balance precariously along fallen trees or collapse, laughing amongst the moss with an arm slung happily around the dog.

After all the party bags had been passed around and the last strawberry eaten, I reflected on the day with a welcome cup of tea. My fond memories of birthday cakes once eaten perhaps aren’t just for the cakes themselves but also for what they represented of my childhood. Of July days spent outdoors amongst spires of gladioli and lupin. Of riding bikes in the sun or lying on warm banks of grass listening to the bumblebees.

Maybe I’ll never be a domestic goddess and maybe I’ll always rely on Smarties to make my cakes look ‘proper’ but I hope always to provide Robin with days spent in the freedom of the great outdoors, laughing and making dens. There is no better recipe for happy memories.


Photo by Nick Upton (

Article in Eastern Daily Press on 20 August 2011