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An unidentifiable piece of plastic crap. A squashed piece of birthday cake, wrapped in a soiled serviette that will remain uneaten for a week before you throw it in the bin. A tiny bag of Haribo sweets to rot your child’s teeth. A cheap yoyo to add to the 50 other cheap yoyos already sadly languishing in your kitchen drawer. A lollipop (more teeth rotting), and a fake tattoo so your child can experience the joys of channelling David Beckham/Jordan at the tender age of three. All lovingly encased in a shiny plastic bag. These represent (though not always) the average contents of the children’s birthday party bag. I have heard tell of middle-class oneupmanship, where competitive mothers slip in iPods, Diptyque candles, Jojo Maman Bebe cashmere blankets, but I have to say that down my way it’s all multipacks of bubbles (we now have 14 of these in our kitchen drawer next to the yo-yos) and glittery sticker sheets. Thank God.

Like cracker gifts at Christmas, noone really wants or needs a party bag. Yet I’m absolutely not knocking them. They are an essential part of the birthday party experience. They hold such promise. The little bag of fun, those shining little faces grabbing them after the party, peeking inside, all expectant and hopeful. Will there be a Playstation? A Ben 10 figurine set? Or will there be a cheap glider that will manage one inaugural flight across the living room before nosediving and irreparably snapping, and some truly horrible chewy sweets? Even my son, who isn’t yet 4, and still thinks he’s got one over on me because I give him the occasional chocolate coin as a reward, knows the drill now. Eat the sweets fast before mummy confiscates, stick the plastic crap in the relevant toy tray with all the other plastic crap, leave the cake to ossify on the countertop and spill the bubbles. Truly a bag of fun.

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