This Saturday we are celebrating Eldest Daughter's fourteenth birthday. She was born in April and yes, it's September which means her party is five months late. Given that Eldest Daughter is always late for everything, I don't feel too bad about having taken so long to organise her party. (The only time Eldest Daughter has not been late was back in 1995, when she arrived, uncharacteristically, ten days early).
As I write this, it is raining. I am hoping it will be fine and dry on Saturday as we will be spending the afternoon in Swinley Forest, staggering along bendy rope bridges and swinging from tree to tree, fifty feet above ground. Yes, we're going to Go Ape (why oh why did I ever agree to this?) where, for three ghastly hours, we will be attempting to emulate our prehensile primate friends.
And when I say 'we', I mean Eldest & Youngest Daughters, assorted fourteen year-old friends, Ex-Husband & Much Younger Fiancee ... and me.
I am terrified of heights. I am not particularly agile. I don't even own a tracksuit. I do know how to ride a bicycle but I don't think this is a skill which will come in handy on Saturday afternoon. If it rains on Saturday and my hair gets wet, I am going to look like shit. I am forty-five.
Much Younger Fiancee is thirty. She has been to Go Ape before, as part of a work team-building exercise thingy and she 'love love loved it!!' I'm fairly confident that it was she who first planted the idea of a Go Ape birthday party in Eldest Daughter's mind. On a recent trip (with Ex-Husband) to New York, MYF attended a Circus Skills Day and learned the art of trapeze. She liked it so much that last weekend she arranged a similar day out in North London for Eldest & Youngest Daughters and herself (Ex-Husband went along, but only to read the Sunday Times). She is clearly a bit of an adrenalin-junkie. And oh, I forgot to mention: she's also an Olympian. Yes, honestly. She has represented her country at the Olympics. (I have to admit to having always been a bit suspicious of people who are too sporty.)
Don't get me wrong. I'm really glad MYF is such a fun gal. Weekends with Dad are way more fun for my girls now that she's around. Before MYF appeared, an episode of X-Factor on Saturday night used to be the highlight of their weekend. Now they actually go out and do stuff, which is largely a result of MYF's youth and enthusiasm. Good for her, I reckon. And I do really like her, apart from the fact that she once tried to steal my hairdresser (about which I have written previously here). She has only ever been lovely to my girls, for which I am grateful.
But really, I'm so wishing that she hadn't ever mentioned Go Ape. Now that the day is almost upon us (and my daughters are almost delirious with excitement) I'm starting to dread it. And I'm trying hard not to think evil, paranoid thoughts about how MYF might have manipulated the situation to her advantage ie. she will be whizzing between the trees at 100 mph, whooping and hollering joyfully with my daughters and their friends, looking beautiful and athletic, while I stand, rooted to the spot and paralytic with fear on some wooden platform 50ft up a trunk, unable to open my eyes and very possibly wetting myself (in which case it might be better if it does rain).
My only comfort (which has only just occurred to me) is the thought that Ex-Husband will, in all likelihood, be rooted to the spot, even more rigid with fear, right next to me. He is a much bigger woes than I am, and far, far more afraid of heights. Right now, he has absolutely no idea that he is actually required to participate (Go Ape specify x no. of adults per children taking part). So if he (or I) don't pluck up the courage to give it a go, then some of the girls will have to sit out. Which would be unthinkable, of course.
It's not that I've purposefully withheld this information from him: it's just that he's never asked for details (which is fairly typical) and I know (knowing him as I do) that he will have assumed that he'll be doing the bare minimum. Right now, he's expecting to sit under a tree somewhere (or inside a cosy canteen, if it's raining) with a hot, frothy latte and a copy of the Saturday Telegraph. Hahahahahahahahahaha. Little does he know ......