When I was little, birthday parties were fairly straightforward affairs.
If you were a child of the Seventies in Stoke-on-Trent they involved having half a dozen of your mates round for triangle sandwiches, a piece of battenburg cake, jugs of cordial, jelly and ice cream.
Entertainment comprised traditional games like pass the parcel and musical chairs played against the backdrop of some very dodgy music (I never won the latter and it scarred me for life).
I can’t recall any of the presents I received.
Indeed, my favourite memory is actually hiding under the table in our back room with Glyn Shelley and nicking all the sausage rolls from under the grown-ups’ noses.
That, and being given a whole packet of Pacers to myself (square, soft, chewy mints). I can still taste them now.
It’s all a far cry from today’s lavish affairs.
My eldest daughter is six tomorrow but had her birthday bash at the weekend.
Now that she’s in proper school she seems to attend a party every other Saturday.
When I say party, what I actually mean is the latest round in a never-ending contest where parents try to out-do each other with more and more extravagant events and gifts.
Indeed, I am eagerly awaiting the day when one of my girls returns home from St. Tropez with a party bag containing a tin of beluga caviar and a handful of uncut diamonds.
While I am still trying to sell the merits of a game of pin the tail on the donkey, other mums and dads are paying for pamper parties.
That’s right – five and six-year-old girls are having their hair and nails done and make-up applied by professionals.
Personally, I’d rather let them have a childhood first.
One party that my two attended recently involved a visit from Ranger Rob – a sort of poor man’s Crocodile Dundee – who terrified and enthralled youngsters in equal measure with his menagerie of creepy crawlies.
It seemed like a waste of money to me given that my lot run a mile if they see me place a glass over a large spider in our living room.
Other parents choose to hire a room at one of those dreadful indoor play centres complete with enormous climbing frames, ball pools and death slides.
Such places are invariably crammed with little chavs who spend their time barging all of the other children out of the way.
Their oblivious mums sit yapping and supping endless cappuccinos while fools like me police their little darlings.
You know who you are.
The most inventive thing I’ve done to date was hiring a bouncy castle – for little un’s party in September – which completely covered the lawn in our back garden.
This resulted in one little girl being taken to A&E after tripping on our decking but I still reckon it is the best £35 I’ve ever spent.
At the weekend we settled on a cheap and cheerful party at the gymnastics club where Lois is a member. That was, after all, what she wanted.
Eleven girls and two toddlers were run ragged for an hour playing on trampolines, inflatables and soft mats.
Then they all changed into witches’ costumes for a Halloween-themed party tea – complete with the obligatory sandwiches, sausage rolls and a little dodgy music.
Why change a winning formula, I say?
Tomorrow, on Lois’s actual birthday, she will be treated to a tea of chips, fish fingers and peas and will doubtless be thrilled.
Thankfully, my old school pal Neil always restores my faith in humanity and makes me feel that I’m not too out of touch by also keeping with the traditional for the birthday parties of his children.
No rock climbing or skiing – it’s musical statues on the lawn and a sing-song round the cake.
Which is just as it should be.
You see, you can take the boys out of Sneyd Green but you can’t take Sneyd Green out of the boys…