I remember watching Mary Poppins aged five. Back then, going to the movies was a special outing, and it was the very first movie I ever saw, making it memorable. I remember Mary Poppins and Bert jumping into the picture painted on the pavement and their adventure – particularly riding on the merry go round. My parents must have bought a black vinyl of the music, as I know the songs – almost by heart and yet, did not see the movie again until my own children were about five.
There is something very appealing about Mary Poppins – she is strict and does not tolerate nonsense of any kind and yet she is a woman of wonder and inspiration – her magic carpet bag, her ability to withdraw from the world and enter a world of fantasy, her ability to bring the best out of the people – here is a woman who knows how to behave and have fun!
My daughter Susannah has just turned twenty-one and to celebrate, we all went to see the musical of Mary Poppins as a birthday treat. We had a wonderful evening, sang along, enjoyed the music, the energy, the fun. I have since watched the DVD of the film and bought the book to read. Perhaps I am in a Mary Poppins phase.
Last Saturday we had a party for Susannah and guests were encouraged to dress as cartoon characters. How I hate to dress up – but was inspired by my Mother who excitedly planned to come as Woodstock from the Peanuts cartoon and by Mary Poppins herself to make an effort and enter into the spirit of the event. I dressed as Little Bo Peep and wore a dress my Mother had made for me when I was sweet sixteen – and yes, it fitted – just. I felt like a very seventies bo peep.
Drama erupted the day before the party when I made “the cake”. I am not good at producing cakes that look fantastic. They always taste good, but the presentation is not impressive. I baked a giant chocolate cake in which I used triple the ingredients. Keith warned me earlier in the week “are you sure you want to make that cake? It usually sinks in the middle and then you are stressed by how bad it looks?” Well, that got me going – of course I was going to make it and this time it was going to be a success.
The cake looked spectacular when removed from the oven – it had risen beautifully, the skewer had come out clean each of the ten times I poked the middle, I was excited. I put it on the rack to cool and moved on to other tasks. On returning to the kitchen I saw my cake had collapsed in the middle – an unmitigated disaster. I couldn’t bear it, so I left it despondently in the kitchen and sat down to watch Sliding Doors and quilt – so very soothing.
The look on Keith’s face when he returned home said it all – he kindly did not utter the words I was waiting to hear. I debated whether to bake another giant cake – or simply have a cake that looked like a flop. Johnny came up with a splendid idea – why not turn this cake into a robot cake.
Susannah adores robots – Astro Boy, you name it, she loves them. But a round robot? How would I do it? We looked at Susannah’s little pink robot that hangs around her neck for inspiration, and I thought about Mary Poppins and thought – “yes, I can do that!” And I did. Just like that. We filled the middle of the giant cake with icing and camoflaged it with a heart made with smarties. I baked two smaller cakes and used them for the head, arms, legs and neck. He certainly looked very cute. Who said I can’t make cakes?
It certainly would not win any cake baking/decorating prizes, but it certainly made my daughter very happy – Happy Birthday Susannah!