Lynn O’Rourke: ‘It’s a low blow, but I admire her tactics’

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IT IS the start of our birthday season, kicking off with our youngest’s family tea party. I imagine her birthday will be a 
relaxed affair with a near-perfect tea table groaning with homemade goodies and well-chosen accessories suitable for a four-year-old’s celebration tea.

However, despite years of family events, I make the fatal error of not planning ahead. Hence a frantic supermarket shop for quick and easy party food, a lucky find of Hello Kitty cups and plates, but a wall of protest about the birthday cake. The little one wants a homemade cake... and she wants to help.

Time is running out fast, so I do what any sensible person would and attempt to bribe her. She’s having none of it. “But I like making cakes. And it’s my birthday, ” she pleads. It’s a low blow, but I have to admire her tactics. I cave in and chuck some caster sugar, Smarties and chocolate into the mix.

We are still in the kitchen when the guests arrive. Or rather I am. The first whiff of a present-opening opportunity and my little helper is off.

I rashly decide to decorate the cake by placing mini Smarties around the edges of her favourite squirrel-shaped cookie cutter. It’s not a good idea. They immediately sink into the very runny chocolate top. The end result doesn’t look remotely like a squirrel. It looks as if I’ve dropped a box of sweets on it. A balloon frees itself from its 
precarious blu-tacked position and drifts disconsolately to the ground. I know how it feels.

This week we get the story behind the difficult renovation of a derelict Ayrshire barn and its eventual transformation into a beautiful family home on page 4. Former broadcaster Viv Lumsden has given a 19th-century Edinburgh coach house a modern makeover on page 14. There are also some great ideas for transforming courtyard gardens on page 18.