Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Operation Top Secret: Fear Of Blabbermouths

When Operation Top Secret - or as it was better known, Mum's Surprise Sixtieth Birthday Party - was launched, the first fear was of blabbermouths.

I had to bribe everyone out of the cupboards to get them back to talking to me.

Fear Of Blabbermouths was a huge paranoia that festered over the weeks as MSB was put into action. MSB was our secret codename for Mum's Surprise Sixtieth Birthday. Our Fear Of Blabbermouths even grew to the point we couldn't even get an acronym correct.

We were determined to make our surprise party the real thing, not one of those surprise parties where Uncle X blabs it to Mum and Mum turns up and fakes being surprised by jumping up and down and saying "Woo hoo! I never expected this!" as everyone jumps about yelling "Surprise!" even though she has drafted a thank you speech detailing each gift and each gourmet dish and been rehearsing it under Aunt Z's expert critical eye.

Not that I have an Uncle X or Aunt Z. My grandparents were fairly cruel with namegiving, all the same, which is why Uncle X and Aunt Z are chosen to be identified as such, to protect them from revisiting the high school days where they were no doubt tortured for the misdeeds of their parents on birth certificates.

So how to shut up the eager blabbermouths?

One option we had was to not invite blabbermouths to the party. That the way though the list dwindled to nothing, and to be honest, we wouldn't have been invited. We needed a better strategy. I did want to turn up, even if only for the cake.

We also could have surgically sewn up the lips of everyone who was likely to blabber, but again this would have been another barrier to my eating cake on the big night.


So here was the conundrum - how to shut up the blabbermouths, but still let them eat cake.

Step 1: Cut out the obvious danger signs.

Just as in military planning you'd check for leaky petrol tanks .... well, don't they? If not, please memo my brainstorm to the army ... anyway, to use the metaphor, a quick scour of the big damage do-ers was Step 1. The drunk uncle. The aunt who is bound to say, "Hi darl, what should I bring to your big surprise party, whoops, oh well at least what I wear will be a surprise since I haven't decided between the lemon yellow or the lime green yet ... oh yes the lemon yellow looks so more modern don't you think, I'll wear that, thanks for your advice, see you Thursday, three weeks time, and I'll bet you'll love the big glass vase I'm planning on buying you! Yoo hoo!" These people needed to be kept in the dark; we could blindfold them, gag them and drag them along on the night atthe last minute if we really needed their presence.

Step 2: Give incentives for keeping the party a secret

This proved to be difficult. We tried the ol' "It'll be so great to see the look on her face" trick, as we just ran out of green-apple flavoured chupa-chups. After all, we aren't political campaigners.

Step 3: Use reverse psychology

Here's the one where you remind everyone that they're terrible at keeping secrets and tell them everyone thinks so, to make them want to prove that they can shut up. Actually, they are terrible at keeping secrets and everyone does think so, so whether it was a sneaky psychological game or just blatant honesty is contestable.

Step 4: Last But Not Least ...

Keep all these people as far away from Mum as possible ...!

I think this is why it worked. My tip of the day.

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