Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Eking out the Birthday

A friend of mine, Skip, was 50 in December 2102 and managed, by masterful planning and execution to eke his birthday celebrations out until October 2013. Impressive huh? Well I had a birthday last week - no noughts at the end so just a modest one - but I did manage to make the various celebrations last from Tuesday till Saturday and it was a surprising and eventful week.

When I woke on my actual birthday, it was with a rather leaden heart. Would this be the last of my birthdays when I would see at least two of my children at breakfast? As it turned out, by the time I made it downstairs in my dressing gown, there were three of the four present and the conservatory was filled with banners and balloons and not a small number of presents and cards. Number two who is usually on her way to work by the time there's much activity going on at the little house on the prairie had stopped in to wish me happy birthday and it was all the lovelier for her thoughtful presence - or presents, come to that. Number 1 skyped me in the morning and although not quite as lovely as a squidgy hug, it was delightful. Meanwhile my beloved had to go to a funeral in the morning and so we didn't meet up till lunchtime when a very excellent lunch was consumed at La Feria before the main event in the evening.

Now I might not have chosen to listen to a Q&A event at Ripon Grammar School on my birthday but as it turned out, the guest speaker, Sir Ian Botham no less, had been caught slightly on the hop with the sacking of Kevin Pietersen only a couple of hours earlier so it made for an interesting evening with one or two questions that he definitely found trickier than he would have expected when he accepted the gig. Both number 3 and I met the great man which was brilliant.

So on to Wednesday when I could reasonably expect the post-birthday let-down to begin but instead I went out to lunch with my girlfriends. Some of these girls have been my friends for well over thirty years and as I grow older (a lot older as it turns out) I realise that these women have been an absolutely essential part of my life and are definitely to be treasured beyond rubies. One of the most important things I try to teach my bevy of daughters is that your girlfriends are your greatest support in troubled times and your greatest cheerleaders in good times.

In the midst of all this birthdaying, we have had a builders in the house. They are not there to do exciting home improvements and extensions. No, they are replacing the ceiling in the downstairs loo (and hall) which fell in on my beloved in November. They were very charming about all the birthdaying going on, though things will get much worse this week when they re-plaster the wall in my office and the haze of dust is redoubled throughout the house. Oh joy!

And now on to the really big treat of the week. I usually read the article in Saturday's Telegraph about famous people's favourite things. I have yet to spot anyone owning up to international rugby, guinness and men in kilts but the combination of the three is a heady mix indeed. When I suggested that we should get up at 6.00am on Saturday morning to drive to Edinburgh, even though kick-off at Murrayfield was not until 5.00pm, I expected resistance from my beloved. Actually he took it calmly on the chin because this is my birthday and I am allowed, if only for a few days, to call the shots. 7.15 am and we are already making our way up north, calling in at Jedburgh for a gigantic fry-up. "Are you taking a picture of my breakfast?" he said. Yes, your children need to know what you are eating.

By late morning we are parked up near the ground and hopping on a bus to the City Centre. We met a delightful elderly couple - "he's 92!" she said - and it made my heart dance a jig to hear their views on the Scottish referendum. "Of course not," the elderly lady said when we asked if she would be voting for separation. Into the centre of one of our most favourite cities and a little light window shopping had to be done before heading into a bar that we've frequented before on Murrayfield days. The first of several guinnesses for me and I am in excellent spirits for the match.

The atmosphere at Murrayfield is always special. Despite sensing a certain inevitable doom about the Scottish supporters, the craic was definitely on and men in kilts were everywhere. One even streaked on the pitch during the match (not sure you can streak wearing a kilt but I suspect that was all he had on - that and boots - don't quote me though). The sound of the pipes and drums resounding round the ground is electric and a win for England rounded off a great day.

We didn't get back till midnight and stopped off for what must rank as one of the worst meals ever purchased for me by my gastronome beloved - McDonalds at Kingston Park, Newcastle at 10.30pm. But food was required, and coffee and if that's the only minute blot on the birthday landscape then I can live with that.

Me and Sir Ian

My first one - honest!


One of Dylan Hartley's perfect twenty line-outs