Friday 19 November 2010

Well done, Lord Snowdon

15st 8lb, 15.0 units (or thereabouts). I remember my 40th birthday as though it were yesterday. The highlight was a rather downbeat lunch with a colleague in a wine bar near my then London office. I fancied the manageress of the wine bar something rotten, and misinterpreted her professional friendliness as an indication that my feelings might be reciprocated. Matters were made worse by the colleague repeatedly nudging me during lunch and saying things like “You’re definitely in there, mate” as the manageress personally delivered my pudding with a birthday candle plonked on the top. Fortunately I was put right shortly afterwards when I plucked up the courage to invite her to the opera. She accepted, and I was eagerly waiting for her outside the Coliseum in St Martin’s Lane when a hippopotamus in a frock waddled up, announced that I answered the description provided by her flatmate and that she would be accompanying me to the show instead.

“Er, where’s Emma?” I asked, as you would.

“Oh, she’s out with her boyfriend. You did know she had a boyfriend, didn’t you?”

Well I certainly did now.

I don’t think I had the presence of mind to hand over a ticket and piss off, but I have happily erased the rest of the evening from my usually elephantine memory.

At least I saved a bit of money by not hanging around the wine bar every lunchtime and early evening after that.

My diary reveals that subsequent birthdays were little better. I worked for clients who always announced their annual results on or around my birthday, so I was usually busy at the office rather than out celebrating. When my birthday fell at a weekend, I would try to enjoy myself by booking tickets for the likes of Glyndebourne, but more often than not I would not actually go because of the perennial shortage of attractive and amusing female company, or simply because I was too knackered to be bothered.

In fact, things have only really looked up in the last couple of years since Mrs H found me. We have spent my last two birthdays very enjoyably at the opera at Grange Park.

Clearly the important thing is to keep my new-found enjoyment of birthdays up, rather than to drag Mrs H down to my traditional level of misery. The problem is that she has a 40th coming up in mid-February, and has been dropping heavy hints for months that what she really wants is a “surprise party”.

Question: if the person whose birthday it is specifies in advance that they want a “surprise party”, can it really be classified as a surprise?

The essential problem is that I hate parties – surprise parties in particular. Added to which, despite working in PR for years, I have absolutely no organizational skills in the party department: I always relied on my PA to do that sort of thing for me, and now I do not have a PA. Though Mrs H has mentioned from time to time that she now realizes that I never really wanted a wife, merely an efficient PA who would be prepared to sleep with me occasionally.

Yes, that summarizes the situation very nicely.

None of this has stopped the flow of heavy hints: the guest list of approximately 80 names, the suggestion that it might be rather nice to have it in a marquee in our garden (how the hell am I supposed to arrange the erection of a marquee as “a surprise” – can she possibly imagine that it can be accomplished in an hour or so while she is out having her hair done?), the 1930s art deco theme, the lovely 1930s dress that she would like to find hanging on the wardrobe door so that she can say “You’ve done it, darling! You’ve made my dream come true!”

Well, I wouldn’t be holding my breath if I were Mrs H. That’s all I’m saying.

On the other hand we did go to a rather spectacular 40th birthday party yesterday evening – for Iceland the frozen food chain, rather than an individual. Appropriately enough it had a 1970s rather than a 1930s theme in its dinner menu of prawn cocktail, beefburger and chips and black forest gateau – but the delicious food that appeared before us bore only the sketchiest resemblance to those. There were the most amazing fireworks I have ever seen between the drinks reception and dinner, and a couple of surprise guests, too. I tried to take Mrs H’s photo with one of them, but failed utterly miserably owing to advanced drunkenness and technical incompetence.

Water works
Water, laser and fireworks
A true spectacular

Oooh ... Aaah!
My first attempt to photograph Dame Edna and Mrs H (Mrs H on right; unbelievably, my second attempt was even worse)

“Well done, Lord Snowdon,” the Dame remarked as she moved on among her adoring public after my second attempt.

1 comment:

CC said...

Love the Dame Edna photo and especially the remark.