Birthdays are often a time when a little reflection and soul searching are in order and once a year I try to find the time between cake and wine to indulge in such things. This year is particularly pertinent as everything is about to change for me, but most comforting are the things that stay the same. My birthday inevitably involves a pilgrimage back home to visit the family, an event that was especially exciting this time around as next week I will be taking up residence very near the family seat once more.
Birthdays are always celebrated at my grandparents’ house. Nan insists on doing all the cooking and there is always a protracted argument after the meal about who gets to do the clearing up. Weirdly, the fight for this dubious privilege plays out in an identical fashion each and every time. It begins when anyone dares to start stacking plates and Nan insists that we should ‘leave it’ and that she will ‘do it later’. Someone – usually Mumsie – then says ‘it’ll only take a minute’, at which point everyone at the table stands up to either assist Mumsie or to stop her in her tracks (depending whether you are on the side of pro-clearing up or anti-clearing up). Increasingly raised voices from the anti-clearing up side squeal ‘Leave it! Leave it!’ like there is some kind of pub closing time fight about to erupt, while the pro-clearing up side insists ‘I’m not clearing up, honestly’ as they proceed towards the sink with armfuls of used crockery. Then, Nan will have another glass of wine and scold the pro-clearing up team, who continue to insist that they are not clearing up at all. This goes on until everything is cleared up and put away and we can all move on to coffee as if nothing untoward has happened.
Another family birthday quirk is taking unseemly amounts of glee at something awful happening on the special day in question. This year, my brother was delighted to inform me that my birthday was ruined because Daisy, one of Mumsie’s guinea pigs, had died that morning. This was quite sad news but I didn’t consider it birthday-ruining. But my brother insisted – my birthday was ruined, so there you have it. Mumsie declared thoughtfully that Daisy was now ‘with the angels’ and noted, somewhat off-handedly, that there was ‘one less little mouth to feed’.
The rarely-seen Little Brother and a disturbing scene where my family came under attack from a unicorn
I feel that the passing of a family pet should be noted, but it’s difficult to know what to say about Daisy. Her entire existence consisted of little more than squeaking, eating continually and doing tiny poos all over the place. The most notable thing she ever did was die on my birthday. She was a nice little thing, very fat with lovely pink feet. She is survived by fellow furry poo-factory Fluffy, who is slightly more notable in that she is prone to weeing on your leg in addition to squeaking and eating.
The dearly departed Daisy (left) and (right) Fluffy in mourning
The arrival of my 38th year sees me still unsuccessful at maintaing coherent personal endeavours, but happily my literary output remains solid, if not a little improved over the last twelve months. The news of my return to my home town has given rise to the surprising speculation that I am planning a return to the police. The amount of people who have contacted me about this is astonishing, so much so that I almost considered it. The enthusiasm for this prospect is most flattering, but all in all I don’t think it would be a very good idea. They don’t even have proper hats any more so I’m afraid the whole thing is out of the question.
This is a proper hat
And so I find myself fairly satisfied with my years on the planet thus far, my hat collection continues to grow, along with my circle of curious and delightful friends and acquaintances. As ever, I shall strive to work harder, do better and be better. But I shall also remember to follow the example of Daisy and make sure I take the time to worry about nothing more than squeaking and eating.