Birthday, part one.
Birthday, part two.

I normally do the shopping and most of the cooking in our house, but since it was my birthday I planned to get an M&S meal. I had originally thought that I would pop in after the memorial service but time was running out on the parking, and to be honest, I think I needed some transition time to recover my equilibrium. Standing in the M&S ready meal aisle with all that choice would have been too stressful, and let’s face it, a sobbing blob of a man on the floor of the refridgerated section was not a great way of spending my birthday. Instead I would go home, relax and “be” until my daughter came home from school, and bolstered by her assured teenage decision making, we would tackle M&S together.

I am lying on the sofa when my daughter arrives home from school. The dog hears her first. Normally he is lying on my stomach but today he is on the floor by the sofa, the temperature is warm enough not to need my body heat. Daughter is not pleased to see me on the sofa. She wants to practise the piano which implies she doesn’t want me in the same room. I tell her to ignore me and carry on, but then a thought occurs to me. I ask her if she has a lesson today and she replies that yes she does (with that look that shows her exasperation that her father cannot remember these simple things). It turns out that it is in 40 minutes time. She wont be back until 5.30pm and then we are into rush hour traffic and I am no longer sure an M&S meal is on the cards. I look up the store’s closing time on my mobile and am relieved to see it is open until 8pm. I plan to go at 6pm with daughter as most of the traffic should be cleared by then.

I have always taken my kids food shopping with me. It was a practical thing at first, babies in trolley seats are easy to look after until their boredom threshold kicks and the the screaming starts. Thankfully those days are past for me, though I do try to look sympathetic to parents still battling with these moments to offset the annoyed looks other people give. Now, shopping it is a way of spending time with them and perhaps finding out a bit of what goes on in their lives. Going shopping doesn’t seem to threaten them and I enjoy it. Another reason for taking my daughter is that she gets to choose her own food, which hopefully means that the family will all eat together. We try and fail to do this every evening, but with it being my birthday, I think eating together should happen.

Shopping is successfully concluded, maybe more than strictly necessary, but it’s my birthday and the cakes had just been reduced so we couldn’t resist the “bargains”. Back home, I am on my computer when my wife returns from her Spanish class. “When is dinner?”, she asks. I said that it was up to the kids. I wasn’t cooking tonight. Apparently despite saying this to my daughter, the kids and specifically her are unaware that they are cooking. The next thing I know is that she is apologising because her dinner is ready but mine is going to take another 45 minutes because she didn’t look at all the reheating times. Okay, why am I not surprised?

We do all eventually sit down together, and I open presents and cards. I unwrap a book which my wife has given me. It is titled, “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying”. I am not sure this book makes a good birthday present, but she raves about it. I am reminded of the book she gave me about Swedish Wood Chopping at Christmas and wonder if my latest book will suffer the same neglected fate. She found the book engrossing and difficult to put down. “You’ve already read it then?”, I accuse her. She sees nothing wrong with this, but there is a part of me that feels that a new book presented to someone, should be read by the receiver first. I reiterate my point of view, and my son tries to get her to understand this view but comparing it to wearing somebody’s clothing before you give it to them as a present. It is one of the many cultural difference my wife and I share.

My eldest daughter has left me a present of special Spanish cake from her recent trip there. She explains in the card that she wouldn’t normally do this touristy thing but her spanish friends said we must try it. I miss my number one child. My son, child number two, has not got me a present or made a card.  He pledges me £10 towards some video game accessories which are fun, and not something I would spend money on, but are nice to have. Number three child, the daughter actually present for the occasion does not conform to sterotype. She has created me a hand-made card rather than a computer generate one, and she gives me a model of the original Star Trek series Enterprise rather than chocolates. I am impressed and delighted.

My birthday cake consists of a reduced priced M&S Victoria sponge, with my new Enterprise model in the middle of it, surrounded by four candles. I take a picture, insist my family sing “Happy Birthday” (though being musical, the kids deliberately sing it very out of tune) and I blow the candles out. The cake is lovely, as were all the cakes that we got in M&S. I am glad I made the effort.

Afterwards I am playing video games again. I expected to be playing with five others in a Raid to finish off my birthday. We have alot of fun and laughter, so I am surprised when my “spot” has already been taken when I try to join. This happens, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen today. I end up playing solo on a different game, looking to join up with others and reframing my disappointment to an opportunity to play with other friends. It doesn’t happen until I am about to pack up for the night. Salty comes along and asks if I want to do some difficult daily missions. My day finishes off at 4am. It has been an unusual birthday.