16 December 2012

Birthday by proxy

I raised a glass of champagne to my birthday at midnight, in a ponsy wine bar on Royal William Yard. I thought I would be eating Asian food with colleagues to celebrate. How naive of me.

This year my birthday was on a Friday. I figured I could invite some people over, or go into town. But I didn’t have to decide; an email arrived, inviting the department to a Christmas lunch on that day. Well, that settled it then! I was surprised anything happened; the department seemed to skip this tradition this year. And I had been invited to the CoRIF lunch; I wouldn’t be without altogether. But now some of our newer colleagues had sprung into action, and all changed.

But the day before my birthday, Simon the Historian celebrated his (it’s actually two days before), and I intended to pop by for a calm pint. He would be in the pub on Royal William yard. I like the place!

When I got there I found a select company. Before I knew it there was a lively discussion in whether SF was just the cold war fictionalised. That's what you have historians' birthdays for! It was quite a nice occasion. And after my arrival, two more newcomers joined us. One didn’t even know Simon would be here; this was just her local haunt. She had only arrived in Plymouth three weeks before.

At the time I had intended to leave too, everybody else, except Simon (of course) and the new lady, Jodie, left. They were all too aware of their obligations the next morning. Jodie wasn’t going anywhere, she was only getting started, and she didn't take no for an answer. In spite of our objections she got me another beer and Simon a drink on fire. As you do. And then she asked us to join her to a nearby wine bar for a glass of champagne. We were just in time; they were about to close!

We sat down and met the only two other customers; a somewhat awkward couple of royal marine with way younger girl. Nice people! But clearly not very balanced in their love life; it was a bit painful to see their snog- and-tear riddled panto of relationship on the brink of collapse. (He’s not right for you, girl!) I suppose we might have offered a welcome distraction; sometimes it’s easier to deal with strangers. When it struck midnight they toasted with us.

Soon after that it was time to get home. Birthday or not; there was another day tomorrow. I had drunk more than I intended, and my guess is the same held for Simon. I got my bicycle, fought Jodie off who thought it wasn’t safe for me to bike home alone, promised to text both when I got home safely, and set off. What a wild birthday! Booze, late nights, fire, strangers, tears, art and history; the next day wouldn’t match that. And it didn’t...

The next day was nice, though; 26  geographers showed up for the Christmas lunch. We had lovely Asian food, then went to the Gin Distillery with a selection of the 26, and then down to the Barbican with an even smaller selection. It was very nice! And many people thought of my birthday; I got presents and cards and congratulations from all directions. But my hangover inspired me to sample the alcohol-free cocktails in both restaurant and distillery, and to abstain from drinking liquids altogether on the Barbican. But one needs no alcohol for a nice day with colleagues! Thanks Simon and Jodie for the initial celebrations, thanks Agatha, Julian and Stephanie for the Christmas lunch, thanks Marta, Agatha, Roland (and Maria – her name was all over the present) and Sam for the birthday attentions! Marieke for phoning! And everybody for the good company, and Martin for walking me back to my bike. Even though I was actually celebrating other things, being 37 started well!

Sweet birthday present!

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