A few weeks ago it was a big birthday for me and 50 was the milestone age I became – I have to say that I was kinda dreading it, 50 is half a century and it sounds such a big number, but in the end I did quite a bit of celebrating and on the whole it was very enjoyable… so this is what I’ll blog about, sometimes I try and ignore birthdays but this special one I decided to make the best of… especially as it was Andrea’s first big birthday.
My birthday started extremely early in the morning because I was returning from my main summer holiday (which I’ll blog about in a week or two) and the second flight leg of my journey was delayed a lot (thanks Ryanair… favourite airline, huh?) so I didn’t get home until 1.40am… just 10 minutes after the time I was actually born on my birthday. I got out of my car, grabbed one of my travel bags, and went to the back door of my house… to be confronted by a large, rectangular box! I dragged it inside and opened it up to reveal a huge bunch of flowers which had been sent to me by an old uni friend! I was soooo touched that I got a bit teary eyed… and so, once all my luggage was inside and a supper drink made, I was busy arranging flowers at 2.00am – well, it’s only the second time in my life I have ever been given flowers, so I had to look after them. Then I opened my cards… including one from a friend who did not know the nature of my ‘big’ birthday (i.e. only knew it was big, not the number) and consequently guessed/assumed it to be my 40th – well, I can only say that I am extremely flattered J
Owing to such a late night I was hardly going to be getting up for my normal, early train to work, and so I got the next one, leaving Newry just before 9.00. I only just got to the station in time, and entered the platform after the train had pulled in and the female train manager had alighted at the first class carriages. Now, I don’t travel first class, but it was my special birthday so after saying hello I asked her if there was any possibility of a free upgrade as it was my 50th – she looked around sheepishly, and then let me on board, saying I didn’t look older than 21! After my lengthy day of travelling the day before I was quite tired and hungry, so being in first class I decided to treat myself to a waiter-delivered breakfast for the first time in my almost-17 years of commuting – a lady brought me a complimentary orange juice and hot towel along with a menu, and presently I ordered a full breakfast with a peppermint tea which was delivered on a wide rectangular tray (see picture); it was tasty, with a good poached egg, and a real super way to start my birthday morning.
I only spent about four and a half hours at work, as I had arranged with my boss to go early … although I was a bit disappointed that he had forgotten the reason why and did not give me any birthday wishes. I did a quick grocery shop for a few essentials and hurriedly dropped them at home, picked up some posh clothes, and headed to my hairdresser – dear Paul Meekin – to get my hair done. He kindly gave me a goodie bag with the shampoo and conditioner I normally use, as well as a couple of extra things to try; I got my hair washed and conditioned, then Paul blow-dried and styled it nicely for me. We were meeting for dinner but he had to go home first to drop his dogs off and jazz up his appea
rance, with a nice jacket as it turned out, so I filled the time by popping to a nearby supermarket for a few more things and then returning to his salon to put an evening dress on. Paul was just a few minutes late arriving at the restaurant owing to a taxi mess-up, and at 7.50 we entered Zen, a hip Japanese restaurant in Belfast. I had never been there before, or in fact any Japanese restaurant on this side of the Irish Sea, so after a lot of pouring over the menu we decided to share several dishes. Over two hours later we had waded through sashimi salmon, huge filo prawns, two separate orders of maki rolls, a mixed tempura basket, and a duck that arrived with glowing flames after something had been poured over it! We also had some bonus courses that the restaurant head threw in for free (probably as Paul knows him) including a mixed fruit juice and an ice cream dessert. As usual with restaurants, Little Miss Softly-Spoken here had a problem with the noise in the place after a while, but most of the time was able to make myself heard. I eventually dropped Paul at his apartment, where we chatted outside for a while before I headed home shortly before midnight. I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening with delicious food and exceptional company… a great way to spend my birthday evening.
The following day I was into work early… for my birthday celebrations were not at an end by any means – the previous day I had emailed a former work colleague who I am still in touch with to see if he fancied lunch, so at just before 1.00 I was walking into our usual Italian restaurant in Dublin to meet him. We had a lovely lunch, I had the seafood pasta special with a glass of merlot followed by a seriously good tiramisu… and, the best treat of all, he paid!
Saturday I had a reasonable lie in, but was back at Paul’s salon again around lunchtime just for a quick hairstyle freshen-up, as another birthday dinner beckoned. I followed my salon visit with a bit of shopping and returned something (and bought other clothes – birthday treat, of course), and then met up with Kirsty – we had a panini and coffee/hot choc snack, did a bit of shopping (successful purchases for both of us), and then drove to my house as I had invited her to stay over for my special birthday. After a while we glammed up and Kirsty then chauffeured me to a regular restaurant, The Plough, to meet Michelle. Unfortunately the meal did not live up to expectations… in a number of ways – two out of my three courses I have ordered before and were not as good this time, but worst of all the meal was ruined by our little party attracting some periodic trans* curiosity from a nearby table once it had changed from a family dining to a couple of young couples; I nearly didn’t bother with dessert at all L Kirsty and I returned home at which point the evening became more fun with a bottle of champagne, some alcoholic chocolates, a few strawberries (which are supposed to go well with champagne… or the other way round… the jury is out) and good chat; I don’t know whether I have ever had champagne before, but it was a lovely treat, and quite an experience drinking it, the bubbles seemed to sparkle and explode as they hit the back of my throat. We were very late going to bed, around 2.00am… and I was obviously quite sozzled, as I started brushing my teeth with facewash before realising that something didn’t taste quite right. Bleah!
On Sunday we had a leisurely morning doing nothing of note, then drove for an hour to have what turned out to be a very tasty lunch at Balloo House east of Belfast near Killyleagh… although alas I got car sick owing to twisty roads not helped by a diversion; a couple of times during the meal I had to get fresh air as the warm room made me feel worse. Anyway, I had a good chowder, I think I had fish for main course, and dessert was a sticky toffee pudding. It was a really, really windy day and so we didn’t end up doing anything afterwards, and once dropped at my car I just went home to bed.
Monday was the final day of anything birthday-ish. My boss brought in a nice chocolate cake for me, which I of course shared with assorted team members, so we all had a small slice each.
So that was my 50th birthday – nothing mad, but lots of nice things to remember – I think I am going to have to be 50 more often!