My elder son was 64. My younger son, 37. My wife was 480. I was 510.
Counting months instead of years wasn’t a very good game but it kept the kids happy. (In those days I could do it in my head.) We’d rented Bruisyard Hall, a 12-bedroom house, for a week for my wife’s 40th birthday, which coincided with half term. But it rained every day, disappointing for May, and nobody got to sunbathe.
But it was better than my 40th birthday. We had a 6 month old and a 2 3/4 year old and we took a room at Ickworth House Hotel, nextdoor to the 18th-century rotunda. A photo in my phone wallet commemorates the day: my elder son leans in over the bed in foreground, while my younger, lying against a pillow, eats a specially made-present: just wrapping paper.
My wife just wanted to sleep.
⁃ Could you look after them in the afternoon? she said after lunch on my birthday.
Maybe it was just because I looked after them every morning that my heart sank. All day long, alone, as a special treat on my 40th? In that case, I probably said between gritted teeth, I’d probably have been better of going somewhere more suitable like Go Bananas!
As a ‘deal’, I got to look after the elder one; the younger one stayed in bed. We walked around the rotunda in the rain.
It was all an anticlimax after my 30th. On a weekend in Devon, we’d chanced upon Saunton Sands, where David Niven fell to earth in A Matter Of Life Or Death. At one end of the huge expanse of sand, on a cliff, was a huge Art Deco hotel. It was a bit faded – and that only added to the allure, in a Daughters Of Darkness sense. We filed it away and, on my 30th, drove down for a night of MDMA-fuelled ‘fine dining’ and f***ing.
My 50th, however, was bad. It was a Monday in November and 2 weeks earlier I’d been discharged from Northwick Park. I still had physiotherapy 5 days a week on the NHS. A few friends came – it was my first dinner in company since before the stroke. When more than one person talked at the same time, it was too much. Added to which was the fact that at lunchtime I’d had sex with my wife, to my pleasure and her enduring chagrin. I knew it wouldn’t happen again.
Ryan came because he was a good sport – but he didn’t bring his boyfriend. As soon as was polite, he caught the train back to London.