Minnie and Brian once laid on a surprise party for me. Minnie was my minder. She wanted to go to The Samuel Pepys pub. It’s a Riverside pub. It’s alright but it’s not all that. But she appeared to artlessly love this slightly generic riverside pub. “It’s so lovely here, let’s stay a bit longer,” she sold me, after multiple “Everyone is late” text messages. I wasn’t sure what was going on with her because she seemed sincere in her love for the pub, even if she kept checking her phone. She kept insisting she wanted to stay for longer in the pub. I thought she was avoiding something and was looking for ways to broach the subject. So I thought I’d roll with her whims even though it was my birthday. Eventually we moved somewhat arbitrarily to Camden. That’s where she suddenly wanted to go. “You remember that pub in Camden you said you loved?” I didn’t smell the hint of a rat. She’s a consummate actress, of course. I continued to believe she was working through something weird right up until I walked into a room full of my friends. “Surprise!”
This afternoon we were the surprise for Mel. Brian Mel and I spent a reasonably normal morning, although as we got closer to the deadline I got more and more anxious about cleaning. I got started: “I need a clean work surface to list these comics.” I knew I couldn’t hoover without giving the game away. Eventually Mel left with Brian and I got to work properly. Louis, Brian’s business partner, came round with the shopping list and we cooked the fuck out of two chickens and a load of potatoes and veg. We got working. A load of her friends appeared. We had to work out how to hide them. We managed to get Louis hidden under a pile of blankets, and Mickey under the table with random boxes and a towel obscuring her. I then had to awkward improvise crap Al giving her a belated present of a tiny cake and candle. And everyone jumped out with the happy birthday song.
It was delightful. It’s lovely how easily you can make someone happy if you surround them with people they already know and love. Everyone is now a few bottles of wine down, and my duties are over. I was the head chef, and the duty of carving fell to me, using my grandmother’s old horn handle carving set. 11 people is possible here in one sitting. 12 at a push. At Christmas I’ve managed more but that’s with cunning and compromise. Everyone ate. Then I relaxed.
In my relaxed state I ended up organising a competition with polystyrene gliders from Brian’s window. The ex-army dude won hands down. They were throwing into a strong wind. He threw it direct and slightly up. It went for miles. Both of the other teams turned and hit the house.
Now I’ve snuck into my bedroom to write because I know I’ll shortly be incapable of such things. Happy surprise birthday day. Let’s hope we don’t get nuked by Putin while we’re sleeping. Are we really engendering another cold war? Are our leaders so weak that they have to rely on fear of the other to keep us in check, knowing that under scrutiny they are nothing but naked howling children? God.