It’s my birthday this week. I am, as a man, 100 per cent indifferent to birthdays. I am not “bang up for it”, but nor do I waddle about telling anyone who’ll listen that I’m devastated that it is my birthday this week, simultaneously sneakily reminding them to get me something on Amazon. It’s coming. I’ll deal with it. No fanfare. Just a 700-word column about it, and move on.
I’ve had a few classic birthdays, of course. My 30th was good because it was a surprise. I knew I was going to be 30, of course, but I didn’t know I’d be kidnapped and taken to a field for it. And I seem to remember my 26th was OK. I think it was swimming, or the cinema with friends, or alone. But for my best birthdays, you have to go back to the 1980s. Merry afternoons spent in forests, roasting things on a big fat fire, my old man fanning the flames, supervising. One year we went and played rounders and then went to a Beefeater. I’m weeping with happiness just writing this. And that’s before we even discuss my 10th. A pearler.
Birthdays are for children, you see. I remember feeling so special when I was allowed to blow out candles as a kid. Once a year you’d get a shot at it and the room would go wild. As an adult you can obviously buy candles whenever you want, light them and blow them out to your heart’s content. I started doing that three or four times a week once I was earning a decent wage and it’s killed the magic. Now, when my dear mother stuffs candles into the top of a cake and lights them, I just count them gloomily and let them burn down.
A major upside of birthdays is the prospect of a thoughtful present (feel free to get involved). I’ve got some crap over the years but I hold out hope. You have to. A few books and hats come my way each year, of course. Last year I got Nando’s vouchers from someone who’d done a corporate for Nando’s.
My friend Flyboy is the only one who’s cracked it. He gets me the same thing every year: tickets to the cricket. It’s wonderful. Generous and exciting. Last year we watched England drive a stump through South Africa’s all-conquering batting line-up and this year we’ll gloat as Cook’s battling bastards roll over the Aussies. Flyboy’s found a winning formula and he sticks to it. For his birthday I always buy him Russell Brand’s My Booky Wook and take him for a quiet pint in Kentish Town.
I know what I’m doing this year. Me and my friend Ali (and Joey Barton) share a birthday and always do the same thing (not Joey). We each invite 30 people to the same pub every year. My people turn up, Ali’s less so. We dress in the same identical shirts, eat the same Thai food and sit there for four hours while the people from my phone contact list have fun around us. Then we go back to my flat and watch a TV show we made together a few years ago, which we’re both really into. We laugh a lot because we’re drunk and it’s a great TV show. And then we try and work out how the sofa bed works. And that’s it done for another year. Pretty ordinary stuff. But birthdays are for children.
For my 10th birthday, I saw Little and Large in concert. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. The funny men from the television were standing there as clear as day, making me laugh in real life. IT BLEW MY MIND.
I didn’t know it at the time, but there was no birthday, NO BIRTHDAY, I would ever have that would be fit to lace the boots of that Little and Large one. Even if Ant and Dec literally walked into to the pub this year and did a personalised 80-minute set for me and my friends I think – even then – it would be more weird than wonderful. Why are you here Ant? No keep doing it, Dec, but why are you here? I think it would put me on edge. That’s it. But if someone could get me a juicer, that would be great.