The clack of the doorknocker on Greenhill Road announced the arrival of guests and this continued until the front room was a jolly mélange of friends and well wishers. Mr. Porthole—one of the Mister’s oldest friends—had come up from Brighton. Later The Mister would catch me sneaking a cigarette with him in the front garden. Lady Di was there from Winchester with her shyly handsome teenage son Antony. I missed seeing her older daughter Rosie, who was celebrating another friend’s birthday in London—someone presumably much closer to her eighteen years. Professor Mercy from Cambridge appeared and I watched as Lady Di passed her copy of my novel on to him, which she’d read and critiqued in every incarnation to the bitter end. “Feels like a doctoral thesis,” he intoned and spirited it away.
The Howard Road gang stopped in on their way to a more exotic, less landlocked holiday on the island of Mauritius. Presumably they were aware that the Dodo had long since left the building. Jazz’s lovely friend Chris was with her daughter who commented prettily on my Doc Marten’s. I looked around at all the young daughters in the room and marveled at their beauty—to a one. “Uncle” Stanley and Maggie followed the crowd bemusedly. Or maybe they were watching me freely indulge in the red and snapping photos of everyone in sight. Mr. Lovepenney and his paramour arrived later and restarted the engines, so to speak. (Sorry about the paramour reference Sue, just dying to use the word in a sentence!) The birthday cake was a wedding cake in disguise. Put off by the sugary confections on offer at M&S and quite sure a Teletubby mug on a cake wouldn’t do, Jazz and I decided on the white-iced fruitcake, which I augmented with candles in the design of a peace symbol. At one dozen candles to a box we thought it wasteful to buy an extra box figuring (wrongly) that no one would notice there were only 48 candles ablaze. A delightful, sharp-eyed, purple-haired sprite from next door challenged that notion. Cheeky girl.
It was much easier to (quietly amidst the chaos) celebrate Lady Di’s upcoming birthday with a single candle on a birthday cupcake. If not for the magic of photography then this momentous occasion might have gone unrecorded.Saved from the traditional celebratory late-night evil shot of tequila merely by knocking over my full glass, I managed to wake at first light. We had stayed overnight on Greenhill Road and I prompted The Mister to a walk through the Sunday morning quiet back to Montague Road. Inexplicably, I decided that my new favorite word was “arse” and everything was “my arse this” and “my arse that” and the only other sound besides the early morning bird chorus was The Mister laughing.