It was my birthday last week. 39. That’s thirty-nine. NOT 40! How can I be so sure? Janet insisted I produce my passport as proof, that’s how!
It’s become a birthday tradition to go away for a couple of days. A tradition Janet’s sister was obviously unaware of when she first agreed to look after the kids three years ago. Sucker.
And by ‘away’ I mean twenty minutes up the road to Manchester. Just far enough as to not hear the bedtime battle cry of the boys; providing the wind isn’t blowing in our direction. Saying that, I did turn the TV volume up a little just in case. It was kind of windy, best not to take any chances.
Having two nights away makes all the difference. Two nights mean we can spend the first night catching up on sleep, leaving the second night free to do, well, you know, sleep. What were you thinking? Have I not already mentioned I’m 39?
We started Friday with lunch at Jamie’s restaurant. The food was fabulous and not as expensive as you might imagine. We shared some Antipasti and cocktails before heading to the hotel where Janet dropped off her bags and I dropped off into a quick nap. Well, it was a comfy bed. Far more comfortable than the living room floor where I can normally be found in the afternoon, eyelids heavy, LEGO for a pillow, and elbows in my collarbone as a reminder of how far away from the prospect of meaningful sleep I actually am.
Having broken my glasses a few days earlier, and with the benefit of having Janet for a second opinion (as opposed to the boys who’d wanted me to look like the love-child of Dame Edna and a post-breakdown Mr Tumble), we chose some new specs, did a little shopping, grabbed a bite to eat from the food stalls in Piccadilly Gardens, and went for a drink.
Now, also part of the tradition is for Janet to arrange something random for us to do. Last year was a fascinating tour of Manchester Town Hall after the staff had gone home. The year before we went to Islington Mill for a talk on … well, if I’m honest, I have no idea. The title included words such as existentialism. If I was baffled by the title it was nothing compared to my confusion by the end. I nodded a lot. I laughed when others laughed, and shook my head when those around me tutted. I avoided asking “what the f#ck?” when asked if anyone had any questions. I think I did quite well considering.
This year Janet had organised for us to see a ‘performance’. A performance in Portico Library. Her use of the word ‘performance’ worried me. As did the description. ‘The Credibility of Clairvoyants in the Victorian Era’.
She struggled to define what she meant by ‘performance’. Was it a show? No. A play? Not really. A talk? Kind of.
As she finished her umpteenth drink and disappeared to the toilet, I googled it. I found a review. And by review I mean thesis. I found a living hell. In fact, what’s worse than a living hell? Yep, that. I found that!
This was no ordinary performance. We WERE the performance. It wasn’t a talk. We would be doing the discussing. This wasn’t even a play. We were the bloody actors. Me, Janet, and a group of students studying the History of Science! This was fecking ROLE-PLAY! Role-play in Victorian costume!
As she stumbled back to our table I calmly explained that due to unforeseen circumstances I would not now be joining her for this evening’s ‘performance’. She was not impressed, so I continued to explain my reasoning, and asked what she felt she could contribute to the discussion. She looked me in the eye (literally, one eye, she was a little drunk), placed a finger on each side of her temple, paused, and then in a disturbingly gravely voice said,
“My name is Derek Acora. I’m getting a Mary. Mary loves Dick!”
She wasn’t helping her cause.
Seriously, what was she thinking? It’s not even as if I could have excused myself for a toilet break and made a run for the doors. Such was the venue I’d have had to ask them to unlock the bloody doors first!
Instead we had a couple of drinks at the Jazz festival where I stroked my beard amongst like-bearded folk (seriously, so many beards it must have been a fire hazard), before taking an early night; Janet still grumbling about what our night could have been.
Saturday was spent visiting the museums and art galleries of Manchester. We visited the fabulous Chinese Arts Centre, the new brain exhibition at MOSI, and the truly wonderful ‘Do It’ exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. If you’re in Manchester I can’t recommend this enough. We visit the museums quite often but it’s nice to casually look around without having to keep a safe distance between the artwork and the grubby hands of a toddler or two. It’s a whole new experience when you’re not constantly hearing,
“That man’s got his willy out!”
Touch wood (pardon the pun, if indeed that is one) it’s always been a relief to find them pointing at a statue, although a lesson in crying wolf may not be a bad thing.
I had my first experience of Sushi at the fabulous Umezushi restaurant, and then a second consecutive full night of sleep, uninterrupted by the usual sleep walking zombie toddlers.
It was a brilliant birthday. A big thank you to Jackie and Ben for looking after our boys, and an equally big thank you to Janet for organising our escape, and being just drunk enough to not question my decision of having another drink rather than sitting in a room full of students discussing the afterlife … dressed like a tit.