I really enjoy celebrating other people's birthdays, but I've never been all that comfortable with my own. Basically, I don't deal well with being the centre of attention. It's one reason why my career as an after-dinner speaker never really took off. Anyway, until a couple of weeks ago, I had planned to let my 28th birthday just sail past without any real event to mark it. However, I really hadn't counted on Meredith turning out to be the world's best birthday celebrator. I now know that she is a one-woman birthday party machine who can convince even a birthday-grouch like me to lighten up and have a good time.
It seems that the birthday excitement was building in camp Beaumont well before the "big day" arrived and by the night before I think Meredith was about to explode with anticipation. To avert disaster, she arranged to start celebrations early with a trio of events on my birthday-eve. First, we started off with a meal in a really delightful old pub by Liverpool Street Station - it was all wooden floorboards and wood-panelled walls and served delicious food, including a plate of figs and parma ham, which I loved. From there we ran through the rain to one of London's swankiest bars Vertigo 42, which is situated on the top floor of what used to be the city's tallest building. It may be a bit of a gimmick venue, but we had an excellent time sipping champagne and looking out over the rain-drenched city. We were there after sunset, so the city was all dark streets and bright lights, which made it look very exciting and almost gothic in a Gotham City-like way. Very cool. From there, we moved on to another bar in a beautiful enclosed courtyard, which I would never have found if it weren't for my birthday guide. It was a cool venue, though it was winding down by the time we got there late on a Wednesday night. It was, however, funny to observe a bunch of drunk office colleagues obviously getting set to pair up and head home together though. Kids, please remember that too-much-alcohol and work parties don't mix!
The following day, I went to work still a little sleepy from the night before, but somehow managed to scrape through without doing too much work (except, of course, for an important teleconference that was unhelpfully scheduled for 5.30pm and lasted until about 7pm - much to my frustration). Anyway, straight after work, I jetted out the door to dinner at the Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill. I'd had drinks there before and I like its quirkiness a lot (much more than its sister venue in Shoreditch, which is just pretentious without any real sense of fun). But I was a bit apprehensive, because Huy had given it a very big thumbs down as a place to eat and hang out. As it turns out, we had a great meal (sure, I just had a steak, which is hardly cutting edge cuisine, but it was really perfectly cooked and the handcut chips and veggies were also excellent) and the service was friendly, professional and not at all pretentious. The only thing better than the food was the long list of presents that Meredith gave me in between courses. I won't list them all here for fear of making you all jealous, but it should suffice to say that I will have to lift my game if I am to hold my own in the present-giving stakes this Christmas and on future birthdays.
Overall, I have to say that my 28th birthday was my best one yet and, despite myself, I'm even looking forward to the 29th. Thanks Mez! And thanks also to all my other friends for their kind birthday wishes and gifts. It's nice to know that you all care.