1st March 2015
Bink’s thirtieth birthday.
Four years ago we weren’t yet letting our house every weekend on Airbnb, as we are now.
Which was one mercy, at any rate.
Now, we have thirtieth birthday parties in our house every few weeks. Twenty or so at a time: successful; professional; paired-off; parenting people, a few of them. House and garden full of the joyous laughter of friends, doctors, lawyers, marketing designers, film-makers.
So it was a mercy we didn’t have that to compare with at the time, at any rate.
She wasn’t living at Gatsby’s, either: another mercy.
They had fallen out, for the moment, having taken too many chunks out of each other to keep going without respite. So she was staying at her sensible-friend’s house.
For the moment.
I can’t remember how I knew this, since she was never in touch.
But I knew to send the champagne and flowers and chocolates to his house.
For her birthday. That special one. Her thirtieth.
Not Bink the doctor or lawyer, marketing designer or film-maker. Not teacher or bride or young mother or writer or musician or charity worker. Not a vet. Not a nurse. Not a hedge-fund manager or a cook or a gardener or a teller of the till at Sainsbury’s.
Just an ill person. Living at a friend’s house. For the moment.
And thirty, that Sunday.
So I sent the presents for her birthday to his house.
Lunchtime on Sunday, Shaun and I coming back from a long drive somewhere, Bristol or something, work I’d been doing, somewhere far away.
Come for my birthday.
My friend’s house.
Him and me and Gatsby.
What is our policy on this? I asked Shaun after I hung up. Do we meet up with Gatsby? If we don’t have Rose with us?
Too short notice, Shaun said. I have work this afternoon.
Alex, generous Alex, rearranged his day immediately to be there for her: he would go back to London much later than planned. Ben willing, too. There didn’t seem a reason why I shouldn’t be there. If we didn’t have Rose with us. Stronger than my desire to see her on her birthday, anyway.
No delighted crowds of friends. No happy houseparty all weekend. No doting boyfriend or fiancé or young husband to organise a surprise for her.
No breast-feeding baby in a cradle, or toddler to keep the young parents running upstairs to check on.
No dinner party all evening.
Just two middle-aged friends, two loyal brothers and a (sad) mother. My presents had arrived the day before. I took the wrapping off the flowers, asked her friend for a vase and arranged them for her.
Look, Bink! These are for you. I sent them. They arrived yesterday.
I think we opened the bottle. Possibly the chocolates too.
Perhaps a cake had been provided, or we brought one with us.
And the essential pot of tea.
We were polite to Gatsby, and he to us. Of course. Civilised people.
Most of the time.
(When the police aren’t being called out to part him and Bink, and prevent more chunks. For the moment.)
Alex is leaving separately, for his train.
Thank you for inviting us.
Thank you for coming.