One memorable birthday I woke up with severe tonsillitis and couldn't swallow a thing, so no cake for me. But the very worst one was sometime in the early 1990s when my first husband, The Artist, admitted he'd been seeing another woman and couldn't decide between the two of us, so went to spend a few days with her in order to decide! That was cheery....
Why I took him back and just didn't build a bonfire of his belongings on the driveway I don't know. We only lasted a few more years so the relationship was obviously on its last legs, so I've always been a bit ambivalent about birthdays.
This one was a good one though. I turned thirty-seventeen this year which sounds a lot more palatable than 47, that's for sure. I certainly feel more like either thirty or seventeen, rather than the perilously close to the half-century that I am.
I decided I wanted to go up to London and finally spend the money I've been saving over several months on a new handbag. I'm not what you'd call a shoes and handbag person. On my feet I only wear trainers in the winter and Birkenstock sandals in the summer. That's it. I've had the same handbag for about 12 years, well, when I say the same handbag, after 3 or 4 years the zip always goes in the same place, so I buy another one, exactly the same. I've decided that I now want a proper, grown-up handbag, a classic that will never go out of fashion, that's well-made and will last years. Basically, the last handbag I'll ever buy.
I saw the Mulberry Bayswater and fell hopelessly in love. It fitted my criteria exactly, except for the eye-watering price. I could have put it on my credit card but I decided to do the sensible thing and actually save up for it, using money earned from selling my jewellery and suncatchers, flogging stuff on eBay, plus whatever Christmas and Birthday money I'd get. I'll do a proper reveal with pictures and everything, don't despair all you handbag perves!
We caught the train and got to Waterloo about 3.15pm. We jumped on a bus (so much more pleasant than the tube) to get us over the river and walked up to the teeming streets of Covent Garden. I was very surprised to see great crowds of people standing around outside every pub, clutching pint glasses and wearing red roses in their lapels. Some even had the cross of St George painted on their face and others were wearing flags like cloaks. It was rather nice to have reclaimed the English patron saint and his day from the fascists and football hooligans.
I love Covent Garden, especially when the weather is as kind as it has been. London is beautiful in the spring sunshine and even those that weren't well irrigated with horizontal lubricant were having a good time. Everyone was very laid back and chilled, enjoying the antics of the street performers.
We wandered up and down the handicraft stalls, at least one of which gave me a good idea for a new item of jewellery. There's loads of lovely stuff on the stalls so if you get the chance, I would definitely recommend checking them out.
We then headed over to the Mulberry shop on Floral Street where I tried to act like I spend loads of money everyday but probably still came over like the hick from the sticks that I really am.
Then we sauntered down Neal Street, gazing at all the lovely shops. Aren't there are lot of shops selling 'natural' shoes down there? The Natural Shoe Store, Birkenstock, Joseph Siebel and I think a couple of others I've forgotten. I'm all for comfortable shoes but even I thought that was a bit excessive.
We got to the end where it joins Shaftesbury Avenue, where TLH used to work many years ago, and we realised we were opposite Forbidden Planet, not having been aware that it had moved there from, er, wherever it was before (near High Holborn, I believe).
Forbidden Planet, Shaftesbury Avenue
For those that don't know, Forbidden Planet is a sci-fi cult memorabilia/comic/bookstore. It's the sort of place I can mooch around, finding no end of desirable items but usually buying nothing. As TLH says, seeing, for example, all the models they have en masse looks brilliant and very tempting, but if you bought, say, a model of the Predator and brought it home, it would look pretty sad and out of place on the mantelpiece. It's also a very, very nerdy place filled with blokes that look like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. But I do like it.
It was, by now, just after 5pm so we retraced our steps back towards Covent Garden and ended up at Seven Dials...
Seven Dials, Covent Garden
...before heading off to Chandos Place to try and find Wahaca, the Mexican eating place, for an early dinner.
I can highly recommend it. It has a similar vibe to Wagamama's in that it's very busy, quite noisy and you get fed very quickly. There are three in London, the one at 66 Chandos Place WC2N, one in Canary Wharf at 40 Canada Square E14, and one in the west at Westfield Shopping Centre W12. They all serve the same food, you don't book, you just turn up. You might have to queue but probably not for long. You can see the menu here.
As this was the first time we'd been here, we chose the Wahaca selection which is for 2 people and is a mix of fish, chicken, pork and vegetable things. We had tortilla chips and their homemade guacamole to start:
Tortilla chips and homemade Guacamole
But what to drink? Beer?
Hmm - decisions, decisions....
I know! I'll have both!
I'll start with the beer:
Then move onto a Margarita:
and maybe just squeeze another (or 3) in:
because they were THE BEST BLOODY MARGARITAS I'VE EVER DRUNK!!!
I was starting to get very amused by TLH's photographic recording of my slide into alcoholism:
What? I'm just pushing my glasses back up my nose....
And then the food started arriving. The first items to arrive were the two herring tostadas but I forgot to take a picture of them. The portions are not huge but you get quite a few of them so although the waiter said it would be enough and we didn't believe him, he was quite right as we were totally stuffed by the end. I think the tortilla chips and all that booze helped, mind.
Anyway, next to arrive were the three pork pibil tacos, which were piles of spicy shredded pork on soft tortillas:
Pork Pibil Taco - I was halfway through mine before I remembered I should also photograph the food, never mind the drinking.
I can't remember the order the rest of the food came but there were three seasonal vegetable tacos which didn't look all that appetising but tasted fab. They were made with winter greens, field mushrooms, borlotti beans and feta cheese, with a chili sauce:
Seasonal vegetable tacos
Then there were 2 huitlacoche quesadillas (Mexican corn mushroom, British field mushrooms and cheese on a toasted flour tortilla) and 2 chicken taquitos (marinated chicken, shredded lettuce, Lancashire cheese and tomato salsa, all in a rolled, deep-fried corn tortilla) served with refried beans and green rice:
Top of the picture - chicken taquito; Bottom of picture - huitlacoche quesadilla. We'd eaten one of each.
When we arrived at about 5.30pm, the place was about a quarter full. By the time we had finished, about an hour and a bit later (we weren't rushing and they weren't rushing us), it was full and people were queuing down the stairs, look:
We were so stuffed it hurt to move. I would have dearly loved another Margarita as they were so unbelievably good but we still had to make our way to the station and get a train back home, and I'd rather do that in full control of my faculties.
As it is, I can't really remember which way we walked back to the station, but I took a few pictures while crossing Waterloo Bridge for all the Londonphiles out there. They're not great - I just pointed my phone and clicked:
View towards the City
Houses of Parliament and the London Eye
Not sure what this building is called, I just fancied shooting into the sun to see how it came out!
View along bridge towards Waterloo.
With regards to the last picture above, right at the end of the bridge you can see the dark dome of the IMAX cinema and to the left of that is a new building that has been constructed since I was last in London. I'm afraid I wasn't in much of a fit state to think about how this picture would come out, but it was this building I was trying to capture, because it's been built with three huge windmills in holes at the top and I thought you might also like to see it. I'll go online now and see if I can find out better information about it and a decent picture.
Aha, it's unofficially called 'The Razor' (officially, Strata Tower) and is in Elephant and Castle. It looks like this:
We got home at the terribly sensible time of about 8.45pm where I found a lovely bouquet of flowers on the doorstep for me from my good friends Joe and Sam:
Today my good friend Jamie (my 10-year old chum who is planning to be the First Girl On the Moon and Probably Mars Too - an ambition I am wholeheartedly supporting) presented me with a huge birthday card she made me, and a lovely creamy white Azalea bush. Jamie, you're a complete star.
I left the official unveiling of the new handbag and transfer of contents until today. And I took pictures for your vicarious pleasure. Here we go then:
Isn't it fab? I am, of course, expecting that it will make me look like this:
Happy birthday to me....