IT was my birthday recently, and we commiserated with a meal out.
She said many happy returns, old fella; and I said, hey, watch it, buddy, I’m still young and vibrant; and then I wondered aloud if there was a draught in the restaurant.
It wasn’t a big birthday, but they’re all starting to add up.
The damage isn’t in the 30th, is it? It’s in the 30 years before.
In any case we commiserated with that meal, and I realised that actually perhaps this was a landmark of sorts.
Because never before have I marked a turn of age with dinner – unless dinner counts as a stomach-lining McDonald’s followed some hours later by a stomach-churning kebab, or the meal my mother forced the family to have on my 22nd.
She was emotional. None of her children would ever be 21 again.
We, on the other hand, were drunk.
It was a Friday and, as such, everyone under the age of 28 had the sole aim of nailing the food, getting a taxi to town and, in my case, seeing if I couldn’t find the girl whose love of Chrissie Hynde-style eyeliner, Fauvian art and Byronic poetry was utterly enchanting and, I suspected, probably symbolised a proper filthy side.
The point is this: 2011 was the first proper birthday meal out I have ever had.
And so maybe this anniversary was not just a step into middle-age, but also one into middle-spread.
For I am, at this ripe (and ripening) age ready to contradict claims I made when, even though I was certainly more certain, I was undoubtedly more worth doubting.
It is this: eating rocks.
The definition of happiness is a mouthful of melting lamb.
Doesn’t come cheap, mind.
Good food hardly ever does, but a nice chop is worth its weight in however much gold the butcher demands for it.
If you want inexpensive, try beans on toast, Pot Noodles and fish fingers with chips.
Once, I did want inexpensive. It was all I wanted from a meal.
Buying food seemed a little like paying council tax, a waste of good money but something which needed doing to stop bureaucrats – in one case, council nobodies, in the other, the Grim Reaper – hassling you.
How foolish the young and skinny are.
Food is not just a lifeline, a nice pork pie is life itself.
If once all my spare cash went on records and experimental albums, which I suspected I wouldn’t like but was always delighted to find I did, now it is splashed in eating houses and on experimental dishes I suspect I won’t like but am always... well, yeah. Same thing applies.
Eating is the greatest thing ever invented. Ever.
It’s more social than dancing, more hedonistic than drinking and more fun, I can only imagine, than doing drugs.
It’s the most fun you can have on your own. Or, actually, with another person.
And so I’ve gone cold turkey – or, rather, hot chicken, and a whole batch of other fresh food stuffs – on ready meals, tinned goods and anything from Tesco’s own range. Replaced by home-cooked curries and lasagna.
Just like tequila bars have been increasingly substituted for Mexican restaurants during evenings out, and now for birthday celebrations too.
That girl who liked Russian literature agrees I think.
She’s read Tolstoy, after all, and didn’t he say there is no contentment like being well-fed, drunk and with loved ones?
It might be true.
She wishes me happy birthday. It’s all right.