Friday, 15 August 2008

11. Mary's birthday

Is it possible for Mary to have a happy birthday under current circumstances? Here’s what happened.

I am not very keen on shopping. That’s an understatement. I am not keen on shopping in the way Russians are not keen on Georgians, or China isn’t keen on civil rights. I am also not keen on department stores. Here are the three worst places on Earth in reverse order: Devil’s Island, Guantanamo Bay, IKEA. And I am also not very thrilled about going into the West End, which is entirely populated nowadays by tourists from the Planet Idiot, whose major talent is to chew gum and say ‘yeah right laterz’ on the phone at the same time.

Despite all this, Mary and I chose to spend her birthday at Selfridges. To help things along, we saved ourselves the unpleasantness of the Tube by driving in to the West End (oh come on, be reasonable, I’m doing enough already to reduce my carbon footprint). On arrival, we went straight to the watches and jewellery section where I instantly became a discerning shopper by steering clear of any brand I’d heard of (Gucci, Burberry etc) on the basis that if I’d heard of it, it was bound to be uncool. We wandered around a bit, chatting to obsequious shop assistants, before exchanging my Mastercard for a Rado watch and Georg Jensen bangle. (No, me neither). Mary noted these items were quite expensive but I said she was worth it. The shop assistant was visibly moved by this, but Mary looked a little nauseous.

By a happy coincidence, the jewellery section is right next to the food hall. So we lunched on a fabulous salt beef sandwich. Then we bought the six largest freshwater prawns on the planet, a perfectly hung piece of fillet steak, and a box of Leonidas chocolates (because the pineapple creams are unbelievable).

In the evening, the kids came round and we consumed it all, along with some salads, melon, prosciutto and Martha’s fairy cakes, and washed down by a bottle of Villa Maria Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon provided by Katy’s sometimes boyfriend. We chatted away for a couple of hours and then we sang Happy Birthday. And it was.