Following on from my Royal Progress, I decide to have a Royal Birthday which involves several days of celebration rather than just one, like common people 🙂
We begin on Friday with the Alt J gig at Brixton Academy. Being on the guest list courtesy of their singer, Joe, means we don’t get to queue with the majority of people but go in through the stage door and then swerve off to the grandly named VIP bar. We buy a drink each and marvel at the extortionate prices and then go to take our seats. The security guard examines our wristbands (one for the bar, one for the reserved seating) and says loudly and with much joy “You are very special people, you know?” to which we demur. We take our seats, Mark being taken with a fit of vertigo which means he has to sit splayed across 3 seats in an attempt to stay in his seat rather than be splattered on the floor when the balcony collapses. I sit gingerly on the seat next to him. After a while, he relaxes a little and I am able to claim the whole of my seat. Periodically a security guard comes to check we have the right wristbands on and have not sat in the reserved seats simply because we can no longer stand. We are joined by another middle aged couple and we eye each other, wondering who each of us is there for. The man leans towards me. “Who are you here for?” he asks. I explain in a complicated way that our son lives with Alt J’s keyboard player, Gus, but that Joe has arranged for us to be on the guestlist. They explain they are parents of the bass player, Gwil, and we discuss the meteoric rise they have experienced since they released their first single. They have been touring solidly for months and will not have any time off until October. It all seems exhausting and we wonder about the damage it may do, crossing so many time zones so frequently. They are clearly hugely proud of their son, and rightly so. Before we leave we make use of the VIP toilets. VIP only in the sense that there is no queue but needed, nonetheless.
The audience is mixed in age but clearly knows the songs and sings along, enthusiastically. Joe skips a few sections so the audience can sing instead. The ultimate karaoke. I wonder how it must feel to be in that position – to have people singing your words and music back at you.
On the way home we are entertained by some young men in the tube carriage who seem to have had a drink or two. But they are pleasantly inebriated and are just enjoying themselves without impinging on others too much. One young man, a bearded version of Professor Brian Cox, decides we should all be treated to an enthusastic demonstration of his pole dancing skills. They are poor but very entertaining. Despite encouragement to try going upside down, he contents himself with wiggling his way down the pole until he is sitting on the floor of the carriage. His friend, tired of his encouragement falling on deaf ears, decides he will turn himself upside down on a pole next to his seat. Of course, the moment he does so, his friend de-bags him immediately, treating us all to a view of his bare bottom. This he thrusts into the lap of a girl sitting next to him who, I hope, he knows quite well. She squirms and pulls faces which indicate she would rather be a million miles away. It makes the journey time go much more quickly and I would like more in-car entertainment in future although bare bottoms would not be obligatory.
On Saturday we arrange to go to the local pub for their beer festival with some friends. Not considering how popular it might be, we arrive to find the place packed with families and couples and barely a seat to be had. Eventually we find a table with 4 adults and 1 child sitting there and 4 spare seats. I ask if we may use a couple of seats and they agree and then look at us as though we have invaded their territory, waving flags and marching. Despite being in conversation, I can’t help but eavesdrop a little and find their language shocking, particularly with a small child at the same table. It culminates when one, the father I presume, calls the child ‘knobhead’ in an affectionate way. I almost choke on my beer. But I am wearing my tattoo sleeve and feel I look sufficiently hard enough to scare them so we stay seated and continue our conversation, despite the hard looks we are being thrown. Our friends arrive and we ask politely if we can use the remaining 2 chairs. The response is positive although I sense there is eye-rolling behind our backs. We persist for one drink, during which one of my friends has her chair jolted repeatedly as they lean on it, kick it and push backwards and forwards past it. We decide we have fronted it out for long enough and beat a hasty retreat to one of the local curry houses where we eat an enormous meal and top it off with a complimentary liqueur.
Sunday is the day and I wake later than usual. Mark asks if I want a cup of coffee and while he makes it, I go to the loo. When I return to bed, Fran is standing there with my birthday cards. She travelled down from Northumberland overnight so she would be with me on my birthday and I am so very happy to see her. She climbs into bed and when Mark brings my coffee, I open my cards and presents. Fran and I take Dog out while Mark hoovers the sitting room and when we return, Ollie and Becky are also there. Dog is ecstatic to see so many of the pack in one place at one time. We drink wine, eat lunch, talk and laugh and laugh. During the afternoon, our friends bring me a handmade card with a photoshopped me on the front in royal regalia. It is a lovely, lovely day.