Last month as I was watering the vegetable patch, Christo came down the steps and asked whether I knew if the OF (Original Freeholder) was in.
“I don’t think he is, “I replied,” as I’ve just pushed a belated birthday card I made for him through his letterbox.”
“It’s my birthday today, “announced Christo.
“How are you going to celebrate?”
“I was going to go into town but now I think I might just go to the pub with the OF and the Couple.”
“I’ll join you,” I said.
I rarely go to pubs nowadays. In my first job, “going to the pub” was virtually part of the job description. In fact, I recall one man building his entire working day around pub opening hours. He would creep into work at then slip out again just before when the pubs opened. He would stay boozing until he was ejected when the pubs closed in the afternoon, only to return again at until the final bell was sounded. Not surprisingly he and others developed a chronic alcohol problem, which the company later took steps to tackle. Although I joined the others for a drink in the evening and occasionally at lunchtime, I rarely drank anything alcoholic. Such was my lack of knowledge regarding alcoholic beverages I once, in genuine innocence, asked whether a colleague wanted a pint or half a pint of Southern Comfort when I was buying a round. In retrospect, some of my colleagues probably downed the equivalent of half a pint of Southern Comfort in a single day.
Having already made a birthday card for the OF, I dashed up to my flat to make another one for Christo, printing off a copy of my original image of the Brimstone Butterfly which I had taken in the summer. In his card I inscribed the words: “I was going to get you a birthday cake and have some brazen hussy jump out of it….but hey, I didn’t want to get icing in my hair!” I have used those same words several times over the years, having first seen them on a card I bought for the Cricketer.
When I had a penchant for good looking tall blonde men, the Cricketer fitted the bill to a T. It helped that he looked especially dashing in cricket whites. He and another man worked for me in a small office. I knew he played cricket as I had seen a photograph of him and his team in the local newspaper. The age of each player was shown in brackets by their name. I was rather touched that he, as a strapping 30 year old, played alongside a man in his 50s. He later told me that the only reason he had managed to secure a place on to the highly competitive graduate recruitment scheme was because he was so good at cricket and the (male) bosses felt he could help them produce a winning company team. The fact that his work in the public sector had nothing to do with sport, was a matter they conveniently overlooked. I somehow doubt if my experience on my primary school rounders and netball teams would have held equal sway with them.
As it was the Cricketer’s birthday I decided to make him a cake. That was when I discovered that he was actually 23 not 30. In the newspaper the bracketed numbers had referred to the individual’s cricket scores. Undaunted, I bought a book on how to decorate cakes and decided on a cricket theme. I made miniature cricket bats and cricket balls out of marzipan to decorate the sides of the cake. On top, I made a bas relief of a cricketer batting, whose image I copied from a newspaper. The Cricketer was even able to identify who I had used as a template by the fact that the man depicted was left handed. In icing I wrote his name and the legend: 23 not out. I spent days perfecting that cake but had the consolation of being able to eat my mistakes. On the day of his birthday, I told my other colleague to find some pretext to take him out of the room whilst I lit the candles.
When they returned, the Cricketer took one look at the cake and left the room again. It seems he was quite overcome with emotion and had gone round to his friends to tell them about the cake. We became lovers shortly afterwards.
TO MANDIP, BRAM STOKER AND ME: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!