In which being 30 starts promisingly

My much-anticipated 30th birthday was this weekend. I didn’t get around to doing a series of reflective posts in the run up (surprise). I’ll write something properly philosophical this week, but in the mean time, here are the fun bits. Yes, it was fun. After weeks of vague angsty dreams, marathoning James’s Greatest Hits – and a nasty summer cold earlier in the week which threatened to bollocks up everything – the celebrations were a blast. I thought it was better to blog the photos and highlights here than subjecting you to eight-million tweets over the weekend (and getting distracted…).

The actual birthday was Friday. A midsummer birthday is always a good bet for good weather, but after a changeable couple of weeks, the day excelled itself. Mum took me to Cliveden House, where I hadn’t been since I was little, hence didn’t know was notorious as the place where John Profumo met Christine Keeler. We embarrassed ourselves by trying to get me in with my dad’s National Trust membership, but they let us off with a warning not to do it again.

Dad who’d been asleep after his the night shift as a Samaritans volunteer (oh, the irony), joined us for dinner in London later. They treated me to Vanilla Black, just off Chancery Lane – London’s only Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant and probably the only fine dining experience I’ve ever had. Each dish featured heaps of ingredients in unimaginable flavour combinations, so I chose by which had the most ingredients I recognised and liked in isolation. I’ve discovered it’s virtually impossible to describe fine dining without being banal or tacky, so sod it, here we are: It’s like sleeping with someone new – a barrage of pleasantly-surprising sensations all hitting you at once, overloading you so that you’ve no choice but to stop thinking or caring and go with it. If/when I sell my book, I’ll go back there to celebrate for sure. After dinner, at dusk, we wandered down to the South Bank, where mum and dad argued about mum taking too many photos and I cooed over the beauty of everything as though I’d never seen it before, because it never stops being amazing and age has brought me the realisation of how bloody privileged I am to have grown up with it all on my doorstep.

The next day (after slightly panicking that I’d overstretched myself, and a calming act of kindness from dad) I took eight of my friends (mostly university friends) for a massive picnic at Kenwood House, on the edge of Hampstead Heath (I’ve blogged before about my sentimental attachments to Kenwood), then for dinner at Manna, a vegetarian restaurant in Primrose Hill. Much fun was had by all. As you’d expect, there were plans for word games at the picnic; most obviously Cards Against Humanity. In the end, though, everyone was just happy to chat, and we made our own laughs. Best excuse for being late was emphatically won by my ex-colleague, who had been to Charlotte from Ash’s birthday party the night before. Conversations took in holidays, fashion, politics, tenuous celebrity anecdotes, geek culture, and TV shows which I don’t watch but most of my friends do (at one point, there was an amusing physical dividing line between those who watch Hannibal and those who don’t. You can imagine…).  A glorious number of our jokes revolved around Twitter (Jay, aka @out_of_beta, tried to explain “Ed Balls Day” to the patient non-Twitter users, while I explained that I find it funny chiefly because on that day of that year, I slept with someone who pathologically despises Ed Balls, and most of the Labour Party…). On a similarly debauched note, the term “lady fog” was introduced to my vocabulary after a rare show of innocence on my part. You probably don’t want to Google that…

My advice for anyone anticipating a 30th (or any milestone birthday) is keep it basic. The more basic it is, the more memorable it’ll be. Unless you’re rich/famous/loud enough that 200 people who barely know you or like you will come to a big bash just because it’s swanky and you’re you, don’t have one. I invited about 15-20 people to my picnic and even though I sent invites in March, only eight could make it – a blessing in disguise, as it turned out that buying and transporting food for eight people in high summer is actually quite scary when imminent. However else you can imagine spending a special birthday, getting together 7 to 10 similarly-minded friends, and doing something relaxing wins hands down over everything. Simple as that. My weekend was pretty much everything I’ve ever pictured wanting to do on my 30th without leaving the country. Everything was as perfect and fitting as could be, and cheap to boot. It’ll now go down with my 22nd (my final year at Durham) as one of the best birthdays of my life.

Here are some of the – many – photos…


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