The morning has settled on grey. Is it really four years since I turned forty? I make a couple of wrong turns before finding the parking lot. By the time I apply the hand brake drizzle has coated the wind screen in an infectious sheet of transparent spots. How could it be otherwise on the 25th November?
The foyer of the cinema is empty. I collect my ticket from the machine and make my way to the overpriced refreshments. Is it wrong to buy a small carton of salted popcorn at 10.20 in the morning? No, of course it isn't. I take my VIP seat. The backs of the chairs in front look like rows of teeth; only two more people enter - a father and daughter with a giant carton of popcorn - and sit directly behind me. Do reservations really matter when the auditorium is this desolate? I regress in the cinema; after the performance I find bits of popcorn stuck in the woollen fibres of my cardigan and squashed and warming between my legs. It's made my innards feel sore and bloated. What does it do in there? Bounce around like lottery balls? My mouth feels dry.
When I enter Coco's I regret stuffing my face with a bucket of exploded carbs. I am not hungry. First I order one of Teddie's infamous chai lattes. The sugar perks me up. I take out the novel from my bag and begin reading sneaking glances at the other customers sat at the tables around me. I find myself repeatedly drawn to the double-knotted fuchsia scarf tied around the neck of a woman sitting on the other side of the cafe. Blimey, the thing's a visual overdose. On the table next to me sit four grey haired Scandinavian men chatting amiably in their native tongue.
It hits me after a few mouthfuls of halloumi and sweet potato tart - a feeling of deep perpetuation; that my mother passed though my grandmother, that I passed through my mother, that my daughter passed through me. The connection we women share, joined together like paper dolls. For a moment I sit blankly, taking it in, my body stunned in wonder. I think of what my mum went through on this day forty-four years ago: aged twenty-three; full of flu; isolated on the ward; no husband or family near her; struggling to push her first born out....
....and now here I am, looking out of the window at the damp and the decayed, trying to make sense of it all.
I celebrate quietly this year. A slow, peaceful day. I receive new pens, notebooks and a kindle. The weekend before Younger Dad treated me to a fabulous Indian meal at a rather fancy restaurant in Marylebone. A seven course taster menu - hotter than coals and delicately presented. I was full to bursting.
But the best part of any birthday now are Little A's hugs and happy birthdays to the best mummy EVER.
Also her tireless belief that I'm still only thirteen years old!
Rest well and have a magical holiday!