Life

Nuala McCann: 'What you like for your big birthday?' she asks? A vaccine, I tell her

My other half's big birthday was a win win. I bought him a new Fitbit and I inherited his old one. I also ordered the full box set of our old favourite, Frasier, because life has been bleak in this lockdown

There are two big-birthday celebrations in our house – mine might be a very small masked ball

IT'S the season of big birthdays about here. But no jokes about zimmers, Saga or little grey hares popping up.

My other half kicked off the big birthdays last week and, given the times that are in it, we celebrated over a What'sApp group and pinged about old photographs and messages and jokes that went ricocheting across the worldwide web.

There were photographs of a surprise 30th which was 30 years ago.

“We look so young,” I tell him.

“That's my old Weetabix T-shirt,” he cried. It was like he'd just run into a long lost friend.

The T-shirt was a bright yellow job with a picture of a cartoon Weetabix on the front. I think I may have stuffed it into a ball and hidden it at the bottom of a bin one day. Shhhh... it's our little secret.

I have never forgiven my mother for shrinking my ultra-1970s skinny jumper in the wash 45 years ago. When she'd done, it was a Barbie outfit.

She hid the evidence of her hot-wash sin in a cupboard in the garage. There was an unholy rage when I found it.

My other half's big birthday was a win win. I bought him a new Fitbit and I inherited his old one. I also ordered the full box set of our old favourite, Frasier, because life has been bleak in this lockdown and if we watch any more Scandi Noir we'll be walking about in old unravelling Aran jumpers looking for dead bodies in the loo.

My presents smacked of self-interest – but I married a keeper who is too kind to say.

On the birthday group were all our friends from the Holyland gang.

“Why are we all holding candles in that photo?” somebody asked. It was the time the landlord forgot to pay the electricity bill and someone let the workmen in and they cut off the power.

Ah what memories. There was a picture of yer wan who left the chip pan on and set fire to the kitchen. We arrived back to a handsome fireman in the hall and a future cleaning black soot off the kitchen walls.

Did I tell you I married an artist? He painted the numbers back on the dial of the cooker after they melted in the fire.

We shared happy memories. There was our friend who was feeling low one night as he sat in his little room at the back of the house. Then somebody threw a stone from the alley below and put a hole in the window. Lesson: things could always be worse.

There was a picture of my other half wielding his snooker cue which was nicknamed Thor because, as he was fond of telling all contenders: “There can only be one.” Ronnie O'Sullivan would appreciate the sentiment.

The memories are bitter sweet. Life has flown by and so much has changed. But for a while on the big birthday, we were all back in Lavery's bar when Charlie shooed us out the door shouting “Have you no homes to go to?”

Now our children are meeting there and one of them has even moved in next door to the very Holyland house where we once all hung out.

How time flies. We resolved to meet up again and go for the traditional pizza and pint down in the Empire. Is it still just £1?

“What would YOU like for your big birthday?” my sister asks.

She usually does gorgeous just-right presents.

“I'd like the vaccine,” I tell her.

“I'll see what I can do...” she laughs. It's a joke with a jag... or without one, depending on how you look at it.

But next year is full of mad plans for far flung places. There is the matter of a very small lump sum coming my way for my brief stint at the blackboard before it turned into a whiteboard.

The town will be painted red, there will be dinners and nights away and holidays and high times.

“As your solicitor I ought to advise you to invest it in your pension,” says my good friend.

“As my mate, we're splashing it on good times,” I tell her.

Originally I had planned to book a hot tub with twinkly fairy lights for the garden for my big day.

Now, maybe I'll just throw a very small, tres socially distanced ball... masked of course.

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