In practice, of course, the day was happy, fun and thoroughly enjoyable. Lunch at Zerodegrees (in my case caramelised pear and gorgonzola pizza, accompanied by black lager and pale ale) was followed by a cake which B. had bought and iced for the occasion. We then led a party to Bristol Zoo to observe the various fine animals on display there.
It was the first time I'd visited the new Monkey Jungle, where red-ruffed lemurs scamper freely around the visitors' paths and handrails without intervening bars or glass. The lions, penguins and gorillas were as entertaining as ever, although for some reason the capybara were nowhere to be seen.
In the evening we went on to the Portwall Tavern, which had kindly reserved us all space and got a chef in specially to provide Pieminister pies. They sold us Doombar, Barnstormer and various other beers that I was having too good a time to pay sufficently close attention to.
B. had kindly ensured that it wouldn't matter if I got drunk and embarrassed myself by assembling an activity that would provide a whole different order of embarrassment: a pub quiz based on my life, which she'd compiled by consulting friends, relatives and, apparently, pretty much everyone I'd ever met.
Subjects ranged from my first words and reaction to the birth of my baby brother, to my recent writing and participation in mailing-list controversies. The final round looked like this (click for enlarged image):
and involved identifying the contents of my DVD and video shelves.
My wife's devotion, and her creativity, never cease to amaze me. I'm so very lucky to have her.
It was lovely to see the nearly 40 people from different eras and aspects of my life, including university contemporaries, fellow authors, sisters-in-law, friends' children including my goddaughter, and various teenage and childhood companions, including some who've known me getting on for three decades now.
Too many of these are people I don't see nearly often enough these days, so it was wonderful to catch up with so many of them. People drifted in and out during the different phases of the day, but still there were only a few who I didn't manage to chat to properly.
Thanks to the extreme generosity of family and friends, I now have altogether more new books than I'm likely to get around to reading, which is just the way I like it. Titles I was particularly happy to be given included:
- The Prisoner Scripts Volume 1 from B.;
- Fragile Things and Watching the English from the aforementioned baby brother and his wife;
- Persian Fire, Collapse and (tokenistically) Promethea Book 5 and King Rat from my parents-in-law;
- Never the Bride and Accelerando from other relatives, again through the magic of book tokens;
- and River of Gods, Iron Council, 100% and Dying Planet from various friends.
Other rather splendid things from generous people included the DVDs of Mirrormask (from B. again) and the 3-disc edition of The Wicker Man, a case of fair trade wine and a similar number of bottles of exciting beer, and (from goddaughter E. and family) the adoption papers for a two-toed sloth.
It was the kind of weekend which leaves you replete, slightly hungover, full of love for humanity in general and your friends in particular, and mildly dazed by the sensory overload of it all. In short, utterly lovely.
It's just a shame I can't justify having another one until I'm halfway to 80.