The longest standing of the friends – we’ve been friends from the age of eleven – is also, by happy coincidence a brilliant baker and today a visiting Queen. She has brought along a sublime ginger birthday cake which we all happily devour. Prosecco corks are popped and the conversation flows. The same visiting Queen has also brought along a framed photograph of a school trip we went on back in the day. We are pictured floating down the Ardeche river in the South of France having capsized our Canadian Canoe in spectacular fashion. Much reminiscing and storytelling follows, much to the horror of Adam Ant (the ‘
We hardly see The Seven Year Old knight and his friend The Princess who run around squealing excitedly, hiding in the turrets and convincing themselves we have a castle ghost – an idea enhanced by the male adults (?!) amongst us who create ghostly manoeuvres and sounds. Our resident Wizard wears himself out through his endless casting of spells on the delighted Knight and Princess. The Baby, who intermittently wears his very own baby crown, enjoys cuddles from his Aunt Repunzal - who takes care not to get him caught in her homemade hair - and Uncle Jester who is wearing a huge 3-point hat. I would love to know what The Baby is making of all of this.
As the daylight fades we are back out on the rooftop once more for further sparklers and sky lanterns. We later warm ourselves drinking hot soup and eating potato cakes before waving our guests goodbye. The remainder of the evening brings further reminiscing with The Friends who are staying over, one of whom I’ve known for fifteen years. He probably knows me as well as I know myself – which is really quite well these days. He speculates about what my early teenage self would have thought had I been told that in the future I would be celebrating my 40th birthday with the same childhood friend - and our children - that I had shared the canoe with on that watery school trip. With no hesitation I reply that I would have been more surprised all those years ago if you’d told me that me and my canoe companion wouldn’t still be close friends almost thirty years on. And with that, I am once again reminded of the importance of friendship and realise how very lucky I am.
As I lay in the darkness that night listening to The Husband, The Seven Year Old and The Baby, sleeping, I feel as happy and content as I could ever wish to be. Over the past forty years there have been many highs and lows, lots of time spent trying to work out who I am and where I want to be in life. And now, here I am, right where I want to be - surrounded by the people I love. Life is good. Bring on the next forty years!