Adele in The Blue Moon Cafe, Chester.
Yesterday I celebrated my 50th birthday. First I took our dogs for a walk round Gilroy Nature Park which is already showing signs of spring. Buds are swelling on the trees and birds were singing their fluting songs - I saw a robin, green finches, reed buntings and a mistle thrush as well as the usual mob of mallards, coots and Canada geese.
There was a woman feeding some of the horses in the adjacent field and I commented to her about their poor condition; "Well, it's winter," she said, "so they roll in mud." I know little about horses but they looked to be in a shabby state to me. Their coats are matted, mud-caked and damp. While the higher half of the field looks less muddy than by the barbed wire fence, there is no truly dry area for them to stand on. Some of the horses are wearing coats but these are filthy and damp-looking also. There is no shelter in the field and the only water comes from a flooded corner of the field also used by ducks and geese, so it's not clean water. There is no food or hay left in any trough of any kind. On my way back past the horses yesterday, a second woman was trying to feed one of them and she was swinging a stout, L-shaped metal pole at the other horses to try to drive them away while her own horse seemed too nervous to come forward.
I reported their condition to the RSPCA about three weeks ago but nothing seems to have been done. Maybe this is an acceptable way to keep horses? It seems a miserable life - but again, I'm no horse expert so I could be wrong.
On Sunday, my day-job colleagues presented me with a birthday cake with "Happy 50th Birthday, Adele" piped in icing on the top. They all sang Happy Birthday while I blew the candles out, which made me smile like the big kid we all are at heart. They presented me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a huge box of chocolates, and a birthday card plus a wad of money "to get yourself something". It was lovely of them. I felt so spoiled!
Most of Monday was spent in Chester, which is one of our favourite places. One of our favourite eating spots looks like it's come under new management, as all its cosy olde worlde charm has been replaced by 1990s minimalism in lugubrious shades of battle-ship grey. Even the lovely gleaming-wood bar had been hidden beneath a coating of ugly tiles. The place used to be very busy. Yesterday there were far more staff than customers.
The new menu made us chuckle. Everything had been given complex descriptions, such as the ground meat compress topped with a locally sourced golden-yellow artisan cheese in a crusty country roll sprinkled with toasted poppy seeds and served with oblong-cut deep-sauteed potatoes garnished with freshly ground black pepper. The words "locally sourced", "country" and "rustic" were sprinkled liberally throughout the menu. Even the ketchup had been rendered as "rustic tomato relish". Once Richard and I had stopped giggling we were tempted to give the food a go, but the party who took the table next to ours had a member who blew her nose in a trumpet solo fit for the Hallé Orchestra then repeatedly coughed and hacked with truly rustic relish, and as we didn't wish to be liberally garnished with locally sourced bacteria, we chose to dine elsewhere.
So how does it feel to turn 50? Yay, I now qualify for Sun Life Insurance after all these years of them dedicatedly sending me junk mail! No, seriously, turning 50 feels fine. When I turned 40 I remember feeling down about that, as if I'd slipped into middle-age and all life was downhill after that point - which is total nonsense, by the way. Did life begin at 40? Life begins the minute any person chooses to start living as opposed to merely existing - and the definition of "living" is 100% an individual one.
But here I am at 50... Wow, how did that happen? Tempus fugit, and you'd better believe it. What have I done so far? Got born; went to school then college; got my first real job (editor); swapped the parental home for a haunted house; entered a secret order; was employed as a freelance writer/illustrator; wrote my first novel; moved to a microscopic flat in Aigburth; did various other jobs; left the secret order and went to art school; ran a fanzine with a cult following so exclusive that - to the best of my knowledge - only one person (Nick Fawkes!) still remembers it, apart from me; was unemployed for years; got a job (writer/photographer/listings editor); joined OBOD; married Richard; worked in a pottery; began writing seriously; became a cryonicist... And then it was Now!
And now this flesh-and-blood vehicle is 50 - and I feel great!