Monday, 11 March 2013

Challenge Number 7 (and others) – Repeat

March 6th 2013. The dreaded big day of the four-oh had finally arrived and I’d been so busy finishing up my challenges that I had failed to organise myself a party. I knew that a big and exciting weekend lay ahead (more on this shortly) but I still wanted to do something a little bit special to make the actual day itself memorable. Not least because I feared the possibility of last-minute cancellations for said big weekend. (We are definitely overdue a vomiting bug, you see.) Part of me (or, truth be told, an awful lot of me) wanted to run away and hide (preferably in a luxury hotel) but as Dave had taken the day off work I felt it would be rather mean to not spend my birthday with my family.

My only briefs to Dave about the day was that I wanted my first lie-in in two and a half years, come what may, and that I wanted to drink champagne at an inappropriate moment. So the night before, Dave slept upstairs in our attic with instructions to take Charlotte down to the lounge as soon as she woke, I had our bedroom door firmly shut, ear plugs rammed in, the duvet over my head, the black-out blinds down... and what flipping time did I wake up? Ten to seven. Just like every other day of the week when Charlotte chirrups us awake. I didn’t get up straight away, mind, but I didn’t get any more sleep either.

Eventually I had a shower and went downstairs to be greeted by my very excited daughter shouting “Mummy! Birthday! Presents! Sweeties! Charlotte will have one. Just a little one,” which could only further ingrain (and endear) her as the chip off the old block that she truly is. I didn’t give her any of my sweeties though, since naughty Daddy had bought me 40 champagne truffles to mark my 40 years. Yet this wasn’t the champagne at an inappropriate moment, as Dave then produced a miniature bottle for me to down with my breakfast: a breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and a pain au chocolat.

A colourful (and alcoholic) breakfast

It dawned misty and rainy; weather conditions that weren’t going to change for the next few days, when it started to snow instead. Sigh. So much for my birthday heralding the spring. Dave had written in my card that we shouldn’t just be celebrating my birthday, but the completion of all of my 39 steps too, so that’s what we set out to do, with a little homage to several of the better challenges along the way. So after my brightly coloured breakfast (challenge number 11), we set off to Whitby, one of my favourite Yorkshire places, where we went to the beach at high tide and played football in a downpour. This served as a reminder of our trip to see Brazil vs New Zealand at the Olympics (challenge number 21) and to mark our being on an island, just like we were on Jersey (challenge number 26). Alas, the inclement weather and tidal-sized waves meant there could be no repeat of outdoor bathing challenge number 28, but I did get my snowboots wet at one point while wading into the water to retrieve the errant football. Even though Whitby is more famous for being the opening setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stoker’s contemporary Charles Dickens (challenge number 22) was also known to holiday here. And I was armed with a birthday gift of beautiful green mittens knitted by Sam, who gave me the 40 challenges idea and was keen to encourage to keep up my new crafty skill (challenge number 15).

No amount of tickling would make Charlotte look at the camera

Daddy has England ambitions for his daughter

Soon it was time for lunch, and what could have been a better choice than the lobster thermidor at the Magpie Cafe, a repeat of challenge number 7 (completed on Jersey)? Whitby was fairly desolate in the deluge, so for the first time ever, we didn’t have to queue, and had a choice of tables once inside. Most people go to the Magpie for the whale-sized portions of haddock and beef-dripping chips, so I felt I ought to explain to the waitress why I was ordering the most expensive thing on the menu by quite some distance. She wished me a happy birthday and I thought no more of it until just as we were about to ask for the bill, when suddenly she emerged from the kitchen with a candle atop a miniature Victoria sponge cake. With typical Yorkshire tact, she then shouted, “Right, everybody, we have a birthday! Stop what you're doing and sing for Rebecca!” and made the entire restaurant perform Happy Birthday. Charlotte may love birthday presents and sweeties and cakes but still hates the song (remember challenge number 31?), so she burst into tears. She was quickly calmed by being allowed to eat most of the cake. Victoria sponge maybe, but for a brief moment amongst Yorkshire's finest, I felt as if I had slipped into a Victoria Wood sketch.

The Magpie's Lobster thermidor with battered courgettes

Time to move on, and another bleak and foggy drive across the Moors took us back to York, where I had promised myself afternoon tea at that other classic Yorkshire eaterie, Betty’s. Once more against tradition, there was no queue here either. And because I wanted to drink champagne at inappropriate moments, it had to be the pink champagne afternoon tea. Betty’s may not seem very German-speaking these days (challenge number 25), but its founder, Fritz Bützer (who subsequently changed his name to Frederick Belmont while living in Bradford) definitely was, since he was born in the Swiss Alps. And Betty’s is nicely situated in St Helen’s Square, opposite the original Terry’s shop, factory and restaurant, which links to my York chocolate tour (challenge number 13). And there was much chocolate involved in afternoon tea. And since I was having a day off, there was also much bread not baked by me (challenge number 34) and jam not burnt by me on the scones (challenge number 29). Charlotte, allowed to shovel down cake for her second meal of the day, was in heaven. And there was no singing this time. Betty’s may seem dead posh, but it is incredibly child friendly, which is probably a bad discovery. I don't think I have ever felt so full as I did when we left.

You get more sandwiches than this -
I'd been too busy eating to remember to take a photo

When we left Betty’s, it was already dark. Time had run away with us. I had arranged to meet a friend for a drink in town at eight, but somehow had to get to a parents’ evening at Charlotte’s nursery in between. There was no time to go home to change, so a repeat of my cocktails in a glamorous dress challenge (number 6) would only be able to involve the cocktails. I also had to make an emergency trip to Marks & Spencer's to spend some birthday money on a small handbag, so that I didn’t have to take a changing bag full of nappies and snacks out on the town with me. Dave then took Charlotte and the changing bag home. And Stripey of course, who had been with us throughout the day (challenge number 16). I drank more wine at the nursery parents’ evening which helpfully disguised the fact that I had turned up slightly drunk in the first place. (Bad Mummy.) Then I headed back into town to meet Claire for the biggest gin and tonic of my life.

A lot of Hendricks and cucumber

It turns out that being 40 isn’t so bad after all. Cheers!

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