We are in the kitchen discussing the Queen’s birthday, which is today. And the other Queen’s birthday, which isn’t.
“She has two birthdays, you see,” I say. “The Queen’s actual birthday when she came out of her mummy’s tummy … (I pause briefly to process this) … is on 21 April, whereas her ‘official’ one is in the summer.”
“But MY birthday is in the summer,” says NG disconsolately. She is swinging her legs against the high chair whilst NC bobs precariously in his IKEA vessel, like a small buoy in high seas.
“So is the Queen’s. One of them, anyway.”
“Wish I could have two birthdays.”
“Well, you can’t.”
Clouds pass over NG’s face and she stops kicking. “Aah, poor me. I just have one birthday. WHY do I just have …”
NW peers over his laptop and cuts her off. “I’m not sure about this. Anyone who thinks they need to tell people to wear stout shoes and bring a torch to a stony beach at night is not someone I have a lot of time for.”
Her Majesty’s 90th birthday fever has gripped our town like a one-day-only Peppa Pig World discount code. NW has signed himself up to light a beacon on a little island in the harbour near us as part of the 1,000 being lit to commemorate the event. It is being organised by a shattering bore called Martin who is beside himself with excitement and has sent in the region of 50 emails, all of which have been marked ‘high priority’ and relate to uniform or timings. The ‘stout footwear’ is the last straw.
“Don’t do it then,” I say, though I am a little peeved as he works in London all week so I think it’s good for him to do a bit more in terms of integration than go for a pint.
“Is the Queen having a party?” asks NG, who has bored of trying to topple her brother and is now trying to feed NL smoothie with a Calpol stick.
“Wish I could have lots of birthday parties when it’s my birthday,” sighs NG, looking like Lola when Charlie shuns her for a ‘big friend’.
“You can have one. But the Queen is doing lots of things on her birthday because she’s the Queen.”
“Is she going to the swings?”
NW shuts his laptop with a sigh. With detached interest, I watch him implode. “What is she doing, apart from being responsible for people resurrecting the word ‘stout’ and lighting up the whole bloody world?”
“She’s going to the Post Office, then she’s got an appointment to inspect her plaque.”
There is silence.
“I don’t mean the dentist,” I say hurriedly. “I know that all sounds bad – she’ll do all that, go for a little walk and chat to some people and then go home for some cake and listen to the Prime Minister make a speech.”
More silence until NC whimpers. Dribble dangles from his chin and his eyes start to water.
“Not much of a birthday, then, really,” says NW. “In fact, all in all, a bit cra …”
“Sappy. A bit sappy, yes; but then she is going to be ninety,” I say, managing to look both apologetic and disapproving whilst transmitting, “don’t swear before our children, even though I often say ‘f*ck.”
“Wish the Queen could have lots of parties for her birthday,” says NG. “Aah. POOR Queen.”
NW looks at me and smiles. “I think my walking boots are in the shed.”
“They are,” I reply. “And if you want, go for a pint with Martin. I think he drinks stout.”
KEY TO CHARACTERS
Characters are abbreviated as follows:
NW – not William (husband and father)
NG – not George (daughter, sister and two and three quarter year old)
NC – not Charlotte (son, brother and seven month old)
NL – not Lupo (a Labrador)