As it is my birthday, and I am fairly suicidal at the prospect of being 35, I thought it might be good to reminisce about my best birthday ever.
I’ve never been a birthdays person, in fact at school I demonstrated I barely even understood the concept. I was in the final year of school and was making some flirty banter with one of the girls (my age) in the playground. I can’t remember how the conversation started but it got to the point where I was suggesting she would look good in various states of undress. Now just to be clear I was not accosting this girl, or shouting these things to her from behind bushes, we were actually talking and she had consented to be in this conversation with me.
I said something like “Oh I bet you’d look even better in just a bikini”.
And she said “Or maybe my birthday suit!”
Pretty hot stuff eh? Except I didn’t have any fucking clue what “birthday suit” meant, but was so caught up in the moment I just carried on, “Or better still, even less than that!” She gave me a strange look. I laughed awkwardly, “You know, if you stripped your birthday suit off…” She gave me an even funnier look and walked off. It wasn’t until years later I realised “birthday suit” meant naked and began to put in context what I had said.
So we were having some playful banter where I was verbally undressing her and I ended up leaving her with the impression I wanted to peel her skin off and lose my virginity to her fleshy corpse. Wonderful. That quirky charm of mine ensured I was a virgin for many years to come.
Anyway… I’ve never been one to celebrate my birthday as an adult and usually get quite depressed as it comes time for each year to pass. In fact, if I wasn’t writing this I’d be curled up in bed, with my cuddly toys, wondering where my youth went.
But back in October 2006 I had an amazing birthday weekend lined up. I was off to Paris to visit my friend and ex-flatmate Laurent (who you may remember from The Coming Out & The Punchbag). I had high hopes, it was my second trip of the year and I fell in love the first time, although of course the distance had meant it wasn’t to be. Who knows what was to happen as I headed back over for the weekend, the Sunday of which was to be my birthday; my first birthday abroad.
That wasn’t even the half of it. Back in London on the Monday I had seats to see my weighty musical idol, Meat Loaf, in a box at the Royal Albert Hall, at a cost of £125 a ticket. Now given he had collapsed on stage last time he was in the UK I had been worried that the box in question was a coffin but I tried to stay positive. And I say “seats”, I only had one – I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, or rather I couldn’t find anyone who liked Loaf enough to pay £125, but that was to be their loss. Also due to make an appearance was the amazing and ludicrously hot Marion Raven as they had recently released a duet together. I couldn’t have been more excited, I was even planning to buy the t-shirt saying I’d bought the t-shirt.
I arrived in Paris and caught up with my friends, did a bit of looking around at all the beige, went to Qwik – the greatest fast food chain on earth – and got absolutely drenched in a t-shirt on the Champs-Élysées during a torrential downpour in which a shrivelled old woman took pity on me and offered to share her umbrella. This was to be a metaphor for things to come.
I also drank a hell of a lot of Pastis. Pastis was my drink of choice in France, having discovered it on an earlier trip, and no trip was complete without me getting utterly wasted on the stuff at least twice, and carrying a couple of bottles home to remind me of where I was.
An aniseedy, licoricey aperitif, it’s usually mixed (diluted) with water. As such it very easy to drink and fucking lethal, and so I remember little of the first two nights in Paris.
On the final day, my birthday, we had a party at the flat in the afternoon which was thankfully quite cultured and tame, and then Laurent had to leave, to go on a business trip to Barcelona. I would have to amuse myself for the evening, but it wasn’t long before I got an offer to go out on the town.
Julien lived next door, a teacher I think who was on holiday for a week or so from work. Young, and very good-looking in the opinion of the ladies, rumour had it he was quite the party animal. This could be a birthday to remember. His English wasn’t up to much, but I was sure as we got drunker and drunker, his English would improve and so would my French.
We headed out on a mini-crawl of the bars, he was in charge, I barely knew where I was and at every stage could potentially have mistaken the unfamiliar surroundings and strange language being spoken as symptoms of extreme drunkenness.
We had a good time, the universal language of comedy mannerisms and slapstick ensuring I had no trouble communicating with him. We ended up in a bar where we met a group of twenty-somethings, American tourists – all girls. Now things were equalised, their French was as ropey as mine. In terms of conversation and banter I was in charge of winning favour with these fun-seeking American honeys, and I’ve no idea what I was saying, but it was working. Julien just had to sit back and win them over with his superior looks and the occasional flutter of a French accent.
We were working these girls for some time and had settled on favourites, and as it got late Julien invited “his one” and “my one” back to ours. The girls thought it was very convenient that we lived next to each other. Julien’s girl was the hottest, she looked a bit like Alanis Morissette – mine still cute though, I think we’d ended up with the girls that an international jury of such things would have said was fair and proportionate.
We got a cab back, and if you’re squeamish or prudish you should probably look away now and come back when I get to the line “And Meat Loaf was awesome and I’d had a great time. The End”.
We went back to Julien’s for some more drinks and music. I had checked with him (communicating via hand signals and the occasional line from ‘Allo ‘Allo) that we were indeed on a “one each” scenario, and that he hadn’t just invited both of them back with him, and given me a ride back to Laurent’s flat next door. Arriving in Julien’s flat his place was perfect for entertaining honeys, amazing sound system and home cinema set up, cool lighting, the works. Nice. We stuck on some music, sat on the sofa and drank some more, chatting to our girls.
This lasted about 14 seconds at which point Julien’s girl “started on him”. My girl followed suit. We were both sat on the sofa with our girls on top of us, kissing and molesting us. All was good but after a few minutes (during which in a daze I realised I was looking at his girl more than my own) they started in synchronisation to discard clothes, both ours and their own.
Hang on a minute, I thought. I’m not sure I signed up for this. I hope they don’t think stuff is going to happen right here, right next to each other. They did. Julien was having a whale of a time, I was an awkward wreck, sobering up quite quickly. I wasn’t sure if this was my thing and who knows once we got naked whose what was going where into who.
“I think we should go next door [to my absent friend’s flat]” I said to mine.
“Why?” she said.
I had to think fast without seeming like a prude, “Um, my condoms are next door.” Genius.
“Here!” Julien pointed the hand that wasn’t on his girl’s chest towards a massive half-empty box of condoms in the corner. Fuck’s sake, whether I liked it or not, I was in this. Things progressed a bit more but I felt more and more anxious.
I felt like saying to my American girl “Look, he’s a lot better looking than me, she’s a lot better looking than you, if we do this here beside them, we’re both going to look bad.” Eventually, like a proper killjoy I interrupted things and insisted we go next door to continue. I breathed a sigh of relief there was no pressure anymore, nor the rhythm of Julien’s thumping bass to stick to.
No sooner did we get back to Laurent’s flat than things recommenced (after a brief hunt for condoms, I should have grabbed a fistful from Julien’s box). This is where it got messy. After mere moments of nudey “warming up” she was … she was … I don’t know how else to say this, she was gushing all over the place. I wasn’t sure if this was a good or a bad thing. She reassured me it was a good thing, but seemed really embarrassed at the mess her enjoyment was causing.
I was 100% prepared to take complete credit for this outpouring of pleasure. Until she told me it always happens. Then I was prepared to settle for 10% of the credit. I could barely touch her without feeling I was in Belfast being water-cannoned by the police. But I persevered, only pausing to comment “Julien had a lucky escape there.” I was drunk, it was my birthday, I was caught up in the bizarreness of the moment, I was care-free.
I was forgetting I was on my friend’s bed as that’s where I’d been sleeping.
Flood defences in place, we did our thing and afterwards, I fell asleep, feeling slightly damp.
I woke up the next day, I was alone. My first thought was I’d wet the bed. Then it all came back to me, the night out, the taxi back, Julien’s place, the squirting Yank. As if to confirm it was all real the first thing I saw when I looked around was puddles. PUDDLES. On the wooden floor. I got up to look around for her. The duvet came with me. No sign of her. “I wonder where she…” next thing I knew I was face down on the floor, having slipped on one of the love reservoirs. I was unbelievably hungover. I looked at the clock.
SHIT! I WAS GOING TO BE LATE FOR THE FUCKING EUROSTAR BACK!
I had a quick shower, wrapped last night’s clothes inside seventeen carrier bags, packed my stuff, quickly mopped the floor, and ran out, bumping into a very happy-looking Julien on the way, who said in the morning, my girl had come next door to pick up his girl and they left together. I didn’t have time to ask if there was anything “unusual” about his one, or ask him to do the decent thing and go clean up next door as I’d saved his expensive sofa from a hell of a deluge.
I barely made it in time for the train, but I was in luck it was delayed. This was not luck, as my timing to arrive back in London for my evening with Meat Loaf and Marion Raven was tight. After an anxious wait and an even more anxious train journey I was racing to the Royal Albert Hall through a seemingly ten-mile long underground tunnel from South Kensington Station. Why are things never just next to things when I need them to be. I was late. Very late.
As I rushed inside and found the right entrance a nice man greeted me, “Ah quickly you’re just in time. He just coming on stage.” I went in, gobsmacked by the view and getting an eerie sense of de ja vu from the gushing applause. Meat came on just as I sat down in the lush surroundings of my box. It was the BEST gig I’ve ever been to, and the gold standard for birthday celebrations ever since.
Oh, I missed a bit. While I was on the Eurostar, I quickly texted Laurent. Just this. “Don’t ask but you’ll want to wash all your bedsheets and scrub the floor when you get back from Barcelona. Long story.”