'Fifty-one!' said my mother on the phone, nostalgically. 'Lucky bugger.'
That wasn't exactly how I felt about the matter up to that point - all I had been thinking about was how close sixty is beginning to feel, and how I'm entering the decade when those of us who have been lucky enough not to look our age for a long time must finally resign ourselves to joining the grown-ups.
I dragged myself to the University, resigned also to my weekly lesson with Hassan, the bumptious little twerp whose speciality is winding teachers up and finding fault with all things non-Algerian. A colleague told me that the other day Hassan had been railing against Swiss cheese: it's the holes, they offend him. I had brought with me some little bars of organic chocolate in assorted flavours, in accordance with the Greek custom whereby the birthdayed one offers round sweets to colleagues and friends. 'Hassan will no doubt have some reason for despising the Swiss and their chocolate', I though, as I set off for the classroom, bearing sweeties like a kindly uncle. Well, sod him. Why do I let this little twat bug me so much? He spoils Sunday evening, he makes me nervous and forgetful in class, and it's always such a huge relief to pack up and leave on Monday afternoon. For me he's an example of what a colleague in Greece used to call one's 'people hooks', i.e., the sort of person that you know will be a thorn in your side, and must be prepared for when you spot one. My 'people hooks' are loud, aggressive, know-it-all males who are oblivious of their own obnoxiousness.
There were three students in the classroom. No Hassan. 'Is anyone else coming?' I asked, keeping my tone neutral.
'Only Faisal' they said. 'Mohammed and Tayeb and Hassan have gone for a fitting.'
A fitting! What for? A straight jacket, maybe? Perhaps the Air Force has heeded the voice of our department and decreed he be hung in chains?
'Where's he having this fitting done?' Nowhere local, I hope.
Might as well be Moscow. This falls out better than I could devise! I won't see him for another two weeks now. The gods' little gift for the birthday boy.
There's a new restaurant opened in Stamford, Asian Fusion, or something like that, Thai, Chinese, Indonesian and chips, probably. Another place with a suspiciously long menu, so it cannot possibly be entirely fresh, but they will have assorted spicy gloops of various colours to serve stuff in and with. We are going to try it out this evening. Fingers crossed. It's new enough to have big ideas and originality before it inevitably succumbs to the demands of those retail management types, hen parties and beery lads who slowly forced a lovely, original little Italian restaurant to deteriorate into into yet another pizza and pasta joint.