Favourite Birthday Present

Someone just asked what’s my favourite birthday present ever? It’s 2006. Two friends are driving Dawn to their house to get dressed on the way to her mystery Birthday Party. From there she’s carefully blindfolded and given soft sheepskin boots to wear as they drive out of town. They have her favourite music on an iPod so she’s feeling both relaxed and excited, we hope. On arrival she steps out of the car barefoot to feel the springy grass beneath her feet, unlike the concrete car park at home. She’s led by gentle hands, still listening to her favourite songs, through a tunnel of soft leaves brushing her face.

There’s a few steps into a building. Incense, maybe it’s a retreat centre. Soft rugs beneath her bare feet. She removes her blindfold and headphones to see she’s in a Bedouin tent, rich in sumptuous drapes. I’m there smiling, dressed in my golden wedding coat. The sound of people singing Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” is coming from somewhere outside.

Where is this secret place? She can’t work it out.

I pull back the drapes in front of her to reveal a balcony overlooking the River Thames where all her friends are singing on the towpath below. She realises she’s at home and we’re about to have the best party ever. But how? In just 45 minutes we turfed the car park, held up branches to make a corridor of leaves for her ‘Alice in Wonderland’ entrance and built a glorious bedouin tent in our minimalist front room. Teamwork. This is my favourite birthday present ever.

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