We've been in Putney today and are coming home in the most tremendous sunset. The sky has divided itself into banks of powder blue, pink and gleaming gold. A dark, smouldering, smoky cloud is creeping up from the horizon, soon to engulf the world.
We've been at Tobias and Mark's house all afternoon, for the first time in my life at an all-male party, which felt a little strange, I'll confess.
We sat in the garden, and I spent hours playing with three lovely dogs. One of them, an insane Jack Russell called Thomas, was particularly charming. He'd found himself a little stone, which he was guarding with his life. His precious toy was carelessly lobbed into the pond by a party-goer, and the poor thing stood pathetically at the side, staring into the murky water hoping against hope that it would somehow float to the surface. I then knew the definition of tragic, or thought I did until the poor little animal fell in and had to be fished out. Even after getting soaked, he still stared at the water.
The highlight of the day was certainly the "entertainment." Four of the party guests dressed in groteque drag and stumbled out into the garden miming to Shirley Bassey, Amy Winehouse and Marilyn Monroe. The dogs went berserk, probably because there aren't enough women in their lives, or because they'd never seen women looking like dogs before! They were barking and growling and snarling and whinnying. One of them, the whippet called Ben, hid underneath a table and refused to come out. The Shirley Bassey impersonator (who looked more like Pam Ayres) went a bit too close to the dogs at one stage and got a bit of a nip. Hysterical.
On our way to Putney, we drove north up the A1, towards the North Circular, and noticed that there were letters attached to each of the lamp posts on the left hand side of the road. The letters were written on A4 paper and carefully filled in with bright luminous colours.
"Happy 40th Birthday," the letters spelt, and then there was a name which looked a little like Fanny. On the next 20 or so lamp post, the greeting was spelled out again, but this time the name seemed to be Panko, and then Tank and then WN and then Fangn... The various greetings lasted all the way up to the North Circular, perhaps as much as a mile of individual letters. But who were they saying happy birthday to in code? Were these all different people celebrating their 40th birthday in a big joint party? Why did they all have such curious names? Was it simply that the person leaving the letters didn't know how to spell their friend's name and just had a load of attempts? Still, what a genuinely lovely way to mark someone's 40th. Imagine driving up the A1 and seeing that?!
Oh my God, I'm nearly 40.
Ten things to do before I'm 40.
1) Visit the First World War battle sites
2) Lose 2 stones in weight
3) Have a suit properly tailored
4) Visit and record the sound of the "Singing Ringing Tree" in Lancashire
5) Write a work of breathtaking beauty
6) Try not to die
7) Have at least four epic adventures with friends
8) Find a way to earn proper money
9) Release the Pepys Motet
10) Make sure I'm not unemployed in my 41st year!