Today Nathan, Philip and I celebrated our 40th birthday in a rather lovely pub in West London. In the 1970s and 80s, Earl's Court, the part of town we were in, was a shabby and somewhat gay district. Before the area was gentrified in the early naughties, there were as many as seven gay pubs and a whole host of associated queer cafés, book shops and galleries in the streets around the tube. The gays have now moved on - largely to Vauxhall - but the pub we were in today was renowned as a very sleazy leather bar, actually the place where serial killer Dennis Nielson met his victims before encouraging them to come home to Muswell Hill with him.
...All that seediness has left the place and the pub is gloriously genteel these days, and a very special place to sit on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It was an inspired choice.
Philip and Daryl had made the place look just wonderful, with enormous helium balloons of rainbow colours and a giant floating pair of metallic balloons which revealed our age.
(I hasten to add that I am still 39, and clinging on to my 30s for dear life!)
It was such a relaxed event, with the most astonishing mix of friends from different stages of our lives, ranging from half of the Rebel Chorus, most of the cast and creative team of RAFTA's Much Ado and some of the Brass team, to New York Cindy and uncle Archie from Wingspan. Some of the guests were friends Nathan genuinely hadn't spent time with for years, and we were thrilled to a see people like Robbie Shelley, editor Louise and a full compliment of parents and in-laws. It was almost like our wedding all over again!
Celia provided three cakes, a coffee cake, a lemon cake and chocolate cake; one for each of the birthday boys, with candles for us to blow out.
I was endlessly fascinated by the different groups of my friends who were happily hanging out together, all hand-picked over the years...
We came home via a beautiful kebab shop in King's Cross, and the evening ended in Abbie and Ian's front room, talking about New York whilst eating halloumi which tasted like absolute nectar.
Aren't we lucky...