So anyway, our wonderful day started at Acton tube where we picked Abbie up. I got out the car to greet her and instantly realised just how hot it was going to be. I bought us croissants for the journey and we reached Brighton in good time, talking mostly about Fleetwood Mac, if my memory serves me.
We took ourselves to the North Lanes for tea in a cafe and a visit to Yak, Brighton's premier knitting shop. I was essentially trying to kill time because I knew that Nathan's Mother and Ron, his Aunt and Uncle, his sister and her fella and Hilary and Jago were all going to surprise him at 12.30 at Bill's Cafe just around the corner. So there I was in the knitting shop, vanishing into corners to "look at yarn" whilst secretly texting people to find out when it was safe to arrive.
It was delightful to see Nathan's face when we walked into the cafe and he saw everyone sitting there. It made the lying and creeping about (which I'm fairly useless at) entirely worth while.
Celia brought chocolate cake and delicious vats of strawberries and cream and we are halloumi and hummus.
After lunch we braved the increasingly boiling temperatures and headed down to the beach where Jago paddled with Nathan's sister, Abbie, Nathan and I swam, Hilary looked glamorous and Celia got so stuck on a bank of steep shingle trying to get back up the beach that she needed two strong men to hoist her back to the promenade. If anyone knows Brighton beach, they'll know there's an incredibly steep bank mid-way down which is difficult to climb in the best of circumstances. I'm ashamed to report that, as her little feet sunk further and further into the shingle, instead of rushing to her aid, I laughed hysterically and took photographs!
From the beach we went to the pier. Of course we did. What else would one do in Brighton? We dropped tuppences into a tipping machine and rode the "dolphin Derby," which is something I've been doing in Brighton for twenty years or more. There's a little stand, up at the end of the pier where large plastic dolphins dance over pretend waves. Rows of people lob balls into little slots of different colours. If you get a ball into the red slot, your personal dolphin starts travelling forward, and suddenly you're in a race with all the other people lobbing balls into the slots. The person with the best aim wins the race. It sounds insanely dull, but it's one of those traditions that no trip to Brighton is worth its sea salt without.
Exhausted by the excitement of the Donkey Derby, most of our party then departed, leaving Abbie, Nathan and I to go on the most insane fairground waltzers, which seemed to spin at the speed of light and made us laugh so much that we thought our heads were going to fall off. On the way back to the beach, we played a quick game of Air Hockey, which I'm pleased to say I won, having come third in dolphin race.
We had a pint (of lemonade, naturally) in a pub just back from the seafront and then returned to the beach for a bag of chips as the sun set.
How much more perfect can a day have been? We got home just in time to watch a "leap second" being added to the day. At midnight, the clocks went from 59 to 60 before going back to 00 again. All rather surreal. If you don't know about leap seconds, read about them here... The question is, can you fit anything worthwhile into the extra second which makes this year longer than the last? We said "I love you" to one another. Had to be done...
Happy 41st birthday, darling Nathan. 13 years together and you're still my better half.