A Terrible Christmas Birthday Tale

Circumstance took me back to the UK just before Christmas; a landmark birthday on it had me stay to spend it with mother, who lives in Chard; a place located in deep and darkest Somerset.

By choice celebrations would start with friends on Christmas Eve; a visit to the pub with a massive curry somewhere in the mix.

Chard has four pubs.

At one end of the scale is a raucous Wetherspoons; while at the other, the only drinking establishment there with a late licence is also the only one that accepts people barred by the others.

Besides, none of my friends live there, and if I’d tried to do it in Weston, there would’ve been no way to get to Chard the next day.

But even if they did—or even better, mum lived in Weston—there’d still be the Christmas birthday curse to deal with. People either:

  • don’t come out because it’s Christmas
  • come out because it’s Christmas and due to that forget it’s someone’s (my) birthday

The weekend before leaving Weston for Chard I was going out for a drink in Weston. It turned out everyone I knew was too; it would’ve made sense to have called it my birthday piss-up while trying to rope everyone into the idea of a curry.

Except, I had it in my head to try arrange something between the 25th and New Year’s due to superstitions about celebrating birthdays before the date they’re on, so didn’t mention it (I don’t believe in ‘superstition’ but think it better to always be safe instead of sorry).

As the day approached people started to drop out. More and more, for all manner of varying reasons: not enough money; a bit of a sniffle coming on; children seemingly coming down with something; struggling to find a babysitter . . .

And of course, as more people cancelled, the more obvious it became too.

Everyone had got together behind my back to arrange a surprise party: idea being, they’d all start telling me they couldn’t make it, then I’d walk into the pub and DA-DAA!

I worked it all out while waiting for the bus, figuring out all the details during the ride into town.

Like, how one person had been sure to maintain they’d definitely be out, but wasn’t sure what time, so ensuring I’d still turn up in the pub regardless of how many other people pulled-out (though that would’ve happened even if they’d cancelled too).

With a wry smile, I calculated who’d come up with the idea; from there, who they’d first conspired with to find gleeful encouragement for the endeavour.

He-he-he, there they’d all be waiting, drunk not on beer, but instead the thought of finally getting one over on me after all those years of trying and failing, and I’d gone and figured the whole thing out while sitting on the bus!

A fantastic idea

Fake a heart-attack in response to walking in and being greeted by a massive mob of people shouting, ‘SURPRISE!!!’

I actually lolled (though not so loud anyone else on the bus heard).

If I could keep the act up long enough . . . The tears! The wails! The horror!

It was glorious. GLORIOUS!

Though a lot of this thinking was done after a nice bit of green, which at this point pointed out the superstition I don’t believe in: going round flippantly faking things like that for nothing more than self-serving titillation might—should there indeed be an ethereal plain dishing out ironic justice—be seen as tempting it.

The rest of the journey (only a couple of stops, tbf) was gripped by me grappling between the comedic impact and the chances of something like the mentioned above actually being real.

I could also see the irrationality in my fear it might, and also laughed at that, but doing so only raised the dilemma of tempting fate for just the laughing alone – it was really good weed.

I reached my stop focused on the fact it would be the only chance I’d ever get to do it; one is more likely to regret inaction, fortune favours the bold, etc.

Arriving at the pub, I took a deep breath and braced myself while hoping the floor wouldn’t be too dirty for laying on . . .

That’s the problem with really good weed – it points out loads of details that wouldn’t have been considered otherwise, while equally missing some that, really, should be obvious.

Of course the floor would be dirty – it was a pub; it had been raining! What was I thinking?!

Bloody weed – I could’ve planned for this otherwise!

Choreographed an entrance in my head that would somehow have me end up in a chair or flopped over a table at the very least, while still looking perfectly plausible for what I was hoping to pull off.

Now it was do or die.

Though in this scenario the doing was pretending to die or die and I’d already concluded not doing the pretending as being the only way to not tempt fate and die, so . . .

There was no time! It was ad hoc or nothing – a much better description of circumstances given them.

Another obvious that wasn’t

Occupation of said chairs and presence of lovely beer on said tables.

I’d be flinging myself into someone’s lap to fake die while to be as convincing as possible I was going to go the whole hog by shitting myself and everything; this was going to be a disaster!

I pushed the door open . . .

Two people at the bar and another two at a table; and with not one of the quad was I acquainted!


Some solace found at bar

A beer I’d been looking forward to was now on tap, so there was that at least.

Now, the thing is, I don’t really want to make too much of a beer I don’t like. Not everything is to everyone’s taste, and everything else I’ve had from the same brewery has been flipping great.

But the fact I thought it so awful it never should’ve been let out of said brewery, and given this story and the date of my birthday, it’s impossible not to mention that the beer I was drinking while sat alone on an evening where no one had turned up for the surprise birthday party I had them arrange in my head while stoned on the bus was called ‘Not the Messiah’.

Sitting there lamenting the fact I could’ve simply asked for a small taste first instead of going in all gung-ho just because of a link in the name to a favourite film, I changed the subject by eavesdropping on the elderly couple sat at the table behind me.

Unfortunately conversation between them was sparse.

‘Can’t believe it’s Christmas already,’ said the woman; only for the guy to reply with a grunt.

I took another sip of the beer; horrible, yes – paid for, also.

I was not the Messiah and I had to start facing it. Enough is enough. Stop waiting for all the disciples to turn up. It’s not gonna happen if it hasn’t by now; no one’s gonna buy a t-shirt with ‘You Saves’ on it – stop writing bad poetry and calling it scripture: get a real job!

Well! At least being relieved from Heavenly duties, I could turn round and demand, “Why?!”

“Why?! . . . What’s happened to make you think it might not be? Have not the correct amount of days passed since the last December 25th? Did months and weeks somehow disappear for you – what did the police have to say? Hath your counting the rising of suns and coming of moons not tallied with the unholy presence of thy curse, pub wench?!”

Yeah, I got quite into it—no doubt the weed again—but Christ, I’m glad I didn’t actually do it; imagine if she’d turned round and said she’d been in a coma for the last nine months after a horrible car crash that was in absolutely no way her fault!

I did the only thing to be done with bad tasting medicine; downed the horrible pint, then went to the bar and returned with a much nicer one.

With a better pint came a positive outlook:

The fuckers!

They knew I’d figure it out! They knew I’d be going to a pub over the road at some point later too – they were going to try and double-bluff me by waiting there, the silly lovable fools!

Oh, there was a tear in my eye for their high-jinx, I can tell you. I wiped at that tear with a knuckle while letting out something like a yawn.

But, alas, my turn in fortune was short-lived; all my challenging of and laughing at imaginary gods had well and truly pissed them off!

Another couple entered the bar. They didn’t look anywhere near as old as the elderly couple sitting behind me, but they brought with them:

The smell of lavender!

It’s is a lovely colour—truly marvellous; magnificent—but as an aroma it makes a bold statement: ‘I’m old, nearly dead . . . and I know it‘.

‘Don’t smell the lavender’ is a motto I’ve lived by for years – why, if I had a coat-of-arms, I’d have it transcribed into Latin and put at the bottom of it!

I assumed it was the woman – a gender specific statement, that actually, yes I will stand-by, even without being 100% about it (though tbf, she probably did all the washing, using lavender scented fabric softener in the process, so probably was him a bit too).

What could I do? There it was now up the nose, damage done. Bit like suddenly finding a bag of someone else’s charlie, but without any of the fun.

It turned out they were there to meet the couple behind me.

Suddenly the couple already there couldn’t stop talking,

You wouldn’t believe it!

Way they’d been sat there in almost silence, to then hearing the way they sprang into verbal life and soul of the party. Makes one wonder what people might be up to before they open their front door with big smile, miserable two-faced ********!

The woman excitedly announced they’d been to see the new Star Wars film.

I nearly spat beer; which would’ve been really annoying as I now had a nice pint (see above).

So, age shouldn’t have to do with anything. True. But there’s something about Star Wars that doesn’t really strike me as appealing to generations above mine. Like, I get them seeing the first films (to come out) as they took their kids, but all that Jar Jar Binks bollocks was pushing it even for me.

In fact, let’s be honest – the Ewoks were too much. That, really, was the end of Star Wars and any credibility it might have had right there.

I honestly think it was people saying they were getting like Disney films that prompted Disney to get involved.

I reckon Disney was like, Christ we can’t have people thinking we make shit like that, we’ll have to buy it, take over—make a big song and dance that we have—and make them good again.

And let’s face it, since they have all that nonsense has been reduced to the acceptable minor snippet of the first three two (to be released).

Because, and let’s face this also, when has Disney ever actually made cute films?

They look cute, but never judge a sheep, etc. It’s a kid’s parent getting shot, princesses being poisoned and panicked anxious mice dealing with uncontrollable floods . . . What’s Jar Jar about any of that?!

This really was it, not age per se; after all, I still go watch grindcore bands in venues only big enough for twenty people – I’d never judge someone on age. If she’d announced they’d been to see a band like Bon Jovi, Peal Jam or Five Finger Death Punch, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye.

I figured it was more a case of Star Wars becoming such a part of the fabric, that dear old couples don’t think twice about giving it a watch having done their usual shuffle to the local Odeon for Half Price Pensioner Wednesdays (or whenever it is).

What on Earth did they think of all the funny robots, space ships and things?

It’s all very jazzy and fast, not very Errol Flynn. Even I thought it was a bit too quick to be reasonably followed by the human eye; so, not so-called great FX then, but just a blur with enough left to the imagination!

Did all the stormtroopers marching about remind them of when WWII was on the news because it was still happening?

But I never got my answer, as she started to reminisce about seeing the first one (to come out).

Apparently she didn’t see it at the cinema. Instead she saw it when it was first shown on TV, which according to her was around 1987 when she was eleven or twelve.

I almost spat beer again.

Star Wars was first shown in UK cinemas on 27th December 1977. Two days after my eighth birthday!

It was actually first shown on UK TV in 1982, meaning either:

  • she saw it in 87 and mistakenly thought it the first time it was shown on TV
  • it was 82 and she’d hadn’t remembered the year correctly (very possible given her counting skills in relation to dates: see above re time passed and Christmas)

Even though the second scenario is better from my perspective, it’s still a long way from great!

For the record:

  • when I went to the other pub there still wasn’t a surprise party waiting for me
  • I am the Messiah
  • one of these three points isn’t true

Other posts about beer and/or Weston:

Talking of Star Wars:

Header image courtesy freestocks

Thanks for reading 🙂

N. P. Ryan.


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