Today being 9th February, precisely one month remains until my 50th birthday. It's a Monday, which isn't ideal, but that's my parents' fault so I'm intent on making the most of it. The trouble is, I'm not sure how. One's fiftieth is a big event, the full half-century, and it seems only right to mark the event in one or more memorable ways. But how?
I've taken the obvious step of taking the day off work, because there's nothing worse than having to look surprised by the arrival of a card signed by people who don't actually know who you are but felt obliged anyway. Indeed I've taken the whole week off, because who wants to go back to work the morning after, and hell why not, and because if you can't celebrate the big five-oh, when can you? But how?
You may have a bucket list of things you've always wanted to do, or some grand ambition to achieve, but my experiential wishlist is somewhat limited. As a solvent healthy single childless Londoner I can already do pretty much whatever I like most weekends, and do, as you can probably tell. But a fiftieth deserves something special, either in terms of location or company, if only I had a clue what that should be.
Things used to be easier when my Mum was alive. We shared a birthday, so the obvious thing to do was always to meet up and spend it together. I spent my 40th, which was her 70th, having a special meal at the Norfolk hotel that hosted my brother's wedding reception - all boxes ticked. But that special tie has now been cut, alas, which frees me up to spend our 50th/80th on something of my choice.
BestMate is getting somewhat desperate. He and OtherHalf had proposed a surprise long weekend abroad, the destination to be revealed at the airport, which was a splendidly generous gesture. But I turned them down because I wasn't up for random travel, and when they revealed the destination (oh, seriously? no thanks) I realised just how hard I am to read. No alternative activity has yet been planned due to my continued dithering.
Which leaves the entire day, weekend, indeed almost the entire week unplotted. That's no bad thing at this stage, but every passing day reduces the options (and potentially increases the price). Plus friends and family like to know where they stand, if they're to be involved at some stage, and when oh when did marking a moment ever become quite so complicated?
First off there's the day itself, whether to do something big or go somewhere relevant or hit a restaurant or a combination of the above. It's a Monday, remember, in March, and the weather could be spring sunshine or winter wet. Then there's the weekend before, perhaps an ideal time for Fifty Things To Do Before You're Fifty (or five, at least). And then there's the week after, which is long enough to fill with something proper wow, or at least to sign up for my first 50+ carvery discount card.
A few things. When you're single, a night in a hotel is not a treat. There are engineering works on trains to Norfolk across the preceding weekend. I'm not overly keen to spend lots of my actual 50th birthday travelling somewhere. The Fat Duck is closed for refurbishment. I have booked a solo day trip abroad a couple of days after my birthday. But no, I really don't have any exciting ideas regarding how best to mark the big day itself.
So I thought I'd ask you lot for suggestions. Could be a place to go, could be an experience to enjoy, could be a place to eat, could be a journey to take, could be a moment to treasure, could be anything really. Please don't be offended when I totally ignore 90-something percent of your ideas, because if BestMate is having trouble, what chance have you got? But please feel free to bung a (short) suggestion in the comments box, because you never know, you might just make my day.