AKA - The Numbers Party
It’s the day before my forty-first birthday, and like all true heroes, I’m spending it in IKEA buying a selection of delightful cushions.
A year ago to the day, the magnificently named Dr Pop had told us that a tiny, naked human could emerge from my wife’s nether regions at any given moment. As I was on driving duties, and also because witnessing the birth of my first child with a raging hang-over didn't sound all that groovy, I’d had a fairly chilled out, civilised fortieth birthday.
“We’ll celebrate my fortieth next year yeah?”
“That’s a good idea honey!”
“Yeah! It’ll be mental!”
But now here I am, surrounded by cushions and saucepans and holding something peculiar called a salad spinner. I console myself by imagining that this is exactly how someone like Iggy Pop would have spent his birthdays. In Hungarian IKEAs. He’d probably have been walking around the store in see-thru clingfilm trousers, but he’d have been carrying a salad spinner, no doubt.
My journey through IKEA on my birthday eve is a solo journey, but it's not a lonely one. Largely because Zsuzsa is guiding me through the store via the magic of FaceTime.
“Now go to the storage zone and buy four rattan baskets! Quickly! The store closes in 5 minutes!”
As I hurtle through the store I can’t help but feel as though I’m in a budget version of The Crystal Maze, probably broadcast on Channel 5.
“Honey!” squeaks Zsuzsa through my mobile phone screen as I’m rummaging around, knee deep in wicker. “Don’t you think this is such an efficient way to do IKEA!?”
I decide to bite my tongue. and smile sweetly.
It’s now the morning after my birthday eve.
“Happy birthday honey!” beams my boutique wife, and hands me a piece of paper with the number ‘1’ written on it.
I stare at the piece of paper with blurry eyes.
“We’re having a Numbers Party themed birthday!” says Zsuzsa with a spring in her step, whilst punching the air triumphantly like Rocky Balboa.
As I'm sure you’re all aware, The Numbers Party is Mila’s favourite TV show on her favourite channel, Baby TV. Again, I’m confident that Iggy Pop has had many a Numbers Party themed birthday in his time.
I turn the paper and see “Tojas” written on the other side. I know this word. “Eggs!” Sure enough, the paper is prophetic and eggs are shortly consumed.
Throughout the day I’m handed several numbered pieces of paper, which in turn lead to fun and frolics. For instance, shortly after breakfast, I’m greased up by a tiny Thai lady who then proceeds to clamber all over my egg filled body. An hour or two later and we’re on a guided river cruise down the Danube where an insane audio guide enlightens me with the fact that “Two thirds of the rivers in Hungary are water. The other third is fish.” In the afternoon we ride segways through the streets of Budapest. As the sun begins to set I’m given a birthday cake with the world “Kaki" (Hungarian for Pooh, and Mila’s latest nickname for me) written on it in brown icing. And last, but not least, I'm surprised with a trip to a funky little restaurant.
As we head home to our cushion strewn, Hungarian love creche at the end of the evening, I’m exhausted and struggling to hold up my heavy eyelids, but I’m deliriously happy.
I came to Budapest as a childless 39 year old with a penchant for getting himself in to ridiculous situations. A year later and I’m now a 41 year old Dad with a penchant for getting himself in to ridiculous situations. I now have bigger bags under my eyes than ever and more grey hairs than I did before. I fall asleep on the sofa in front of the TV most evenings. I believe that free time is an urban myth and I sometimes pretend that I need to go to the toilet so that I can seek sanctuary in the only sacred solitude that I now have. As I’m writing this, my beautiful, knackered little Zsuzsa is passed out on a heap on the sofa and I don’t think I’m far behind her. Life has certainly changed dramatically in a year, that’s for sure. Once there were two, now there are three, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn't miss the happy go lucky, carefree life we once had from time to time. It was a riot and I loved it, but would I ever go back to it if offered the choice? Of course not (although ask me again at 0500 in the morning when my ear drums are being pounded by the sound of baby screams and Zsuzsa is pleading with me to change Mila’s shitty nappy).
You know what? Life may have changed beyond all recognition, but (after we’ve drunk exceptionally potent coffee) our lust for life has never been stronger.