It’s my birthday.  Well, actually, it isn’t because I’m writing this ahead of time as I’ve no idea what state I’ll be in come the day.

My plan was to either, finally, take that henner off the Dean Bridge and stop talking about it, or stay under the covers all day weeping.  But David Walters is forcing me to meet him for lunch and I wouldn’t top myself after someone goes to the bother of meeting me.  It’s just rude.

See Linda always made my birthday special.  That came as a helluva surprise 26 years ago.  It had never happened before.  I spent my primary school years living with my Great Auntie Euphemia and Great Uncle George and I’d be amazed if they even knew when my birthday was.  By the time I was living back home my Dad was ill and dying so things like birthdays and Christmases just went by. Then I left home and lived in council flats and digs for 9 years. Again, I doubt anyone knew when my birthday was.

Four months after Linda and I started living together in a housing association flat off Dundee Street I was woken up about half six in the morning by Linda singing ‘Happy Birthday’ at the top of her voice. I rolled out of bed and found the flat festooned with banners and balloons. What the hell?

When we got home from work there was a store bought cake and a pizza from the chippy. We couldn’t afford to eat out back then.  And so it continued every year without fail.  Even in later years when we tended to be on holiday for my birthday she would pack banners and balloons in the suitcase, sneak out of bed about 4 in the morning and decorate wherever we happened to be, prior to another early morning serenade.

Last year on what turned out to be my last birthday with Linda we went away on holiday.  We didn’t know how ill she was but we came close to cancelling.  We’d come away early from the two previous trips due to Lindas infirmities brought on by the butcher of a knee surgeon.  But this time she’d been ill for months while the GP who ultimately killed her gave her antibiotics for a non-existent throat infection.  She struggled and the day before my birthday she spent in bed in the hotel while I trawled the chemists of Southport buying every throat medicine born to man.

So no-one was more surprised than me to be woken by the annual serenade.  What was more amazing was her sore throat was all but gone.  Linda couldn’t believe it after 5 months of pain.  Even her usual muscular and joint pains were diminished by the relief.  We thought “this is it”!  You’re finally on the mend.  So delighted were we that we got on the train to Formby.

We’d wanted to go there for ages after seeing pictures of the beach there.  But it was hardly easy to get to from Edinburgh.  But now we were only 15 minutes away on the train.  Of course if we’d realised it was a 45 minute walk at the other end we still wouldn’t have gone.  For a non cripple it was probably half that but even with the reduced pain the walk through the nature reserve and the dunes took Linda a while.

But it was worth it.  The sun was shining, the beach was empty, it was glorious.  We just basked.  Then I mentioned to Linda how the Irish Sea was always warmer than our North Sea what with the water being Caribbean rather than Arctic in origin.  She was having none of this but October be damned I went paddling.  After a lot of persuasion she joined in and for the first and last time paddled in the surprisingly warm, Autumnal water.  See pictures below.

We head back to the hotel pausing only to see our first ever red squirrel in the woods of the nature reserve.  It was a truly happy birthday.  And our last happy day.  The next morning she was sicker than ever.  A week later we found out she had cancer.  My beautiful girl.  Thank you for being the only person who ever made anything special for me.