I am 34 today. I don't feel like having a huge retrospective about it and don't think I'll get philosophical, but seeing as we just moved from the city to the country, I'd like to describe my day.
I woke up at 9:30am, having slept all the way through the night because Jo, the saint who is my girlfriend, got up with Joshua at 4am, 6am, and finally 8am without waking me. I came downstairs and she made me coffee and I played with the baby for a while; he was smiling and being very happy and cute.
A little after that I had a shower. This currently involves a complicated dance with the house's dodgy plumbing, in which one must juggle the timer and the thermostat and the central heating, resulting in perhaps five minutes worth of tolerably warm water that dribbles out of the shower head. Next it was Joshua's turn. We boiled up a kettle and used it to heat some cold water in his tub, and he had a giggly, wide-eyed bath with baby oil and lots of cooings. Then I lifted him out too fast, he got a bit of a shock with the cold, and started crying; silly daddy. But he quieted down again fairly quickly after being wrapped up in his snuggly yellow towel with a hood with a duck on it.
Then we went out to have lunch with Jo's mother and aunt at the cafe at the old mill building in Glasshouses, the village next door. The river Nidd races past the cafe windows and the mill is almost completely concealed by large overhanging trees and undergrowth such as ferns and ivy and brambles. The food is homemade and delicious and cheap. Because it was my birthday, Joshua decided to sleep through the whole lunch, so we got to eat and chat and everything.
After lunch we went walking up the road to Guisecliff Wood, a patch of ancient woodland that used to be part of the Knaresborough Hunting Forest. It has been there for over a thousand years and is full of gnarled oaks and huge birches and moss and crisscrossed with paths that still follow the old, old hunting trails from long ago. There are long, broken-down stone walls covered with mould and moss that extend back into the soil of hills covered in ferns. There are clearings full of greenish-grey rock formations, and dominant oaks hundreds of years old around whom nothing else grows, apparently out of respect or fear. Paths lead up to the cliffs, some of them dead-ends and some of them capped by almost vertical trails up a small escarpment; and beyond that, nothing but the flat, heather-covered vista of the Yorkshire moors. The woods are strangely quiet, in the way that very old woodland can be; you would expect there to be more birdsong. In the centre, concealed on almost all sides by rock and wood, is a deep tarn whose water level never changes, whether in rain or drought; folk tales say both that it is bottomless, and that a hideous old creature lives in it who drags swimmers to their deaths. Whatever the reason, you never, ever see people so much as paddling there. I didn't paddle, I took photos, lots of photos. Then we came home.
That was my birthday, and it was wonderful. Tomorrow I am going to the job centre in Harrogate to explain to the British government why they should pay me some money to keep myself and my family alive while I try to start up my own business in the worst economic climate that most people still alive have ever seen; I am strangely optimistic. After all, the British government tells me that despite everything, optimism is justified. Let's hope they see it that way tomorrow morning.