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Monday, February 26

Turning 33

I hit my 33rd birthday on Saturday. Hit is probably the right word for it. It slapped me in the face like an annual review of where the hell my life is going. It was a confusing day. I didn't know whether to be up or down. I steered myself through the day with determination, but it's very hard to feel a combination of melancholy, excitement, optimism and disappointment concurrently. I managed it.

On the up side, I spent time with family and friends this weekend. On Friday night I had a meal with my sister and my parents (not to mention my brother-in-law and niece, well, I just did). I think that I realise, at my age, the importance of family, though the price of family is sensitivity to their needs. The advantage of family is a wider context in which to set your life. I think that's a fair appraisal.

The exact counterpart of this is relationships. The advantage of a relationship with a partner is a sense of company and a wider purpose than just pleasing yourself. Yet, the cost of a relationship can be a loss of autonomy on things which you need to feel control over. The cost of a relationship can be to make yourself vulnerable. I would always recommend doing that, the benefit of having strength through a relationship should surely outweigh the risks. Yet, a failed relationship is always going to hurt.

On Saturday I had a couple of objectives. I had my parents due to visit the house on Sunday, so I wanted to make sure it was at least vaguely habitable. The toilet was broken, so I set about fixing it. This ultimately resulted in two trips to B&Q and my discovery that it was totally broken and my attempts to "improve" it had ultimately resulted in making it slightly worse, and no longer able to be repaired. So, I decommissioned the cistern and installed the bucket-flushing mechanism. I realised that any more attempts to fix it would end up in "shaving a yak". So I stopped. I guess that was wise. A bit of a waste of time.

I swept up a bit, made the house a bit more presentable, then I got into a smart shirt and went to get a shower before going to Watford for a concert. This was my birthday treat to myself. I was going to see Bill Bailey doing his "Cosmic Shindig", a special event combining Bill and the BBC Concert Orchestra. I was excited at the idea of seeing Bill live, but combining him with the BBC Concert Orchestra seemed like a masterstroke.

Exciting then... except it was tinged with a bit of self-pity. I'd originally planned to go with someone else. My ex-girlfriend. This was planned when we were no longer together, so it wasn't like I expected her to go as my girlfriend. It was also planned when she hadn't started her job, so we didn't figure that her shift pattern would make her unavailable. So, I suddenly ended up with one ticket more than I needed, and on my birthday. You can't just ask any old person to join you on your birthday for a gig - it looks a bit needy. I toyed with various permutations of gaining company to, at least, avoid the seat. I decided not to ask around more than one close friend, who was busy (more on that later).

I didn't ask around the office - too weird.

I did put a couple of offers for the ticket online. I got a couple of potential takers via MySpace and I seriously considered offering the ticket to a student who MySpace contacted me after I did a gig at his uni. I had considered how weird it would be for a 33 year old man to take a 20 year old male student for a night out in Watford. I'd feel like a gay paedophile. But, then I'm neither and Bill Bailey would probably have eclipsed the event. I thought about my own sense of desperation at what I'd become - a man desperate enough for company that he'd court the company of strangers rather than be alone on his birthday. Then I realised that I wasn't that desperate and that I was perfectly capable of going on my own and probably too proud to invite a member of my family, thus clearly intending to be a loner on the matter. Then I thought again. Here's me with a ticket for a great gig and there's a poor student who loves Bill Bailey, unable to see the gig because of money and because it's a sell out. How could I deprive the lad?

In the end, I looked at the practicalities of the matter. I decided that it was simply too much of a faff to arrange to meet this student somewhere, get to the gig in time and then drop them somewhere suitable after getting back into London, where I had a party to get to. Such a shame that some gorgeous woman didn't get in touch for the ticket - she could have come to the party with me. Oh dear.

So, I put on my party shirt and went to the gig alone. I pleased myself. I didn't notice the empty seat next to me. Before the show started, I had a pleasant chat with some people who were waiting for the doors to open. When the doors opened, I left them behind and sat on my own and watched the show. It made me very happy. I didn't have time to contemplate whether it mattered being there alone.

After the gig I went to the party and ended up playing piano late into the night. I didn't get to bed until the small hours (about 3). I was up the following morning for my family's visit.

If I didn't have so much to do around the house I would probably have a long time available for contemplation and disappointment with things. As it is, I have occasional glimpses of things I wish were going better, but my self-preservation/entertainment instincts kick in and I get on with it. It's not easy being a third of the way to 100, but I think I can manage it.

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