Sunday, November 11, 2007

My 39th Birthday

Today is the day I turned 39 years old. (Or, it might be the first time I turn 39, only to repeat it every year. Watch this space.)

But I really wanted to celebrate, and I had just the bottle with which to do it. When I ran the London Marathon in 2005, my friend Liz, who was also running, and I organized a raffle to raise money for our charities-- Cancer Research UK for her, CAMFED for me. At the time, she was working at the Houses of Parliament, so she was able to get a bottle of House of Commons champagne for our raffle.

As it happens, my great friend Mollie won the champagne. On the day of the marathon, when I passed her at Mile 4, I kept yelling, "You won the champagne! You won the champagne!" It's a good thing she wasn't at Mile 24, because the information would not have been so enthusiastically broadcast. A few days later when I went to present the prize to her, she handed it straight back to me. "I'm so proud of you," she said. "You earned this."

Then, as often happens with prized bottles, it sat in our wine rack, waiting for a special occasion to drink it. The wait became even more complicated in January, when my doctor prescribed me a drug for my arthritis that means, for the sake of my liver, I can't drink any more except for Very Special Occasions.

I decided that my 39th birthday would be a Very Special Occasion. Personally, it has been an interesting (a euphimism for challenging) year for me, and I was glad it was behind me. It was time to open our House of Commons Champagne with some of our great friends. Wine lovers will know that since it is called champagne, it is from France, which I find very ironic. You'd think they'd be able to source some British sparkling wine, but I digress.

When we opened it, I argued that it was too bad we didn't have a House of Lords bottle to compare tastes, as one could presume it would be of a higher quality. I thought the House of Commons Champagne was just OK, but others at the table said it was fine.

In the end, the taste of the champagne didn't matter. What was more important to me was what it signified: an accomplishment for which I am quite proud, but also, optimism for the days ahead.

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