Andy once took a girlfriend to a Flaming Lips gig, telling her she would love it. Well what's not to love? Fun, happy stuff; balloons, streamers, funny animal people... he turned to look at her during the gig and she was purple in the face, apopleptic with rage. She hated the Flaming Lips with the sort of passion you reserve for someone who had tortured and killed your favourite childhood pet. The relationship didn't last much longer. Was my birthday treat going to be along those lines?
I don't like to guess surprises so I didn't try to sneak clues out of him, other than saying 'what if I wear the wrong clothes?' Because the skirt I had on when I asked might not have been right for abseiling or white water rafting. I was informed that what I was wearing was fine, but I might want something warmer for later, and that I might want to take my swimming costume. Canoeing then. Should we take the camera? 'Oh, I'm not sure if you can film in abbatoirs.'
So we set off at 5.30am, and I did a bit of dozing in the car. We'd taken the passports 'for ID' but headed away from Dover, and Gatwick, and then past Heathrow. I saw a sign for Birdworld, where we've often talked about going, but why the early start? We passed that, and Marwell, and Southampton, and eventually got to Poole. I had vaguely thought my surprise might be a helicopter flight. Not one to anywhere, just a trip up, but we landed at a port, parked up, and walked into the offices. I'd also thought Isle of Wight as an idea, and this was still in my head when the woman said 'Mr Barding, yes, day return to Jersey.' Woohoo! It was a bloody long journey - getting on for four hours - and the only ferry I've ever been on with allocated seats, but I absolutely love being on the water and it was a glorious trip. We arrived in Jersey, picked up some tourist maps, and just wandered for a bit, heading for St Helier's swimming pool area of the sea. You know, one of those bits where they've built a wall in the sea so you can safely bathe without being carried off by a shark. It even had changing rooms for modest English ladies who don't do that whole stripping off in public thing. And I can actually swim now. Three days before we had been to Whitstable, in Kent, and I had swum in the sea, being a little nervous, having only properly learned to swim last year. In St Helier it was even better, having the confidence to go out of foot-on-the-floor depth, and doing a bit of backstroke. And in an even more shocking event, I changed back into my clothes in the communal changing area. I felt like a pervert. Andrew and I are not very good at eating out. We spend hours peering into places and deciding whether they're for us or not having 'you go first', 'no you go first' conversations, so it took us at least an hour to sit down somewhere and eat, but the eating was good. Salmon, mussels, squid, prawns, abalone, and Andrew had something too. The boat back was full of people from Guernsey who had been to Jersey for the day. Kind of like people from Romford having a day in the West End, and actually just like people from Romford . I'd seen a bloke on the ferry out who was the absolute double of Gregg Wallace, and there he was on the boat back too. When we were getting off the boat I was desperate to tell him he looked like Gregg Wallace, because that would have been very original to him, and on the basis I could make that joke without ever seeing him again, but I managed to stop myself, which was a good job because he was parked directly opposite us in the car park.