Sunday, 8 April 2012

No longer a fool....

A Birthday cake.A Birthday cake. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)It was my birthday this weekend past.

No, let me not beat about the bush. It was my birthday on Sunday, 1st of April.

For more years than I care to remember, I have cursed my mother for not either letting go earlier or just showing a bit of fortitude and hanging on a bit longer in order to avoid lumbering her daughter with such a birthday.

As a youngster faced with mother's not so subtle campaign of undermining confidence and attempting to induce guilt I used to wonder whether she had done it on purpose as it fitted her campaign so well. Then decided that she probably hadn't but would have if she could.

A  plain little girl with glasses I grew to anticipate the mocking cries of 'April Fool' from those playground sharks who can detect unerringly the vulnerability of an unhappy child.

In later life, armour plated, it was a marker of people to avoid.
People who wanted to use that ritual to take me down a peg or two - not as friends can do with jokes be they never so coarse or brutally hard hitting - but slyly, waiting to see if they could draw blood.
No chance by then...they would have been better off trying it on a stone.
But I noted the attempt.

I escaped mother, gradually loosened the carapace I had adopted and had a pretty reasonable life. I enjoyed my work, I had friends and, finally, I was loved.

The birthday faded into the background.

Only to come bouncing back!

Last year Mr.Fly decided we would try a Peruvian restaurant which has a great reputation but which, being in a part of San Jose off our normal beat, we had not visited.
My birthday would be a nice occasion to try it.
We were house hunting at the time, so decided to explore the area nearby which is supposed to be developing -  according to the Mayor who wants to attract investment - before going to lunch.
Had I wanted to live in an area without local shops, but with a plethora of car parts emporia and decaying sixties housing it would have been ideal, but as it was it did not fit the bill despite the handy public transport belching fumes down every side street.
The development proved to be three tower blocks nattily brick clad to match the tower housing the tax offices alongside, conjouring up the horror of returning home three sheets to the wind and finding yourself in the wrong tower while someone waves a tax form at you.

As the area was so disappointing, we decided to head for the restaurant, crossing the central thoroughfare of San Jose, the Paseo Colon. Now, before Those Among You with a certain sense of humour start sniggering, 'Colon' is Christopher Columbus and no, the town has not named its main artery for a part of the human intestine.

We walked a couple of blocks to the restaurant, arriving some ten minutes before opening time. No sign of life, so we sat at one of the tables on the terrace.
A waiter emerged, and told us we could not sit there as the restaurant was not yet open.

'But we have booked for opening time and would like to sit down and, perhaps, have a drink.'

'No. It is a house rule. If we let you sit there today it would be tramps tomorrow. Nicaraguans even.'

Clearly we did not figure as his idea of the 'beautiful people'.

One lesson I had learned in France was immediately acted upon. If restaurant staff are sniffy, it's time to be off like an Exocet before worse befalls and you are expected to pay for it.
We decided to take our custom elsewhere and walked down the side street towards the city centre.

The side road was free of traffic fumes...but something else assailed our nostrils.
Not the smell of urine from the street sleepers...all was washed down here...but something much worse.
Something that reached down your throat  and twisted your intestines.
It was not just a was a Presence.

We looked over the wall.
Directly alongside was the open back door of the restaurant kitchen, bins ranged alongside.
We continued walking.

The Lebanese restaurant we had been heading for was closed, so we eventually partook of my birthday lunch at the counter of the Turbo caff at the Mercado Borbon -  and very good it was too as evidenced by the roaring takeaway trade for the stallholders.

This year, it so fell out that we had invited friends for Saturday and had been invited in our turn for Sunday before I remembered about my birthday. Still, what could be more enjoyable than seeing friends. That was fine.

But there was something lacking from my calculations.

Birthday cake.

Costa Rican bakeries have displays of large birthday cakes that take me back to the days when rationing finally ended and cakes of all sorts manifested themselves, exploding with ersatz cream, jam and butter icing at every orifice and bearing enough sugar flowers and ribbons for an army of fairies.
Costa Ricans like to give birthday cakes to friends and family. You see men walking to their cars with three or four in a gravity defying tower, preparing for a family get together on the weekend.

The first cake arrived on Friday morning, its kind donor almost invisible behind it. Two more followed later. Two more on Saturday, one with each group of friends. Another on Sunday.....

Agreed, in every case the donors arrived mob handed which saw off a fair portion of the cake - but there was always some left over and no way of recycling it discreetly to neighbours as it was the neighbours who had brought it or its fellow.
The fridge was beginning to resemble a cake shop.
The dogs were becoming indignant.

By the time we had returned home on Sunday with the remains of the cake given us by our friends the thing had run out of control.
What to do?

I decided to scrape the sponge layers free of jam, cream and butter icing and freeze them to make a trifle at some future date - no, more like four trifles...
The dogs were happy, jam cream and butter icing adorning their whiskers.

I was happy. Not only had I been spared the singing of  Happy Birthday, I had also been spared the horrors of April Fool.
No one knew of this European tradition....and I wasn't about to tell them!

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  1. My younger brother was born on April first, five years behind my March 31st. For months my mother had asked if I would like a baby for my birthday and I said NO. As this all occurred sixty five years ago, it was well before the time children knew more babies were coming; they just showed up. So, I did not get a baby for my birthday, which pleased me, and my brother and I did not share a birthday, which pleased both of us. Happy belated birthday.

    1. Thank you,I had a great time!
      But those birthday cakes became almost surreal as one after the other arrived...

  2. Happy Birthday and you were very smart about dealing with the dearth of cakes.I hope you'll enjoy their remnants for months to come and I wish you a great year ahead.

    1. Thank you! Every trifle will remind me of the kindness of the donors.

  3. Oh my goodness! All those cakes -- it's kind of like some kind of weird (dare I say it) April Fool's joke! By the way, some of the greatest people I know have their birthday on April 1st. On my husband's last birthday I invited a Polish family that are especially fond of him for tea. I had a cake already, when they appeared at the door with a specially prepared cake in hand. Of course I served their cake not wanting to offend them. The other cake, a chocolate confection, is still in its box -- in the freezer!

    As usual your post is a humorous gem!

    1. As yet another cake arrived I began to wonder if we were in some sort of Bunuel film....

  4. Oh, Fly! You frequently have me weeping in horrid that you suffered for your birth date.
    Perhaps that is what, unwittingly, made you such a sharp observer? Many more happy days to you, Lady of Misrule.

    1. Could be!
      Oh, Lady of Misrule...that's a compliment I relish! Thank you!

  5. Have your cake and eat it? And eat it... And eat it...

    Despite the cake mountains, I hope you have a very happy birthday.

    1. Thank you Steve!
      Mr. Fly said the arrival of cakes reminded him of a shooting gallery where the ducks just keep on coming round...

  6. Happy belated birthday! In the Netherlands it is the custom for all family and friends to call and thus one is obliged to feed the hordes coffee and cake.
    When my parents retired and returned to live in NL they were [re-]confronted by this tradition soon after arriving. They made sure every year after that they were 'away to Paris' or some other destination real or virtual on their birthdays.
    One should be spoilt on one's birthday, not be the one running after others.
    Sounds as if you had a lovely time ...& it was the dogs who got spoilt :-)

    1. Thank you! I had a great time as did the dogs - eventually.
      I can understand your parents legging it on each birthday....

  7. Happy belated birthday, Fly. And if there's one thing as sure as the daily rising and setting of the sun, you are an utter failure as a fool. :D The most unfool I have ever known.

    1. Thank you!
      So on the 'fool' entry on the report it should read - must try harder...

  8. Oh, Happy belated Birthday, Fly! I'm glad it turned out so lovely.

    1. Thank you! A meal with friends was a lot more fun that going to a restaurant.

  9. Happy belated cake day! I mean birthday! I'm glad you escaped April fool's (which I totally ignore as I think it's completely asinine - my heart goes out to you for being stuck with such a birth day!). Sounds like you got the last delicious laugh this year.

  10. I don't have birthdays any more. I know this must sound odd after what you have said but I have a good friend whose birthday is 1 April and I've never even thought of the significance nor, from what I can recall of his birthday parties, did anyone ever comment on it. And no one brought cake. In the Outer Hebrides you bring a bottle!

    1. Well, we weren't short of bottles!
      I wonder if it's an English thing (well, French as well with their blasted poisson d'avril). We moved south when I was very young, so I was never back in Scotland for my birthday.

  11. Happy even more belated birthday! I'm glad you found a use for the cake remnants. What a brilliant idea to freeze the sponge for trifle.

    My niece was born on March 31, my brother was trying to hurry things along so she wouldn't be born on April 1.

    1. Your brother had the right idea! Spared the poor girl many a misery!

      As to the cake, I'm a sucker for dogs, but it seemed a crime to let them scoff all that good cake, and trifle goes down very well here when friends come over.
      As does bread and butter pudding. One friend asked me to make it in bulk for a family celebration. School dinners reign!

  12. A belated happy birthday! What a brilliant idea to freeze the sponges, and I'm sure the dogs enjoyed their feast!

    1. Thank you! They would, their expressions assure me, have enjoyed a bit more cake with their cream....

  13. Many belated happy returns, Fly. Another gem of a post, even more delicious than your multitude of birthday cakes. :-) As a plain child with glasses I feel for the younger you and can only be grateful my birthday comes later in April. Now you can look forward to lots of trifles, thanks to your kind and generous friends and neighbours.

    1. Thank was one of the better birthdays!

  14. Here's a belated "gift" since you're a wit and like dogs

  15. I winced to think of a younger you with such a birthday. Many Happy Returns for this one, I wish you a splendid year xxx

    1. Not an enjoyable experience....but that's in the past, thank goodness.
      I will do my best to have splendid year...a goal to aim for! Thank you.