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Monday, August 24, 2009

I always said I'd do something special for Lisa's 40th...

Putting on the Ritz.And sure enough, whilst making her walk half way across London with a big suitcase to save on tube fares, I stopped and forced her to pose with a binman outside The Ritz. It's those little touches of glamour which make a two-mile hike worthwhile. Although I moved her on quickly before she asked to sit down.

Anyhoo, Lisa and I have spent the weekend in our nation's great capital. I rejected The Ritz for being too clichéd, and instead booked a room at The Westbury, just off Bond Street. It's the closest I've come to a Mayfair hotel since I last played Monopoly.

Our walking tour from Victoria station took us past a number of landmarks. Frankly the only thing we didn't pass was Go, which was a shame as I could have done with the money. There was The Ritz of course...

... Buckingham Palace...

Buck House
... Canada Gate...

Pass the maple syrup.
... and the local pound shop...

I'll get De Beers in.
... so called because they need a pound of flesh before they'll let you through the door. That's Lisa showing off her new ring. Or possibly doing 'I'm a Little Teapot'.

Hotel BabylonBut we eventually made it to our five-star hotel for a nice sit down. When I stopped outside the front entrance and said "We're here!", Lisa genuinely thought I was joking. I think her exact words were "I was expecting a Travelodge". That's five years of experience talking. It's annoying though - I could have saved myself a fortune with no risk of disappointment.

Once inside, the reception staff took one look at us, realised we'd never fit into a Queen size bed, and promptly upgraded us to a King size room at no extra charge. I haven't had so much space since I was single. Frankly we could have had a row and slept apart without the need for a second bed.

But anyhoo, having got changed, looked at the breakfast menu, and wondered how they can charge twenty-two quid for a bowl of cornflakes and a coffee, we pressed a few buttons on the plasma TV, hoped it wouldn't show up on our bill, and then popped around the corner to Hamleys...

Frankly the forty-five minutes we spent in the pre-school section of Britain's busiest toy shop on a crowded Saturday afternoon in August is proof of just how much we love Amelie. As was the bill at the end of it.

Having dumped our purchases back at the hotel, we headed off down Regent Street, realised it was too packed to get anywhere fast, and ducked into Brewer Street, where we soon came across Aldo Zilli's Fish Restaurant. As a regular viewer of daytime cookery shows, and someone for whom the term 'chef' means nothing if it's not preceded by the word 'celebrity', Lisa was naturally keen to give it a try. So we took the table by the window...

Seafood and eat it.
I spent most of the time trying to resist the urge to order a bowl of Optivita, but despite that, it turned out to be one of the best meals we've ever had. Being in one of London's finest fish restaurants, with freshly prepared dishes direct from Billingsgate Market, Lisa naturally chose a main course which included no fish whatsoever. A decision she regretted the moment she tasted my trout starter and sea bream main course. It was food to die for. Just ask the fish. But the good thing about being out on your 40th birthday treat is that you can steal your partner's food without starting an argument. And Lisa took full advantage of that.

Our main destination, however, was further down Shaftesbury Avenue...

What a drag.
Yes, what better way to spend a Saturday night than watching a musical about drag queens, starring a man who once sued a magazine for claiming he was gay. I have to say, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, starring Jason Donovan and a bloke who once wrote for 'Home & Away', was fantastic. Really. Admittedly, the audience was full of middle-aged women with feather boas who insisted on clapping along like they were at a Chippendales show (which is something Lisa would know all about), but despite that, I loved every minute. It was the most visually spectacular thing I've ever seen. And the music was foot-stompingly good. It even had one genuinely heart-stopping moment. It was the bit during the interval when I walked up to the ice cream seller, asked for two thimble-fulls of chocolate, and heard her say "£6.40 please". Lisa won't be seeing treats like that again till she's fifty.

Anyhoo, having experienced the best meal, show and hotel of our life together, we rose late on Sunday morning, checked out of paradise, and hit the west end shops. Lisa spent most of the next two hours in the changing rooms of Oxford Street, while I sat in McDonalds with the suitcase. I think we both enjoyed ourselves. Having reached the limits of our respective purse and stomach, we then headed off towards New Bond Street, walked past Graff jewellers (their window looked strangely empty) and eventually arrived in Picadilly, before journeying back across Green Park and taking a Where's Wally shot of the Victoria Memorial...

She's the gold one at the top.
Trust me, Lisa's in there somewhere.

We rounded off our weekend with a meal at Bella Italia near Victoria Station, where I ordered the spaghetti carbonara. Thirty seconds later, the waitress returned with a concerned look on her face, and said "Do you realise it has bacon in it?". So it's official: I look Jewish. Thank God Amelie wasn't there with her Hitler haircut.

Anyhoo, we got the 5pm train back to Brighton, and arrived home on Sunday evening to be greeted by an excited Chloe. And the basket of clean washing she'd been sleeping in all weekend. Lisa now has a fur coat for the first time in her life.