It may just be me, but throughout my life birthdays have always been about cake.
In the street where I grew up, two weeks in March contained four or five birthdays, with the result that my birthday seemed to be the centre of a steady stream of sing-happy-birthday-and-eat-cake visits between neighbours.
As I grew a little older, within my group of friends birthdays were always marked by some form of edible delicacy of ridiculous proportions created by the group; I distinctly remember the shock on my thirteenth or fourteenth birthday when I sliced open the seemingly innocuous chocolate-coated concoction SB had produced, to find that in fact the bottom layer was bright blue and the top a lurid shade of pink. From childhood until now, cake has always played an important role for me in birthday festivities: home-made chocolate goodness with my office last year; apple cake freshly baked by SF the year before; even in Sri Lanka, my wonderful housemates produced some kind of sponge-type-dessert with candles.
So these days, when I am asked what I wish to do for my birthday, I say that I don’t mind as long as it involves cake. Imagine P’s dismay when he realises that while we have arrived in paradise for my birthday, the facilities in paradise – namely the Andaman Islands – are somewhat limited. The one ‘large’ shop on Havelock island has less in stock than your average corner newsagent, and dessert menus usually consist of fruit or pancakes. I tried to hide my disappointment when he suggested the day before that procuring baked goods from a kitchen that cooks everything on a gas ring may be a little unrealistic.
So imagine my joy when on the day itself he walks in with a box containing a specially-ordered, beautifully-iced chocolate confection. It even bore the words ‘Happy Birthday to Jenny’ (though apparently P had some difficulty explaining that it was my name, not his as the one collecting the cake, that needed to appear in the icing!). My birthday had begun with gifts of fabulous Indian jewellery then continued with a wonderful day spent snorkelling in turquoise waters and relaxing on beautiful white sand, so I was perfectly content.
However, receiving my own personalised piece of dessert was – sorry, I have to say it – the icing on the cake.