Usually for my birthday my daughter takes me somewhere glamorous. Last year it was Prague where I wore a long black velvet dress to the opera. The years before was Athens where we stayed in a gorgeous hotel and our room looked out at the Acropolis and we watched the changing of the guard.
This year, however, she has acquired a large yellow (, sorry, golden!) labrador so we drove to the wilds of Northumberland, the new labrador in back of a brand new ( and I mean that day!! ) Mercedes CLA 180 sport, gleaming white and smelling - of dog.
Izzie is seventeen months and has been rehomed three times. She thinks nothing of licking a bowl of fruit even though she knows it isn't hers and she likes bananas for breakfast, carrots for lunch and will east tomatoes when the wind is in the east.
Dogs, of course, were not allowed in the bedrooms at the cottage where we stayed but Izzie is very good at opening doors and managed to leap on both single beds before we could stop her. The covers were chocolate so you can imagine the mess.
She barked at the man who owns the cottage because he was working mostly in the communal garden.
On Boulmer beach she ate a huge quantity of seaweed and half a pasty outside Morrisons in Alnwick. We scoured the internet for pubs which liked dogs and were very upset when we found that the only pub in the village banished us to a cold and windy seafront while the locals ate their Sunday dinners and laughed at Izzie winding her lead around the tables, attacking a bench with her teeth and we cowered in hats, scarves and sweaters against the incoming tide.
We were greeted at the The Red Lion in Alnwick with a cacophony of barks and whines. There were labradors, sheepdogs and spaniels. Her favourite shop is Pets at Home or any supermarket that has discarded bread outside or the local park on Sundays where there are half eaten pizzas from the night before when the kinds smoked weed.
It's not just holidays. For Christmas I have bought her a bottle of Barker's Dog beer and Dog Cake Mix. I now own very expensive trainers ( from Cotswold ), serviceable green trousers from M&S and a hideous anorak with a gold zip. We usually go to Mughli's on Christmas Eve which is the wonderful Indian restaurant in Knutsford. Now we are looking forward to an evening spent by the fire, a take away and the delights of television and dog smelling sofas.
Boxing Day will be a walk in Tatton Park where she will be able to greet her friends. There will be tennis ball throwing and my kids will have the joy of seeing all the people they didn't know before they acquired a labrador. They are both very fit now and Athens and Prague seem a long way away but the beaches in Northumberland have been my second home since I was five years old when I walked my Boxer Dog up the beach at Hauxley Bay. I walked my spaniel there when I was forty five so what could be more appropriate than to watch Izzie like thousands of other lucky dogs before her run up and down hoping in vain to catch the wily seagulls?
At night when the tide is full the seabirds gather in their hundreds to feed and the moon rises about the North Sea. What better way to celebrate my sixty fifth birthday?