My birthday was pants. Next time I want a donkey and a cake with arson-sized candles.
There have been many anniversaries lately. First the tenth anniversary of that famous drink-driving accident, then the 50th anniversary of the Holmewood council estate in Bradford, and then my birthday.
The Holmewood is one of the largest council estates in West Yorkshire. I was asked to perform at their celebrations, although I didn’t realise that even council estates have birthday parties. But they do, and it’s not birthday cake, party hats and balloons – no, it’s more like bonfires, wild animals and goldfish. I appeared on a small stage in the middle of the estate’s football pitch at 1.30pm on Saturday afternoon to a sellout crowd of four people, two of whom had hearing difficulties.
As I arrived, a young boy was riding a donkey through the petrol station. For a moment I thought I was hallucinating due to the drug-induced atmosphere surrounding the place. I quickly slammed on the brakes, which caused the donkey to make a loud noise, and which seemed to cause all the other cars behind me to brake. A torrent of abuse was thrown in my direction. I only caught the tail end, which was: “I’ll f**k you in the eyeballs.” What a novel idea, I thought. How on earth is he going to do that? They don’t mess about in Bradford, anything for a bit of fun.
On the estate I found quite a few young boys riding donkeys. I asked one if this was part of the birthday celebrations. He replied: “No, a donkey is cheaper than a car.”
A few weeks ago, when I got into a rickshaw in London, the driver became really excited – he said it was the first time he’d ever picked up a passenger who was sober. A rickshaw really is the transport equivalent of a kebab, but you don’t see me riding one through Texaco Brent Cross.
The white tracksuit is the Gucci suit of the Holmewood council estate. Either these kids are really healthy, or they’ve been dragged backwards through JJB Sports. The women all wore necklaces saying “mum” around their necks. Why do you have to remind yourself that you’re a mum? Unless you’ve abandoned your kids in a Lidl supermarket.
My idea of a birthday party involves at least a birthday cake, so I asked where Holmewood’s was, to which a vociferous white woman with blue dreadlocks shouted in reply: “We don’t have cakes with candles, it leads to arson.” I decided it was time to go. All my efforts to entertain were being met with total apathy.
My set ended with a 70-year-old man acting as the DJ taking requests from the very small audience. Teenage boys shouted: “Oi mate, do you have any 50 Cent?” He responded by playing “Come on Eileen”, which capped off a pretty weird Saturday afternoon.
It was my birthday on the Wednesday, but they’re no longer exciting to celebrate. It’s not like being nine and getting really excited about approaching double figures.
I had some weird presents. One man sent me his underpants through the post. He had signed them in crayon and had attempted to decorate them with glued-on dead flowers and blue glitter. My manager opened them and screamed. I think it was just a minor shock because she hasn’t seen a pair of man’s underpants since 1971, and hasn’t seen a man since 1942. She said she suspected it was a New Statesman reader, as “clever people always have weird private lives”.
I quite liked the underpants, and am thinking of wearing of them on stage. The only disappointment for me was finding inside a sticker saying “Primark – not to be sold separately”. He’d obviously bought five for £1 and distributed his love. I was one of the chosen ones. What people don’t realise is that I’m a really simple girl, and what I actually wanted for my birthday was a donkey and a birthday cake with arson-sized candles. Remember that for next time.