It certainly helped that my lovely little family, led by the imaginative if now bankrupt Duchess, presented me with a gift for each year of my life.
The gifts came in different boxes, each representing a stage of my adult life. Each bore a tag offering a clue. It was, without doubt, the most amazing, thoughtful array of presents I’ve ever received.
It’s a bit indulgent but I thought I’d share the list, as it gives a (strongly alcoholic) flavour of my 40 years, as well as proving what a lucky and loved old man I am:
- A CONSTANT COMPANION / ‘There’s always been a third ‘person’ in our relationship’ – A framed, signed message from Tony Mowbray, the remarkable man who manages my other love, the Mighty Boro.
- A CONSTANT COMPANION / ‘Just don’t have them with beer!’ – I love chocolate raisins, especially from M&S, but the Duchess still can’t understand how I can mix them with cold lager. She’s never lived…
- A CONSTANT COMPANION / ‘Smut’ – The latest copy of Viz, the north-easterner’s bible.
- A CONSTANT COMPANION / ‘I would go out tonight but Boy Wonder’s got the pox I swear…’ – My favourite group remains the Smiths. Mozipedia by Stuart Goddard looks like an ingenious take on Morrissey and the band.
- YOUR PAST / ‘You first introduced this to me in Sydney’ – I studied for a year in Louisiana in the early nineties and fell in love with Creole food. I’ve now got 27 ways to cook the area’s famous soup, thanks to The Little Gumbo Book by Gwen McKee.
- YOUR PAST / ‘So we’ll have more of the same please!’ – I’d say the Duchess is dropping a clear hint. The New Orleans Cookbook by Rima and Richard Collin will hopefully mean I also introduce jambalaya and crayfish to the family.
- YOUR PAST / ‘A reference to your uni days and your trip across the US’ – American hard gums, my favourite sweets. Just don’t tell my dentist now I’m knocking on a bit.
- EARLY DAYS / ‘I remember seeing this at your flat in Hackney and not having a clue what it was…’ – A miniature bottle of Disaronno, in memory of 10 years ago when the Duchess and I started going out and she’d travel to my London flat for the weekend.
- EARLY DAYS / ‘One of your favourites…’ – Another miniature, this time full of Baileys, which (embarrassingly) remains a (Christmas) favourite.
- EARLY DAYS / ‘A right ‘Royal’ carry on…’ – More booze, in the shape of a Hoegaarden to mark our Belgian beer-fuelled nights out in my London local. No wonder I was always broke.
- EARLY DAYS / ‘Think the kids beat you on this one for frequency!’ – I used to have baths every day. Then I had kids. Now I bath them. So the Duchess got me luxury bubble bath. I reckon it’ll last for years!
- EARLY DAYS / ‘From one spiky character to another’ – For my 30th, just after we met, the Duchess bought me cactii. But my flat-sitting mate killed them. Let’s hope I don’t do the same.
- OUR TRAVELS / ‘Think back to the days when our biggest decision was where to eat at night’ – A large bottle of Singha beer.
- OUR TRAVELS / ‘A bit of light entertainment’ – A Waddingtons pack of playing cards. We used to play every night on our trip round SE Asia in 2003. We need to wean ourselves off that evil TV and get back to Jacks, Twos and Eights.
- NUPTIALS / ‘Chin, chin big yin!’ – A bottle of Kier Royale, which we gave to guests moments after we tied the knot at the Crab and Lobster, North Yorkshire, in May 2006.
- NUPTIALS / ‘The start of our life together as Mr and Mrs. A keepsake of a magnificent day’ – Our wedding cards to one another, the centrepiece of our new family photo wall. A lovely idea.
- ALL ABOUT THE BOY / ‘These foolish things remind me of you’ – A pack of pistachios. I’m that memorable!
- ALL ABOUT THE BOY / ‘…nothing quite like it for cooling the blood’ – Yes, it’s a mud pack, more essential now than ever!
- ALL ABOUT THE BOY / ‘Who’s the Daddy?’ – A miniature bottle of Hugo Boss aftershave. I never really bothered with such perfumes until the Duchess came along. Now I splash every day. To keep her happy and hide the fug.
- ALL ABOUT THE BOY / ‘Balls to ya!’ – I love cheesy balls. I have a pack every Saturday. Good job this is a sharing pack because the kids have inherited my genetic compulsion.
- ALL ABOUT THE BOY / ‘If only it were a magnum of champagne’ – The Magnum Muhammed Ali photography collection – unrivalled shots of the great man.
- 2012 AND BEYOND / ‘Keep on running’ – A water bottle for when I finally manage to run beyond an hour in preparation for my half marathons this year.
- 2012 AND BEYOND / ‘Can’t fit a loo roll in. Shame…’ – A wrist pouch to house my keys when I run. The inscription refers to my constant bowel troubles: I’m fast becoming the Paula Radcliffe of north Leeds. Too much information?
- LEEDS, LEEDS, LEEDS / ‘Old faithful’ – A Lush bath bomb. Maybe I will be given time to indulge, after all?
- LEEDS, LEEDS, LEEDS / ‘Friday nights at the Police Station’ – A bottle of Erdinger, once my staple at the now defunct bar in Chapel Allerton, which used to be an actual cop shop in its day.
- LEEDS, LEEDS, LEEDS / ‘The original and best’ – Very comfy slippers from Muji. I’m old before my time.
- LEEDS, LEEDS, LEEDS / ‘Boring. But practical’ – Some grey t-shirts, for wearing under my jumpers. I am 40, after all.
- LEEDS, LEEDS, LEEDS / ‘Sans wolfies’ – A collector’s bottle of Bison Vodka, complete with a winter coat!
- OUR FAMILY / ‘For the boys’ – Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World, for when Boy Wonder is a bit older.
- OUR FAMILY / ‘Our favourite person’ – A framed ‘We love Daddy’ photo of my beautiful kids, compact enough for my overnight bag when I work away.
- OUR FAMILY / ‘An IOU… no time to fill. Let’s choose together’ – A photo album to fill of family pics, already started with foot and hand prints from the kids.
- OUR FAMILY / ‘You couldn’t buy this if you tried Daddy. Especially for you’ – Boy Wonder’s guinea pig painting. Framed. Wall art of the highest order.
- 1972 / ‘It’s been with you for 40 years now. Time for a little TLC!’ – First a mud pack and now some high-grade face moisturiser – what’s the Duchess trying to say?
- 1972 / ‘Bookworm’ – I was born in ’72. I love George Pelecanos. So his brand new book, What It Was, about a murder in Washington DC that year is an inspired present.
- 1972 / ‘Conceived the year you were born’ – I also love Adidas trainers. I haven’t had new ones since the kids were born. Now I’ve got a pair of blue SL 72s, which were originally brought out in the year of my birth.
- ALL ABOUT THE BOY / ‘You’ve had these for a while. You introduced me to the artist on my honeymoon’ – Forget the leaning tower. When we got to Pisa, I headed for the Keith Haring graffiti wall. Finally, my four old postcards and a large print bought for me by the Duchess a few years ago now adorn our family home (counts as five presents).
So, there you have it. My life unfurled in a swirl of navy and sky blue wrapping paper. How lucky am I? I’ve had a good life so far and I’ve got much to look forward to, especially as the little ones grow and grow.
The only cloud on the horizon is that the Duchess turns 40 next year. Talk about pressure.