Today’s my birthday, and I must admit I woke with a slight air of gloom about me. I’m not even sure why.
It wasn’t the birthday per se. Although I’ve been ‘adjusting’ my age for a few years now, since I got pregnant the number that defines me has suddenly ceased to matter. Perhaps my head has finally worked out that there are bigger fish to fry.
Anyway, I’m lying in bed with a vaguely Eeyore-ish cloud trying to settle on my head, when I get a call from my mom and my gran, singing me an early-morning birthday chorus. They’re so jolly and daft, I immediately start to feel better. Then I get downstairs to find a birthday cupcake from my housemate, my phone starts pinging with birthday wishes … and the cloud starts to evaporate before my eyes.
And it’s just as well. I really have no reason to be gloomy, because this week has been a special week in the world of pre-natal wonder: I got to hear the bubba’s heartbeat.
Now, if it isn’t your child, I can understand that this might sound underwhelming, but – believe me – when you hear the rapid thunder of tiny horses’ hooves cantering inside your belly, it really is one of the most exciting things in the world.
Of course, I was already besotted with my little being, right from the moment when s/he floated onscreen during my first scan. Although I’d seen scan pictures before, nothing quite prepares you for the fact that this human being in miniature is so tiny yet so perfect … and will bounce around obligingly if you laugh, cough or otherwise agitate yourself.
I squealed like a giddy teenager the first time I got a bewitching glimpse of those tiny little limbs wafting amniotically, and being pregnant suddenly seemed like a reality. I really thought my heart might burst with joy.
It’s hard to believe that, at any one time, there are oodles of women all over the world, experiencing the same thing and yet we’re all managing to walk around quite calmly, as if a miniature miracle were not occurring inside us.
Anyway, you can imagine that, fully occupied with thoughts of the bubba as I am, men have been one of the last things on my mind. Even relations with The Baby-Daddy seem to have reached a tentative truce: he’s still not happy about the situation, but he appears to have stopped waging war.
For my part, I keep a low profile. I suspect that only time and a certain small person are capable of winning him over – both of which are pretty much out of my control. So for now I’m keeping quiet. To be honest, I just feel sorry that he’s missing out on all the excitement.
Anyway, this being my birthday, it seems only natural that I should have to visit the Job Centre, to start my claim for Jobseekers’ Allowance. I’ve been waiting for nearly half an hour when an old boy who looks like he’s been left over from 1978 comes and hovers at my left-hand side.
“Could you move along, please?” he enquires, politely.
I look at the three empty sofas on either side of me. The sofa I’m sitting on has room for three people to my right. But no, Hawkwind has to sit just here, on my left.
I move along without a word. But of course (you can feel it coming, can’t you?) he launches into conversation.
As he burbles on about some self-employed marketing scheme he’s piloted or pioneered or otherwise gained unthinkable glory for, I stare placidly out of the window at the brick wall opposite and wonder exactly what it is that makes me so irresistible to the nutters of this world.
After a few minutes of rambling, I ask him what exactly it is that he markets.
“Non-pacific products!” says Hawkwind, triumphantly.
I assume he means non-specific products – as in, “I don’t really know” – rather than bellicose artefacts, but I limit myself to raising a quizzical eyebrow.
“Yes,” he repeats. “Non-pacific products because, you see, we’re all consumers. It could be you, your parents, your family, your neighbours. Everyone consumes. But of course you have to be consistent. It’s the sort of thing you build up over weeks – months even. Let me give you my card!”
He presents me with a dog-eared card that looks as though it’s done the rounds. It has something scrawled indecipherably on the front in scratchy handwriting, and on the back are two stickers, each with his address on them. After a few more minutes of incoherent but emphatic burbling, I realise he’s trying to sell me the idea of working in this crazy scheme of his.
I don’t like to question the efficacy of this grand scheme. I think the fact that he’s sitting next to me at the Job Centre tells me all I need to know. But I do feel bold enough to decline his kind offer.
He looks momentarily abashed. Then he asks for his card back.
I hand back the dog-eared scrap, as he continues his chatter and I nod and murmur politely, with a smile that’s getting ever weaker.
Suddenly, I someone calls my name. Praise the lord!
“Excuse me,” I say, with a tight smile. “Got to go.”
As I make my way to the appropriate desk, I allow myself a quiet smile. Even though my success rate with men still hovers around zero, and my pregnant state means it’s set to continue that way for the foreseeable future, it’s good to know that, to the nutters from Nuttersville, I remain irresistible.
“Happy birthday to me,” I think. “Happy birthday to me!”