I don’t like birthdays.
My birthdays, that is, I have no problem with anyone else’s. It’s not the aging aspect that I object to, I feel the depressing inevitability of that on a daily basis believe me. I don’t need a day each year to remind me of that particular biological process. It’s the anticipation and celebration of my ‘special’ day that I find vaguely wearing – I know, I’m a barrel of laughs.
Don’t get me wrong, I have friends and family and they’re all lovely, but I find the best way to cope with my birthday is to get away for a day or two. My wonderful wife Clare knows this, so this year she treated me to a night away at a beautiful hotel and a visit to Warwick Castle, somewhere I’d always wanted to visit – hey, I like castles, all right!
Our hotel was the Salford Hall Hotel, confusingly nowhere near Salford but situated just south of Birmingham and about thirty minutes away from Warwick.
The hotel was hundreds of years old and reputedly haunted, but as our room, the Catherine Howard Room no less, was in the converted stable block I doubted we’d be troubled by anything other than a ghostly pony or two. Clare had paid a £10 supplement for a four-poster room, which we thought would be an old wood-panelled bedroom with loads of character. In reality it was a fairly modern hotel room, with a four-posted bed sat in the middle of it. I don’t suppose we can really complain but it wasn’t quite the rustic ambiance we were hoping for.
The weather was great so we had afternoon tea in the garden, soaking up the sun. Afternoon tea seems very gentile, but after you’ve put away a plate of sandwiches, two scones with thick cream and jam, a plate of cakes, two glasses of bubbly and a pot of tea, you almost need a forklift to get you back on your feet.
Later on, we ate in the hotel restaurant. The food was very good but the beige décor looked like it hadn’t changed since the hall had been converted into a hotel back in 1989, and I don’t think the background music CD had either, but hey, I grew up in the eighties and quite liked the trip back in time, the food was great and we were having a good time so we weren’t complaining. We finished the evening off in the hotel bar.
The next day we had a hearty breakfast and set off for Warwick Castle.
Warwick Castle is a great Castle with lots of fascinating history involving several key figures from English history, such as Richard III, but I won’t go into all that right now. I love the history and the opportunity for a bit of photography, but to be honest I’m less interested in the ‘showbiz’ elements such as various out-of-work actors in period costume pretending to be medieval time-travellers. In fairness, we spoke to a couple who explained that they were contracted as actual peasants and loved the work, so good luck to them. The gangs of school parties running round seemed to love them.
I can see why places like this have to try and make the day as entertaining as possible, especially when they charge so much for admission (approx. £25 per person) but there’s a fine line they have to balance before they start to diminish the reality with the glitter, rather than enhance it. On the whole I think Warwick Castle has got it right, but they’re very close.
On the whole a great couple of days – made me forget it was my birthday – which is fine by me.