A Surprise Party is the Best Thing

Posted on November 21, 2013



I don’t really like birthdays.

This isn’t to say that I dislike them. I’m a mere 28 years old, a baby, a child, but there is definitely a difference in anticipation as you cycle through the years. 13 year old me loved them, loved looking forward to the attention. Much the same as everyone else at the time, I would have friends stay over, then we’d go to Shrewsbury for the day, and I’d get a football shirt with some improbably obscure name on the back. But, age came, and the day got less special and more foreboding. Ever since my glorious 22nd party in Slovenia, they’ve been a mixture of nice enough times but no real difference to any other gathering with friends. Until yesterday, when I can honestly say I had the best evening I can imagine. As someone who flirts with misery and wakes up in bed with actual genuine medical depression, I can sit next to the Priest and say it was the happiest I have ever been.

It all started innocently enough, as most things do. The day itself was quiet, it was relaxed, it was almost long. I woke, I walked, I read and I ate. What I ate was actually great, a chicken thing smothered in honey and walnuts, but there was nothing particularly special about it. I came back to the hostel, blah blah. The evening approached, and a couple of beers were drank with Dragan, as well as long conversation about the merits of Punk and alternative rock. The plan was to head towards Rusmir for 6 o’clock, have the reassuringly great sausage and then see what happens with the evening. At least that was the plan.

Rusmir is as Rusmir always is. Great old fashioned atmosphere, wonderful food, good people. There is a lot to be said for eating good food with people you adore and respect, despite my not being much of a ‘foodie’, as the term goes. Three raspberry rakijas probably help. Still, innocent enough, yay everyone I’m 28 lets all be happy. We left, and headed towards Belgrade centre, and things started to get, well, different. Being the responsible grown up middle class Welshman I am, I obviously had the correct ticket and whatnot, so no getting kicked off the bus for me. The same can’t be said for Una, Vesna, and the two Nikolas however, as they were knobbed off. Maybe this was a plan, I had no idea. Even so, I sat on the bus, arrived at Zeleni Venac, bought myself a beer and waited to reunite.

Vesna came around the corner, and told me that the others had headed on to wherever we were going. I had a bag of presents with me, and logic says drop them off on the way to whatever bar it was. We walked towards Chillton 2, and all I could think and talk about was how much I needed the toilet. I have the bladder of a child after all. (‘peeing is like revision. Little but often’ – Ben Davies). Vesna failed to buy cigarettes a couple of times, adding to my desperation, and we jumped in the lift to drop stuff off. Top floor, up the steps, ring the doorbell.


Now, I’ve never had a surprise party before. The only surprise party I can remember was Ashley’s birthday from a few years back. Ironically I mentioned this same party at Rusmir, because of my failed bridge and mine and Ben’s incessant air drumming. I was genuinely shocked, and a little terrified. In all of our minds, we react to things with calm and wit, saying exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment. Truth be told, I tried to hide a little bit, as I had zero idea how to react. Then the hugging began. There was dancing, there was drinking, there was hugging, there was balcony nudity viewing, and I was completely happy. So happy that I fell asleep fully clothed wearing my glasses, leading to a morning stress over where they might be. (Spoiler: they were under the bed).

I’m a man who enjoys talking about his passions. As the people of the Royal Oak in Welshpool can attest, I enjoy talking about Belgrade and the people I know here. Every now and then it possibly comes across as pure bluster, and even I began to think that maybe I exaggerate it. Last night was every confirmation that there is zero exaggeration. I’m an incredibly lucky human being. I grew up as part of the best family I can think of, with brothers and sisters that I genuinely love with all of my being and parents that are everything anyone could ever want. I grew up in a nice town, I still live in this nice town, where everything is safe and the surroundings are beautiful. I have an extended family of close friends that I would 100% lay down my own life for, who are more beautiful and talented and wonderful than I could ever tell them without feeling like a schmuck. One of them, Barry ‘Barry’ Williams, is getting married in a few days, and I don’t think he realises how happy that makes me. Good luck Bazwaz.

And then there is all of this. I can be quite annoying, and I’ve spent the last couple of summers annoying the people of Serbia and Bosnia, not doing much and complaining about the wrong things. Despite this, I’ve met incredible, incredible people, many of whom I can call friends. A few indeed that I would call close friends, people that I can’t imagine not knowing. I definitely annoy these the most, and for good reason. In life, it is important every now and then to take a step back and evaluate and just have a look at your own situation. Last night I was a boy, not a man, a boy from a little country on a small island, in a strange foreign country, surrounded by people who were to celebrate the fact that I was born. That, in itself, is one of the best things I can think of. I’m an incredibly lucky human being. If anyone ever sits and thinks they might want to travel, my only advice is to go, because there are seven billion humans in the world and the overwhelming majority of them are beautiful and everything you want to meet.

And now I have to go home. That in itself is a sad thing, because I don’t think I can tell the people that I know here everything I want to, and I’m not really sure if they realise how much I adore them. But, the plus side is I have a beautiful couple to meet up with tomorrow, and an old band I loved to see in a pub. Life is incredibly dobro, and if I ever claim differently I’m wrong.

Happy Birthday Eric Wiedemann.