Whitstable night out: the Shobab
I used to write for Prediction magazine.
It’s a sort of girlie mag with astrology. It runs features with titles like: “A Psychic Dolphin Saved My Marriage” and “How To Find Your Guardian Angel.”
For some reason they didn’t seem to mind my particular brand of humour and mild scepticism and I continued to write a column for them until 2008.
I’m only telling you this as it has some bearing on this story later.
It was my birthday. I was at the Shobab restaurant in Whitstable with my family: my Mum, my Dad, my two sisters and my brother-in-law, plus my niece Beatrix, who was two and a half years old at the time, and was (and is) one of the brightest little creatures on this planet.
Maybe that’s just me. She’s my niece after all. I guess she reminds me of my son when he was small. So there’s a degree of nostalgia in my relationship to her: a little touch of me re-living a particularly happy time in my own life.
What I like most about kids at this age is their insatiable curiosity, and their boundless, wide-eyed enthusiasm. Everything is full of magic and excitement, even Whitstable High Street on a slightly dull evening.
I’d got into a ritual with her. Whenever I saw she was feeling restive I would take her for a walk. So we'd stroll up and down the High Street looking in all the shop windows, while I asked her questions and she answered them for me.
“It’s a rabbit…”
“It’s a cow….”
"It's a frying pan..."
So on this particular day we were tottering up and down the High Street, holding hands. We’d done one side of the road and were about to cross over and go back up the other way. We were standing at the crossing, when someone called out.
“Does your child like toys?”
And we turned around and there was someone from a nearby hair salon, which had only just opened at the time.
The woman had a large sack with her, which was full of wrapped up presents. It was obviously part of a promotional exercise for opening-day.
“What do you mean, ‘does she like toys?’ Of course she likes toys.”
So that was it. Beatrix was handed a bundle of presents, and we went back to the restaurant to open them.
It was my birthday, but it was Beatrix getting the presents. Which is only right and proper, me having failed to get her a present on her birthday. She got two headbands, a soft toy and a book. One of the headbands is still her favourite.
I said, because it was my birthday, “I am blessed by luck.” I might as well have said, “I have found my Guardian Angel.”
My sister said, “what’s the name of that magazine you write for again?”
“Prediction,” I said. “Why?”
“I think it’s starting to get to you,” she said.