Of all the ways John Granger thought he’d be celebrating his 57th birthday, standing on Hampstead Heath at 4AM with his daughter and four of her friends waiting for the sun to rise was not one of them.
Adele, John’s daughter, originally planned for a large gathering on the Heath with her Pagan Brethren to celebrate the summer solstice, but the delay in easing all COVID restrictions meant that that was impossible.
Still, she thought six people including her and her dad could celebrate the solstice anyway. So here they were, on the Heath, at 4AM, waiting for the summer to begin.
“I assumed Grant was into this sort of thing,” John said to Adele.
“He is, but he’s busy,” Adele said. “Life of a banker and all that.”
“Hmm,” John responded, whilst waiting for the sunrise.
“I’m not going to judge him if that’s what you’re worried about,” John said. “I’d like to meet him. There’s no need to hide him from me.”
“I’m not hiding him from you,” Adele said. “It’s just he’s very busy so there’s not really a lot of time for you two to meet. You’ve seen him on Zoom though, haven’t you?”
“Yes, but I want to meet him in person,” John said.
“And one day you will, when he has time,” Adele said.
“Hmm,” John responded.
Forty four minutes later, and the sun finally began to rise.
“Well, here we go,” Adele said.
“Yeah,” John replied.
For the next hour the Pagan Brethren sang and danced as summer began. John joined in but was rather bemused by the whole thing.
After the Solstice celebrations were over, everyone went back to Adele’s garden in Hampstead for a vegan cooked breakfast.
“I read the review of your pub in the Guardian the other day,” Adele’s friend Al said to John. “Very good.”
“It was, yes. I was very pleased. Although I believe part of the reason he gave his highest ever score is because he was so happy being back in a pub again.”
“Yeah, I can well imagine,” Al said. “It was amazing watching Scotland vs England at my local. It was very emotional.”
“Hmm,” John replied, not being much of a football fan himself.
“Do you celebrate the Solstice in Lower Strangling?” Hannah, another of Adele’s pagan friends asked.
“No, not really.” John said. “It’s not really a major thing in the Christian liturgical Callander.”
“You should,” Adele added, “you have miles upon miles of beautiful countryside to choose from.”
“I’ll, er, I’ll put it to the Village council,” John said.
After having their breakfast*, John received cards from the other guests containing gift vouchers and cheques.
Adele than gave him her gift to him; a special gift pack of English beers.
“Happy birthday, Dad,” Adele said.
“Thanks, Adele,” John said. “Not just for this, but for inviting me to celebrate the solstice. It was… unusual, but this is certainly a birthday I will remember forever.”
“Ahhh, you.” Adele said before hugging her dad.
After that, the food was put away, Adele’s pagan friends bade their farewell and left the house, and John and Adele continued to celebrate John’s 57th year around the sun, which John knew was going to be great.
*The best John had ever had, but didn’t tell Adele because he didn’t want to admit defeat.