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Fortieth Birthday

near Perth — 2000-01-12 - 2000-01-25

It’s been raining almost every day for the last two weeks. The weather report says it is the coldest January with the most precipitation here in West Australia since weather has been recorded. Apparently we are in the year of the records and everyone is surprised at the strange climate. Well, to be honest, rain to us is rather a blessing. Although is gets a bit muggy on some days, the temperatures are quite pleasant giving us a break after the December heat. Besides, it saves us from using the air-conditioning in the caravan and, in view of the fact that according to Inspector Gadget it will cost us $50 a week if it runs every day, we are happy not to have to turn it on. After the hard disk of my laptop has crashed beyond hope some days ago, and I managed to get a second-hand one from a computer shop, I am now getting ahead again with my book. It even looks like I might still be able to meet the deadline.

In order to be able to celebrate my 40th birthday properly, I spend more than 10 hours a day writing. This way I needn’t feel bad (at least not as far as the book is concerned) if I have to cure a hangover the next day.

In view of the gusty winds coming into our caravan with unbroken force, Tanja and I are thinking where would be a safe place to celebrate my birthday, when suddenly the telephone rings. “Hi Denis, we were wondering where you are going to celebrate your birthday considering the weather. You are welcome to come and spend the day at our place.”, I hear Claudia’s friendly voice at the other end of the line. This solves our problem, and we are looking forward to having my birthday party at their beautiful house by the seaside. We met the two of them on the island of Lombok nearly nine months ago when they, too, were on their way to Australia, we’ve kept in touch and a real friendship has developed. Just like Tanja, they are artists, and paint the most beautiful pictures. Meanwhile they live in a gorgeous house by the seaside that is lavishly decorated with interesting paintings and photographs. The shelves are filled with books, and some tables and open areas are embellished in a way you might find in a fine-art shop that is furnished equally tasteful and comfortable. The house with its straight lines and clear furniture has such a pleasant atmosphere, it is truly a fine place to celebrate such an important birthday.

When the day has finally come, I can hardly believe it. I used to think that people at this age are ancient, and now, having reached it myself, I still feel quite young. I’m forty today, and honestly, I don’t feel any different than I did on my thirtieth birthday. I’m not wasting much thought on it, unpack my presents and am the happiest person in the world. Among all the guests, there is one unfamiliar face. “Dr. Lance Wilson,” he introduces himself. I look at him and watch his face. He smiles at me and starts telling some tremendously interesting stories. At this moment I’m not aware of what sort of connection there is going to be between us and how important this man is going to be for our project. I spend a beautiful evening with many dear and lovely people.

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