Ghosts of birthday’s past

Today is my 38th birthday, and my fifth in Australia. As each one rolls around, you can’t help but look back on the day and remember older versions.

For all those people who are planning to have babies, please, really think long and hard about a December or January birth, as speaking from experience, it’s mostly pants. No-one has any money in January, they’ve either spent it all for Christmas, or in the sales. For my twenty-first birthday, hardly anyone came out to celebrate, so I went out again the following week after pay-day. But it’s not the same thing. Like when I was swimming and every year the Brighton Open Swim Meet was held on the same weekend, or immediately before or after it. One year we went to see Holiday On Ice at the Brighton Centre afterwards, we also went to a Happy Eater (remember them?) on the way home, although I’m not sure it was the same year.

My birthday falls in Pantomime season (altogether now, ‘Oh no it isn’t!’). Mum often took me to see the local panto with a couple of friends. I’ve had whole theatres sing Happy Birthday to me, with one Frankie Howerd leading them all one year. But Terry Scott was my favourite pantomime Dame, he had a different outfit on every time he came on stage. When I was too old for Pantos, Mum and I would go up to London, catch a matinee and go shopping in the sales instead all morning. We saw Miss Saigon one year, there were two Americans adamant they wanted to sit in the front row of the theatre. The lady in the box office tried, in vain, to explain they didn’t sell the front row, in the end, she gave up, sold them the tickets and from our vantage point of front row of the circle, we watched them slowly disappear into clouds and clouds of dry ice, where they remained for most of the show. Mum and I were shaking with laughter, with our fists in our mouths. That trip up I’d forgotten my glasses, so I couldn’t see the stage very clearly, I could watch what was going on, but it was a bit blurry round the edges; the leading man was ACTING, the helicopter shuddered and squeaked, and I nearly fell asleep. Not our best theatre outing, but one that mum and I remember clearly, because that was also the trip we had a pasta lunch in Covent Garden. Wearing a white blouse, Mum said ‘I mustn’t get anything down me!’ and promptly sat down and put her boob in her plate. One quick trip back to Oxford Street to buy another blouse later, we were back at the theatre, still giggling.

One girl I swum with would begin reminding you it was her birthday about a month beforehand, by which time it rolled around, you were sick of it. There was one night when I was trying to get home to Mon Bears, the trains from London went crazy. I stood on Waterloo station pleading to get on a train as it was my birthday, and I wanted to get home to have my special dinner, even showing people my driving licence, to no avail. Never mess with a commuter when they’re on a train, they ain’t budging.

Through the years, I’ve been sent flowers, sung to, hugged, and had some lovely presents, my parents also brought cakes to swimming training, and I’ve been surprised with a driving lesson on my 17th birthday; but it is still the time I spend with people on my birthday that remains special to me. Which is why the trip to Miss Saigon sticks in my mind. Mum went out of her way to make birthdays fun, as her birthday is in the middle of July, so hers also gets forgotten in the summer holidays in the northern hemisphere. I arrived at my desk today for a day full of meetings, to find it decorated with silly pictures and a couple of cards from colleagues on the keyboard, I’m about to go downstairs and get my cake, having made Nigella’s Salt and Sweet Chocolate Bars last night for everyone too. Tonight Hubs and I are having pizza and champagne, tomorrow Peanut is getting looked after by my cousin, so we can go into the city and buy my present proper. He gave me a lovely card and a candle to open this morning for something to open on the day, having learnt that no, you can’t ignore your wife’s birthday, no matter how much she doesn’t mention it…!

As I approach 40, I don’t feel it. I certainly don’t feel old, age is a number, nothing more. It’s just keeping score on how long you’ve been hanging around. It has no bearing on what you’ve done well, or poorly. Life experience can come at a price, some of the wisest people I met are children, they’re not tarnished with ‘life’, they cut to the chase and see right through you. Whatever you get up to on your birthday this year, have a good one, and spend it with the people who are closest to you.

Does anyone else think that your birthday should also be part of your holiday allocation at work, so you don’t have to work on it? Or is that just me? I’ve had a good day, don’t get me wrong, it’s just I’d rather not have spent 90 minutes discussing our new Enterprise Agreement today.

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