There is a school of thought that once you reach a certain age, birthdays aren’t really something you should celebrate anymore. Sure: go out for dinner with some friends, have a couple of glasses of prosecco. Maybe treat yourself to something nice. But don’t make a big deal out of it, and if anybody asks just say that you’re 21 again.
I am not one of those people.
I turned 34 last week. It’s not a particularly exciting age, unless you count my official entry into my early-mid 30s as a milestone. My birthday fell on a Thursday, which was close enough to the weekend to justify extending the celebrations across four days. I booked the day itself off work, and went to the seaside with my mum. I bought a new dress. I wore a “birthday girl” headband, and I ordered a gigantic custom-made Victoria sponge to be delivered to the office.
I like to buy lunch for my mum on my birthday. It hit me a couple of years ago that getting to whatever age I was really wasn’t as much of an achievement as successfully raising another human to reach that age. As I’m the oldest of her three children, my birthday is also the anniversary of my mum becoming a mother – her Mummyversary, if you like – and that really is something worth celebrating. You won’t see many pictures of her on my blog because she’s a reasonably private person, but I asked her if I could include this one and she said it was alright. Look at how beautiful she is. Thank you for giving me life, Mummy. I hope I make you proud x
We had lunch at Papamacs, a family-run cafe/bistro off the main square in my hometown. It’s a lovely little place, but not as lovely as the coffee shop, Kikko’s, that was on the same site when I was growing up; and where I sat with Buffy and sobbed into my hot chocolate the day my Grandad died. I miss them both, so much.
After lunch we – well, my mum, since it had been four years and one day since I had last failed a driving test – drove to the seaside. All the way to Largs I gave a running commentary from the iPhone weather app, which kept promising rain but pushing it further and further back as the day wore on. We walked along the shore, talked lots and just enjoyed each other’s company. I’m very grateful that, as well as being an excellent mother, mine is also a really good friend as well. Afterwards we got ice cream cones and some souvenir “SCOTLAND” fridge magnets with which to remember our day. And I even talked my mum into taking some #OOTD photos for me.
(My dress is from Dolly & Dotty, whose elasticated dress backs solve a problem I can’t be the only girl to have had; the headband is of course from Crown and Glory and my denim jacket* is the one I’ve already written about. My handbag is an old one from Accessorise, but it’s had so many compliments lately I’ve barely used anything else. After the Bruce Springsteen show the other week, a woman rolled down her car window to shout after me how much she loved it. As if that night wasn’t already the ultimate.)
When I got home I had time for a quick gin and tonic or two (Caorunn had sent me a hamper as part of a World Gin Day-related Twitter chat they were running, even though they knew I would be too busy to participate, because they’re nice that way) and to open the exciting-looking Very Large Box a courier had left under the window before Stringer took me out for Japanese food. I had a feeling that it had come from my sister – who had set her alarm for 3am so that she could still be the first person to wish me happy birthday, despite living in Dubai – and, sure enough, when I peeled back the tape a big Happy Birthday helium balloon popped out. I then made the mistake of going upstairs to the toilet, and by the time I got back Scooter-cat had chewed right through the ribbon. The balloon is currently bobbing about under the ceiling, where it is relatively safe from feline malfeasance.
I was working on the Friday, but softened the blow with some epic cake. Over the past couple of years I have made a tradition out of sourcing exciting baked goods for the office to coincide with my birthday. One year it was my friend Stacey’s doughnuts (who, incidentally, is back baking as Bear Sign); last year it was a selection box of brownie pieces from the Bad Brownie Co. This year I went all out: I’ve been eyeing up The Tea Jenny‘s creations on Instagram for months, and her three-tier coconut and raspberry Victoria sponge was the order of the day. She even popped in some vegan cakes for Danielle! The cake was so good that I had colleagues coming up to me on Monday to wish me a happy birthday, and to say that they were sorry they had missed it. The pictures do not do it justice.
On the Saturday I had dinner at my dad’s (fajitas, three desserts and a cake with numbered candles in it) and, on the Sunday, brunch at The Bungo with some of my closest friends. There was French toast, cocktails and lots of thoughtful gifts, and it would have been the perfect day had a certain someone not left her keys in the house and so had to get chase her husband into town in a taxi to get his. Oh, who am I kidding. It was still a perfect day, not least because I got a bonus drink/hilarity with Stringer, Dave and the Neil-bear after I thought I was home for the night. Also because somebody used my Uber referral code in the middle of it so I only had to pay for three of my four journeys.
Look, the way I see it we don’t take enough opportunities to be nice to ourselves. To eat the things that we like, spend time with the people that we love and fall so far behind with our email it literally took me until the following Tuesday to catch up. My birthday is that excuse for me. What’s yours?