“They Fucking Forgot My Birthday” – Samantha Baker, Sixteen Candles.

So far, it’s thankfully not happened to me and people generally remember my birthday, especially in the age of Facebook reminders, calendar reminders and even human reminders. I have one friend in a whatsapp group who is the Queen of calendar reminders: our birthdays, spouse birthdays, anniversaries, kids birthdays, even ex-boyfriend birthdays. NGL, if a key date completely slips my mind, it helps to ride off the back of her well-wishes on the group chat.

When I was a paper diary kind of gal (still am in spirit tbh), I would spend far too long around this time of year buying a new diary for the commencing year. Whilst I do miss the ‘flick-flick-flick’ of a paper diary, I know that the ‘new me’ appreciates the many advantages that my digital diary has. (She says through gritted teeth.)

A lot of people LOVE their birthday. I have many friends like this – usually the ones with coveted summer birthday dates which allow for bbq action and other al fresco fun, tier 2 lockdown or otherwise.

A lot of people LOATH their birthday. (My husband runs the fan club and is always open to more members.)

I’m somewhere in the middle – I like my birthday. I share it with some amazing people that I have met along the way and there is something heartwarming about meeting someone new and discovering that you share the same birthday. I get the same fuzzy feeling when I notice food goes off on my actual birthday.

Happy fishes. x

I’m just pretty low maintenance when it comes to my birthday. I’m not someone who loves to be the centre of attention, but a few dozen social media posts are always nice.

The whole social media thing can get a bit overwhelming though. One friend, went awol on our group chat and hadn’t replied to any of our private birthday greetings. It basically took her 3 days to even notice OUR messages because she was so stressed out with all of the housekeeping of replying to all of her OTHER messages.

Last week, I binge watched ‘Emily in Paris’ along with the rest of the world and I was reminded how it literally feels like yesterday that this photo was taken. Except that it wasn’t. It was five years ago. FIVE!

Debbie in Paris. 20/10/15

I mean, who the hell did I think I was? Carrie Bradshaw?

Goals.

Yup – I really did.

When asked by husband ‘what would you like for your 40th’, I said that I wanted to wake up Paris, with my fam and see the Eiffel Tower from my hotel room balcony…

Not so much luck on the last point.

But! We made it to Paris.

And I so I woke up on my actual 40th birthday IN Paris and we went TO the Eiffel Tower. Definitely a birthday I will never forget.

Aiming for similar stats on the 142 ‘likes’.

Unlike some other birthdays.

By that, I don’t mean they have been ‘forgettable’, but I have very hazy recollections of them.

Working backwards, I can recall the ‘big’ birthdays:

Lockside Bar in Camden for my 30th.

Some bar in Hampstead for my 25th.

And Manchester for my 21st.

At the time I was a student and so a couple of us hustled together to split hire costs and secure the downstairs room in a big enough venue for a guest list of about 200. Students today can only dream of such extended guest lists.

La Tasca, Deansgate. Were you present?

I remember very little. But there was definitely a stripper. Whipped cream. And a banana. Nothing covid-friendly about the evening, that’s for sure.

So at 45, the only stripping will be me getting into bed early doors once we’re kicked out of the restaurant at 10:01.

Wishing all fellow Librans a happy healthy birthday. x

We Were. We Weren’t. We’re Not.

Jan 2020 – We’re going to Spain in the summer. Yay!

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March 2020 – Not 100% sure that we’re going to Spain now.

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August 2020 – We’re definitely not going to Spain.

I have mixed emotions about this. My in-laws have an apartment in Marbella and I’ve been fortunate to enjoy lovely, long summers there over the years with my family. From dating, to holidaying with friends, to married, to babies: we’ve made some amazing memories on the Costa.

So whilst some friends have still chosen to go abroad, we weighed it all up and decided a firm ‘no’.

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I’ve become quite soppy and sentimental about ‘my’ Marbella, even though I’m reminded by my family about the moan up I often have when I get there. Just to present my case to the jury though, the minute we enter the flat, swimwear, suncream and goggles are demanded of me. I’m then left to unpack and then head off to the local supermarket, working out the biting point of the clutch on the hire car.

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Packing cube girl for life, me

So yes – it takes me a day or so to unwind and fully relax.

But I will kind of miss it.

I will miss lots of things.

I have made a list of them:

1. We are usually booked on the 6am easyJet flight from Luton – a pretty vile hour to travel but I kind of like that groggy feeling of getting up before the sun rises and the excitement of watching the sky get lighter as you journey towards the airport. (Know what I mean?)

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2. The ‘whooompf’ of warm air when the plane doors open and you’re ‘abroad’. It’s a totally different kind of heat. And I love it.

3. Opening the flat door and seeing the kids run off to their rooms to discover a toy that they haven’t seen for over a year. Somehow the hula dancing cow from the lookie-lookie man on the beach is still going strong. But those plastic light-up pingie things that you flick into the air on the beach at night? Batteries are completely dead by the time you’ve got back to your hire car.

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These things

4. Supersol. And also Mercadona. (Which I can’t help saying in a heavy Scouse accent.) Not forgetting the big daddy, El Corte.

Spanish supermarkets might not have quick tills, but I love their fresh produce, discovering new things and most of all, enjoying ‘holiday meat’ in the flat. Sorry to all my observant friends. In London, we keep a kosher home. On the Costa? Second shelf of the fridge is for the ham – Iberico or Parma. We’re not fussed.

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Left or right?

5. Flor. And Nenuco. I love scents and aromas – candles, perfume, herbs, spices. So, as much as I love my Lenor and Comfort over here, there is something about the Spanish brands over there.

 

6. Fanta Limon. Was discussing with someone about this – I actually refuse to drink it in the UK. It is sacred to Spain. Same with Peanut butter M&Ms. Only in America.

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Sin hielo por favor

7. Chiringuitos. The coastline is full of these beachfront restaurants of which everyone has their favourites. And ‘Kala Kalua‘ is mine. Literally a beach shack. Nothing fancy about it. But you can’t beat the view, watching the sea, seeing the sun set and twinkly lights along the coast… it’s beautiful.

And of course the food. Traditional paella, grilled rosada, padron peppers. Everything tastes better outside with a view.

Me? I come for the aubergine fries.

Before I explain these delights to you, I just want to end on a round number, so:

8. Hearing the sea when I go to bed.

9. The clever lighting system in car parks to indicate available spaces. (I’ve talked about this before.)

and finally,

10. Beach walks. I will miss my post-lunch stroll with a bottle of water and a leftover nappy bag from the baby years in the flat. Still so handy for shell collecting.

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But back to the aubergine fries. These were an accidental discovery. We used to go to the neighbouring chiringuito, but one night we couldn’t get a table. Ended up at Kala Kalua and on being shown to our table, saw lots of diners ordering what looked like chips …but weren’t chips. So, we ordered them too. And double portions were ordered every time we returned.

It’s not quite the same eating them in England, but if you close your eyes and listen to the garden sprinkler, you could almost be right there on the beach.

Ridiculously Delicious Aubergine Fries Recipe (which probably isn’t exactly the same but nearly.)

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Actual Kala Kalua picture of fries

  • 2 medium size aubergines
  • Plain flour to coat
  • Olive oil for deep-frying (or any other vegetable oil)
  • Salt
  • Date molasses
  1. Cut aubergines into sticks; basically like chips.
  2. Toss with salt, place in a colander and let them stand for at least half an hour to get rid of all the excess liquid. Rinse, drain and pat dry.
  3. Place sticks in a bowl with the flour and coat them, shaking off any excess.
  4. Heat oil in a deep pan and fry the sticks in small batches until golden.
  5. Place on a plate with kitchen roll towel to absorb the excess oil. (I never said they were healthy.)
  6. Sprinkle salt. Drizzle the molasses. (Again, not so healthy but…)

One thing about Spain that I won’t miss, is that I usually fly out earlier with just my kids, husband joining us later on into the holiday, due to work commitments. This means he is in the UK on his birthday whilst we are all away. He hates his birthday.

This year, he’s working from home.

Happy birthday, Doll. Unknown-21

x

 

Tea for Two (Thousand)

And then some.

I was recently invited to Buckingham Palace for one of their annual Garden Parties. Me and 7,999 other people.

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Seeing as it’s not something everyone gets to do, I thought I’d blog about it…

 

My dad was invited in recognition for all of his services to charity and as supreme Daddy’s girl, I was his ‘plus one’ for the day, one of three garden parties that the Queen hosts each year at Buckingham Palace.

For the ladies, the dress code offered up: ‘Day dress with hat or Uniform. (No medals.)  Trouser suit may be worn.’

I hate dresses on me.

I can’t abide hats.

Who knows what the unpredictable British weather was going to do on the day?

Also, should I take a gift? I don’t like turning up empty-handed anywhere, let alone Buck House, but I shouldn’t imagine a ‘White Company Seychelles candle’ (3-wick at least) or bottle of Whispering Angel would cut it.

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Perfect Summer drink

I don’t need this amount of stress in my life.

There was a lot of searching. A lot of deliveries. Everything went back. In the end I rebelled and bought a skirt and top that looked pretty much like a dress. Unless they were going to manhandle me on arrival, I figured no-one would ever know.

Entry into the Palace is offered from three entrances:

  • Grand Entrance (main gate)
  • Hyde Park Corner Gate
  • Grosvenor Place Gate

You’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go INSIDE Buckingham Palace. Which gate do you THINK I chose?

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Obvs.

We queued along Constitution Hill, allowing us time to discuss ‘how easy would it be to hop over the railings and try to scale the wall’, a la Michael Fagen in ’82? Luckily for us, we had the right accreditation and as we entered the gates, there we were, strolling across the crunchy infamous forecourt.

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My foot. On actual Palace crunchy courtyard

 

Once inside the gates, you are ushered through to an even crunchier courtyard towards another checkpoint, where our invite was taken and we were welcomed inside.

TONS of marble. Lots of massive chairs. Enormous paintings. The Queen seems as bad as I am at changing over her pictures. (Maybe she hasn’t printed hers out either?)

And then all of a sudden… we were properly in. Or ‘out’ to be precise, onto the West Terrace with the most surreal view.

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When you consider that there are 8,000 attendees, I imagined swarms of people, like when I went to see Guns n’ Roses at Olympic park last year, only less sweaty and dressed a bit nicer.

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But it was very civilised – no barging, no shoving, just all very refined and polite. As we moved gracefully about the lawn, we chatted to other invitees including one of the Queen’s Chaplains, who informed us that it Prince Charles was going to be present for tea. She suggested grabbing a refreshing lemon squash before the tea tents opened, so we did just that, muttering that the Queen could have turned up for us.

Squash was ‘very ‘weak and pishy’ as my Dad would say, but we drank it anyway, enjoying the military band playing everything from Star Wars to James Bond to Raiders of the Lost Ark. (No Guns n’ Roses though. And definitely no moshpit.)

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All together now…

It was an observational delight for someone like me. Behind my sunglasses, I people-watched on a grand scale and had a little rest on one of the many garden chairs set out, sipping pishy lemon squash. I wonder if M’am got all of the chairs from Homebase? She must have a massive shed. And I bet she doesn’t have to nag HRH Philip to get them out when the weather turns nice. (Yes, husband dearest, I’m talking to you.)

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(Not my actual shed.)

We observed national dress, loads of Mayors, stupidly high heels, a man dressed head-to-toe in orange, plus lots of ladies in dresses that came up to their pippicks.

 

‘Time for tea’, we decided, and headed over to the main tea tent, where queues were already forming. There are three tents – Main, Royal and Diplomatic – and having read various online forums about what happens at these things, the main piece of advice seemed to be ‘pile it high’.

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Knew my Pizza Hut training came in handy

But what to choose…

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I only came for the Cakes

Dad chose everything I wouldn’t.

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Father’s choice – yuk

I chose everything my Dad wouldn’t.

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My choice. Passion Fruit tart was ridiculously amazing

If you want criticism, then here it comes…

The spoons were unbranded, so I didn’t even feel the urge to nick one. (And yes, I was constantly on the look-out for something to nick.)

I expected HRH-branded napkins, but there weren’t even normal napkins. Much licking of sticky fingers ensued. Maybe it’s an environmental thing? HRH doesn’t want to find loads of napkins blowing across the lawn into the Royal bushes. I know how annoyed I get when I find the kids the snack wrappers blowing around in my garden.

 

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Pick it up!

Suddenly, the Yeomen were out in force and the crowds parted to form a meandering pathway for the Royals to move through the guests.

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Much neck craning and hushed chattering, and suddenly there he was in view on the steps, a bit like the daily ceremony at Disneyworld.

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Prince Charles. Not Mickey Mouse

Prince Charles chatted to many guests along the path and then entered the Royal tea tent, so we took this opportunity to go for a wander around the lake and through the stunning Rose Garden.

Whilst the gardens are incredibly beautiful, they’re pretty noisy. I’d be mega peeved if I could hear the traffic when chilling in my garden. (Just saying.. all that money on a property and you’re by a main road.)

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Can’t I at least nick a leaf?

Still on the nicking theme, maybe I could pick a flower and press it when home? Surely no-one would notice? There were thousands of them, but I decided it wasn’t worth getting booted out over a floribunda rose.

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Actual Royal rose. I touched it

I also hugged a tree. Because, why not?

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Royal Tree hugger

As we headed back to the main lawn, our time was nearly over. The National Anthem played out and as the Royal party left, there was just one more essential stop to make.

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The Royal Throne

I was hoping for a last-ditch attempt of something worth pilfering, but I left empty-handed. (Washed, but empty.)

 

At least I came away with the most amazing memories.

Plus an underlying streak of kleptomania.

And my bottle of Whispering Angel that I forgot to take with.

x

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Queen Victoria Memorial from ‘their side of the fence’

ps. Happy birthday to the Queen. Not bad for 92. 8/6/18

 

A Bit of a Do

I would definitely say that I’m an introvert. Handy link if you need clarification about what an introvert is. (Youngest thought it was a description for an ‘innie belly button’. ‘Extrovert’ being an outie one of course.)

In a nutshell, I love stimuli – articles, films, conversations, people watching… but once I’m ‘full’, I need time on my own to digest all that ‘stuff’ and reflect, possibly doing something with this new information. Like maybe write this blog.

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For today, at least…

Over the past few weeks there has been plenty of time for fun stimuli. A flurry of invites for birthdays, breakfasts, dinners and bar mitzvahs filled my social diary for February and March ..and I loved it.

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Husband? Hmmm, not so much.

For those with ‘FOMO‘ – ‘Fear of Missing Out’ – he is the polar opposite, suffering from a horrific case of ‘FOBO’ – Fear of Being Out’.

I’m not saying he’s anti-social, but     He’s anti-social.

But once the invites are in, where to store them?

I’m a neat freak and the whole magnet-to-fridge thing is an eyesore for me.

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DEFINITELY not my fridge. This just makes me itchy…

Plus, I can’t deal with all the paraphernalia falling off each time the door is opened or closed. (And when husband gets home from work, there is much fridge traffic.)

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*Not me. Or my fridge. Although I do have ‘Mrs Balls Chutney‘ in mine too

Pinboards are a nice idea in theory, but again, messy. Plus there’s a chance of standing on a rogue pushpin. Anyone else fondly remember finding these embedded into the sole of your school shoe, as you tap-tap-tapped down the corridors?

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Ahh, the humble drawing pin

For me, all pertinant paperwork has to be stored in a display folder.

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Like this one

Every party invite (kid AND adult), school class list, timetable, letter about choir, or any other A4 (or smaller) piece of paper that requires attention will be stored here.

Message me and ask…

‘When do the kids break up?’

‘When is sports day?’

‘What time does so-and-so’s party start?’

‘Is so-and-so’s barmitzvah at Radlett Reform or Radlett United Synagogue?’

And the information is at my fingertips. (Bar the last bit of info, where an entrance into Radlett Reform could have been a major error…)

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MAZEL TOV!…Do I know you?

With alot of these invites, comes a necessity to ‘get pitzed up’. To put into context:

Saturday evening, dinner with friends…

“Are you going casual or getting pitzed up?”

Or more specifically thanks to Google:

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You say Farpitzs, I say Pitzed

Alot of these invites thankfully carry indications as to the level of appropriate dressing. Or at least they used to. Black tie, black tie no tie, cocktail, dress to party, glam, party, fancy fucking dress (FML), casual, ‘festival’… and so on.

Each one will carry the same conversation with my husband, an hour, possibly half an hour, before we are due to leave for said ‘do’.

Him: “What’s the dress code?”

Me: “Dress to party.”

Him: “Can I wear jeans?”

Me: “Unknown-6.jpeg

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Ideal outfit goals for husband on the end

For me, I LOVE the prep. By all means stop reading right now, as next bit is going to sound super shallow, of Kim Kardashian proportions…

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Pitzed up

Exfoliating, face mask, spray tan, manicure, pedicure, hair cut, hair colour, blow dry, comb out (it’s a thing), make up, outfit.. and that’s just the men. Trust me – I go to alot of ‘things’, and there are a great many tanned women standing next to their considerably paler partners. There needs to be more of this:

 

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Tanning guru Jules Von Hep at work. On a man

I say I enjoy it.. but then again, it’s an utterly exhausting, logistical process, involving a flurry of bank card activity as stuff is bought, returned and exchanged. (And you always forget that you need tights.)

Don’t worry. I agree… First. World. Problems.  But it’s the world we are living in. And we need to prepare our kids for the future.

Here’s some 2018 GCSE sample maths questions:

Q18: If Vicki has a party on Saturday night, in order to achieve optimum colour, should she have her spray tan on:

A) Monday

B) Thursday

C) A week before

D) Friday

Q19: If Suzie wears 5″ heels to a party which starts at 8pm, what time will she lose feeling in the balls of her feet:

A) 8:03pm

B) Midnight

C) 1am

D) 9pm

Q20: If Gemma eats two pieces of sushi at 7pm at a wedding reception and has five toffee vodka shots during the course of the evening, at what point will she throw up?

A) Never

B) Half past midnight

C) 9:30pm

D) 11:15pm

Q21: If Rachel’s dress is midnight blue, which shoes will match perfectly:

A) Rose gold

B) Gold

C) Antique gold

D) Nude

If Lloyd is going to a 40th party, what is the probability that he will sing ‘Jump Around’ whilst wearing fake sunglasses, neon bracelets and a bandana:

A) 0%

B) 2%

C) 50%

D) 100%

Q22: If Scott has a tendency to sweat alot when dancing, how many spare shirts should he take with to change into during the course of his son’s barmitzvah party?

A) One

B) Two

C) Three

D) Ten

 

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Scott, take ten…

 

A full list of questions will be available in due course.

Now to wash off my spray tan….

x

Happy Birthday To Ya…

For as long as I can remember, my dad would annually crank up the record player on my birthday for five minutes and thirty-three seconds of pure Stevie Wonder ‘Happy Birthday’ joy. The opening ‘dn-dka-dn-dka-dn-dka-dn-dnka-dn-dn’ synth sounds would contagiously creep their way upstairs and I would awaken to the ‘big drum fill’ preceding Stevie’s warbles.

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Now I’m grown up (sort of), my kids delight in this tradition and blare out the song for me (albeit on Sonos).

But do I love my birthday? It means I’m getting older. Horrific surely? Well, no. Along with Snoop Dogg, Francis Boulle, Danni Minogue and Danny Boyle, I’m a proud October baby, along with some of my closest Libran friends and I’m embracing my forties, always awaiting my yearly Colin the Caterpillar cake.

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If it’s good enough for him…

I have great memories of my birthday parties complete with ‘St Michaels’ marshmallow teacakes and orange squash in a corrugated plastic container, that you pierced with the accompanying straw.

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Did someone say artificial sweetener…?

Little parties turned into bigger parties, evenings in, discos and hiring out pubs. I am still great friends with many of the people I grew up with, including one who loves her June birthday so much, she celebrates annually with a monumental ‘tea party’ at her house. Almost like Glastonbury (albeit less muddy), the old faces would reunite and new faces would be added. Over thirty years later, it’s still an annual pilgrimage and the atmosphere is just as warm and wonderful.

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(AFP/Getty Images)

 

However, I married a man for whom his birthday is a no-go zone. Whilst the kids and I are conveniently booked on a flight to Spain, my other half sees out his birthday at work, with the minimum of fuss made, under the radar, no-one the wiser to this momentous day in August. He then conveniently joins us a day later in the sun.

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(Not my husband.)

Each year I call him at work on his birthday and ask “has the cookie basket and strip-o-gram arrived yet?”  He threatens divorce.

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A couple of years ago for his 40th, I convinced him that he had to be with the fam in Spain on his actual birthday (or I would threaten divorce.) He conceeded and a wonderful (low-key) time was had by all. To keep him on his toes all day, I kept him guessing if I’d really arranged a birthday banner on one of those aerial advertising planes.

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“Heads up at 3pm!”

I have a very dear friend who, on approaching her big 4-0 there was much fanfare and discussion about how it would be best celebrated. This planning began well over a year ago …it’s still going on.

Oh the decisions for the birthday girl or boy about what to do, how to celebrate, the food, the drink, the invites. But what about the pressure for the friends, whereby you are obliged to fulfil at least one, if not all of the following, depending on friendship status:

  1. Facebook post –  totes oblig. You get a notification FFS. All you need to do is a quick ‘Happy birthday x.’ Maybe a private joke, caring message, etc. Just don’t piggyback someone else’s wall message. That’s considered lazy.
  2. Photo upload – if it’s easily accessible, it’s a nice touch, but be wary of friends posting seemingly well-meaning wishes where they look fabulous and you look ropey.
  3. Photo collage – now we’re talking. A random three or four pic selection is all well and good, but you may as well go big or go home. Mosaic nine-grid minimum, black and white plus colour selection and if you’re tech savvy, a video inclusion within the grid is highly acceptable
  4. Duplicate all of the above for Instagram, where it’s acceptable (IMO) to piggyback a wall post and give well wishes.

That’s it surely?

Think again. If you’re dealing with a milestone birthday then drop everything, as there’s even more pre-prep to consider when you get messages like this in your inbox:

Hiiii……!!!!

It’s so-and-so’s birthday coming up in a year so please can you email so-and-so in two days time with the following:

  • A photo of you
  • A photo of you and the birthday girl
  • A photo of you and birthday girl aged five or younger (if you were friends)
  • A photo of you and the birthday girl’s second cousin, twice removed

nB. Photos needs to be landscape, 300DPI minimum, no compressing or genetically modifying.

Thanks. x

P.S. One more request: a poem or message (not too long, not too short) using times New Roman 14 point, saved as a PDF file with a greyscale filter set to a saturation of 39%. xx

P.P.S. Actually really need this by tomorrow afternoon, but the day after is ok if you’re blood-related. x x x

—-

You know it doesn’t make much sense
There ought to be a law against
Anyone who takes offense
At a day in your celebration
‘Cause we all know in our minds
That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show just how much we love you
And I’m sure you would agree
It couldn’t fit more perfectly
Than to have a world party on the day you came to be
Happy birthday to you….

Words and Lyrics by Stevie Wonder (the song, not my blog. Stevie Wonder did not write my blog.)

Happy birthday everyone x x x