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

 

 

 

Pack It In

My kids’ school have a theme song that is sung every year on ‘Speech Day’, (final day of Summer term). This song reduces me to sniffly tears and is nothing to do with my chronic hay fever. Seriously, Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ has got nothing on the Leavers’ Song:

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Cue one of my school-mum’s audibly enquiring, “Are you crying?!” Yes. Yes, I am. And I know I’m not alone. The sniffly tears are for two reasons:

1) The top year are leaving (which last year included my gorgeous niece)

2) It means the endless holidays are upon us. After three visits to Megajump plus Pizza Express for lunch AND dinner, what to do with the little darlings? (Anyone got a voucher code?)

Luckily for me, I married well. And by that I mean my in-laws have a holiday home in Spain, meaning a healthy chunk of the holidays have guaranteed sun, with poolside days and beach-restaurant nights. But before all that, the prep has to begin. Out come the checklists and all the holiday ‘stuff’. Zippies, lockies, baggies, shmaggies – ie. all the containers and compartmentalisers that make your holiday your holiday.

Par example…

 

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This bad boy is ‘the red bag’. Unassuming Clarins make up bag I hear you comment? It may look like any other red make up bag, but it is of great importance. It holds every single key to the family flat in Spain, each on twee keyrings collected over the years.

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As far as I’m concerned, I just need two keys – front door and pool area. However, there are around eight other keys of varying shapes and sizes and I’m not entirely sure of their function. (If my father-in-law asks, I know exactly what each key is for.) If this red bag ever got lost, there would be a missing persons announcement on Sky News and we would sit shiva.

 

Man Bag

Never referred to as a bag. Or handbag. Or cross body bag. Always ‘man bag’. It comes out purely for holidays and husband has no shame in using it. I just wish he would remember where he puts it down, as time is often lost searching for it. “Doll, have you seen my manbag?”

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Add to this my ‘holiday purse‘. I don’t need my advantage cards, vouchers, dry cleaning tickets, etc. This is all I need and there’s usually a spare Euro for the airport trolley inside. Yes, I’m that organised.

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Sun cream bag

From some long forgotten fabulous trip in First Class, I’ve seen many of these Anya Hindmarch freebie bags poolside around the world.

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“Where are the suncreams?” they ask. “In the Anya bag, of course.” Its predecessor was an orange-striped Giorgio Beverley Hills cosmetic bag, a freebie from the days when people only wore the likes of Samsara, Loulou and Anaïs Anaïs.

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I’ve got a perfume headache from just looking at them

 

Beach bag

Every year I try to replace my distressed gold Accessorize beach bag. I say ‘distressed’ but in reality, the gold has worn away through years of use. It has pockets, a zip, carry handles AND a shoulder strap. It comes with me every year and doubles up as my travel bag full of my crap, kids crap and of late, about ten Beanie Boos.

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Some of my extended family

I bought a Stella Rittwagen straw basket bag a couple of years ago and I absolutely love it, fitting in with all the tall, willowy Spanish girls who congregate at our beach.

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However, they only need a towel and possibly a spare thong bikini.  I have numerous towels, goggles, sun hats, creams and so you can hardly see the bag for the overflow.

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To the beach!!

 

Snack bag

This little gingham bag comes down to the pool each day. Pistachios, bread sticks, wafer biscuits – it could hold any number of ziplocked goodies. If it’s not in the gingham bag (which once held nappies and wipes – don’t worry I washed it), then my kids aren’t interested.

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Nail bag

Glamour magazine freebie from years ago and still going strong. I don’t want a free mascara or a new lipstick. I want useful zippy little bags in varying sizes!

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For many friends there is no packing process, but simply a ‘chuck it all in and worry about it at excess baggage’ ideology, but I am a planner. I get the suitcases out around a week before, but mentally they have been out for over two weeks. (Ok three. Leave me be.)

Here is my top five must-do’s when it comes to packing:

  1. Make a list. There’s no point debating this with me. You need a list otherwise you forget stuff and if I’m travelling with you, I’m not wasting precious time traipsing around the town centre trying to find a compatible charger for your tablet images
  2. Packing cubes. Zipped mesh compartments of varying sizes and colours. IMG_5338I love my Eagles Creek ones. Super useful for keeping clothing neatly folded, like silks or linens. Smaller one for adaptors and chargers. Also great if you are doing a few stops on your holiday, so that you can separate the stuff you need for just those couple of nights
  3. If travelling as a family, mix up your packing between the allocated luggage. Nothing worth than losing a case (mine) and having to wear what you travelled in for the next 48 hours until it’s found
  4. Shoes on top. I was a firm believer in shoes at the bottom, but after seeing someone else’s method, I am a changed woman. A layer of polythene (like from the dry cleaners) laid on top of clothing and then shoes placed on top. Go on, try it
  5. Fabric softener sheets:54484011_0_640x640.jpgNothing worse than ‘suitcase-y’ smelling clothes. A few sheets interleaved between the clothes and it’s like home. I then line the hotel drawers and cupboards with them. Mock me with pleasure, I’ll be the one that smells nice and fresh.

 

Hasta luego… xxx