All that’s left of my birthday cake, very kindly baked for me by my step-daughter Kate. My regular reader may remember that I make a ridiculous fuss about my birthday, particularly for a woman who’s reached an age when she should be happy to let it slip by unnoticed.  It’s my mother’s fault.

Birthday-wise my childhood was a veritable Gobi desert. I was allowed a quiet birthday tea with one friend. No parties. My mother’s reasoning went something like this: you’ll get over-excited which will bring on your asthma which will mean missing school,  then you’ll never get into college and you’ll end up operating an overlocking machine at the Y-front factory like Susan Mayfield. The vision of following Susan Mayfield’s dreary career path clouded many a birthday for me but not so much that I wouldn’t have thrown caution to the wind and dared to have a party, get over-excited and, yes, be up all night wheezing.

 Of course I’ve long since made up for this cruel childhood deprivation. And actually I don’t really like parties because I can’t hear what people say and I’m no great drinker. But I do like to mark the occasion and this year Mr F and I had a couple of days in Belgium and then stopped off in London on our way home. Highlights of the trip: the extraordinary Sanctuary Wood museum near Ypres, trenches, craters, battlefield relics and all, run by a local farmer. Imagine a WW1-themed Sir John Soane’s. I love exhibits thrown together by enthusiasts. Then I was very happy to share my birthday morning toast and marmalade with my granddaughter, wee Audrey. And then there was that cake. Altogether quite enough self-indulgence. Time to get back to work.

I just carried a bale of peat from the garden shed to the house, which prompted my husband to describe me as ‘an ox of a woman’. It was meant as a compliment. I think.

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