Saturday, 10 November 2007

Birthday pleasures

Yesterday I became just seven weeks away from half my Mother's age; she will be ninety before the year is out. I sit here goggling at the thought, as has everyone before me who has reached their middle years and realised that their school mates are probably older now than their teachers were then. I feel the reality of it drift and sink in my head like sand.
I woke up to a gratifying heap of cards, knowing that today was not my turn to do the animals. I could do a bit of duvet wallowing, just enough to savour the cosiness. Then my ears pricked; there were sounds. Voices. A bit of Led Zeppelin. John Humphrys. Yes. YES! Radio 4. In stereo. Loud. Clear. All mine. I scooted downstairs, and saw it - a new, discreet cable headed south from the ceiling attaching the tuner to the chimney mounted radio aerial. Two and a half years I have waited, patiently and not so patiently for this moment. I go away for a couple of days and miracles have been worked, the floorboards lifted and replaced, connections made. I can now listen to The Archers and get a handle on how to farm for real. I know how much effort went into this. I am thrilled, I am moved, I am jigging about with pleasure.
There are books, wrapped in pink princesses and white ponies. As intended, I drop forty years in as many seconds and feel the pleasures of pulling off paper from unknown goodies. I stroke the book on owls, their incredible faces captured for me to look at again and again. And last of all, a wooden boot jack, again made in my brief absence, from oak board removed and saved from the dilapidated calf pens. It is beautiful, it is waxed and sealed, and will be used every day. Underneath, the carpenters mark of the maker and giver is stamped clear. I stroke that too.
I chat on the phone to say thank you for the book tokens as the finishing touches are made to my birthday cake. Adult chocolate, raspberries picked fresh from the garden, cream, heaven. It is proudly secured in the fridge away from tongue wielding pets, as I pack the car for a day out.
Back to Northcott Mouth for a taste of paradise. There are just two other cars parked. The tide is out, the dogs romp off the lead by our sides, and we leave first footprints on virgin sand. The sea is vigorous, the breeze brisk, the sun generous for November. I wear warm wellies, a jacket and a wide smile. There are black fish in the rock pools, thick as a finger and twice as long. Mussels are picked; Mopsa tries some straight from the rocks, cracking the shells with her teeth. The rocks and stones are beautiful, ancient as time. Moments don't get any better than this.
Back at the farm the builders are starting to take control of the site. Two containers arrive as site hut and store. A small and ugly breeze block gatepost has to be removed so that the lorry delivering the containers can reach its destination. For a change someone else is doing the work; it is a very strange feeling.
A bunch of flowers has been left, no note, by the front door. There are more cards in the day's post. Friends drop by and we eat ambrosial slabs of chocolate and raspberry cake and drink tea until it's pitch black outside. The fire is lit, Scrabble is played, but I don't concentrate, turning over as I am the pleasures of the day. I listen to The Archers and Front Row for the first time in this house. I drink champagne and eat some fabulous kedgeree with a generous addition of tiger prawns and mussels c/o the National Trust. Would forty-five more birthdays just like this one be too much to ask?


Flowerpot said...

Happy, Happy Birthday and many more of them. Sounds like a great day!

paula said...

I'm glad it was such a special perfect day...happy birthday!

Winchester whisperer said...

How brilliant: belated Happy Birthday!

Mopsa said...

Thank you - yes, it was wonderful

Eurodog said...

I was there a few days ago. Belated Happy Birthday.

Swearing Mother said...

Happy Birthday (belated) Mopsa. Your day sounds like heaven and I wish you many, many more birthdays just as good as that one.

Love your writing.

Rob Clack said...

Belated happy birthday. Sounds like a marvellous day.

In my mid-20s I taught in a middle school for a couple of years. Hated it and did it very badly. Some years ago now, I remember realising that some of the kids I'd taught were probably grandparents. That gave me pause for thought!

mountainear said...

Happy Birthday to you!Hope you have many more days like that.

Mopsa said...

Eurodog - sorry to have missed you!

SM - you old charmer - thank you.

Rob and M'ear - many thanks indeed.