A friend recently spoke to me about a wedding present dilemma.  She was going to a wedding blessing (the couple having been married abroad shortly before) of the daughter of a school friend, so not someone she knew well.  She was going to the blessing and “light buffet” with a couple, also school friends of the bride’s mother.  The bride and groom, as they lived abroad, hadn’t wanted gifts, knowing it would be hard to get them home, so had asked for money.  My friend didn’t know how much to give and felt uncomfortable that the friends she was going with had suggested they mirror amounts per person, which was a suggestion of £5 each.  In the end, my friend gave £15.

I thought that was a tricky scenario as the bride wasn’t someone particularly known to the guest, and as it was a low budget event, the bride and groom had been able to invite people I suspect they wouldn’t have invited to their wedding, namely a fair few friends of the bride and groom’s parents.  So what do you give?

I don’t like giving money or vouchers as it seems crude, like leaving the price label on a gift.  But I can see that for some couples, that really is all they need as they have fully kitted-out homes and a nice chunk of money could go towards all manner of things, from the honeymoon to DIY or a new car.  Weddings are expensive and the couple pay a lot to have you at their wedding, it just sits a bit uncomfortably with me that by giving money, you sort of end up paying for your invite.  In Japan, however, guests put crisp new notes into a special envelope as the wedding gift (new notes to signify new beginnings and an odd number, often 30,000 yen, which cannot evenly be split, emphasising their union).  This money traditionally goes toward paying for the wedding.  The couple then usually give their guests a gift each, sometimes even chosen by the guest who may have been given a gift list to choose a gift from before the wedding!  But that is a tradition that we don’t have in the UK.

I chatted to another friend about wedding presents and we easily agreed that if a good friend got married and had a wedding list, we’d probably buy a present on the list and an additional gift off-list, something more personal to reflect your relationship with the one or both of the couple.  Neither of us felt comfortable about giving cash, though a compromise could be part cash and part present.  But if the couple want or need cash or, say, holiday vouchers, it’s their wedding, right, and you’re going to spend money on a present anyway so why not give them what they can and will use?

However, the main reason I like to give a present is that I love the idea that the couple will remember that the big blue vase they love so much is from me and that seeing it in use reminds them of me and of their wedding.  That sounds incredibly naff, having written it down, but I do think that.  I am also a sucker for wedding thank you cards whereby the newlyweds thank you for joining them on their happy day and for [present], which was first used when [present-usage scenario].

I also like the idea of couples who have everything being given experience presents.  Three of us did that for a friend’s wedding, knowing where they were going on their honeymoon, and we were all really happy to get a wedding thank you card in the form of a postcard from each of the sites of the two travel gifts we’d given them.

There are lots of other wedding present dilemmas, particularly if you pay a lot to travel to or stay at the location of the wedding, which is a shame, but despite any moans I’ve ever uttered about such things, it’s always worked out well and I have thoroughly enjoyed every wedding I’ve ever had the privilege to attend.


{31/08/2012}   Impromptu nights out

Last night, having finished work earlier than expected at 4.50pm, I texted a good friend of mine, who I knew probably wasn’t at work, to see if she could meet me for a pre-dinner drink or two.  By 5.25pm we were both outside London Bridge station and headed off to Cooperage on Tooley Street.  As my work is so unpredictable, I appreciate last minute plans more than most people.  It’s also really great to be able to go out with a friend and have a drink (or a meal) when you are 100% in the mood for going out.  I love it when a last minute plan comes together!

We were only out for an hour and three quarters but that time was so much better than a phone call, or more likely with us when we don’t meet, a few text exchange catch ups.  I wish my social life could more often be like this, it suits my work life and my mind set.  Sometimes I have longstanding plans to meet friends, but on the day I’m really tired or finish work late or just want to get home and slob.  But without planning, I can easily see there is a chance that you won’t get to see some people and could end up with no friends available for last minute plans and/or not seeing anyone for ages.

It’s like new year’s eve; a lot of people feel they have to have something planned months in advance, but when the night draws near other options come up, you feel less inclined to go to whatever it is you’ve booked and, worst of all, you get apprehensive about the night because it’d be horrible to have a rubbish night out after you’ve spent so long planning it.

I’ve had quite a few exceptional nights out for new year’s eve, many of which have been left to the last minute to plan.  One such new year’s eve was planned either 30th or 31st December and ended with a group of five of us eating a chiminea-cooked feast (so all cooked outdoors!), drinking lots of bubbly and playing games.  No pressure, just a group of people who hadn’t really planned what to do.  No expectations can lead to great things, I reckon.

I also like the fact that when things aren’t planned in advance, when a meet-up happens there is a sense of jubilation that such a plan could work so your evening is already a success in terms of making you feel good, which largely is what meeting friends is about.  Going on holiday to Somerset last year, I drove near Winchester, around where two friends live who I shared a hall of residence with in my first year at university.  We keep in touch but rarely meet up.  I contacted one of the friends in Winchester maybe two or three days before I knew I’d be passing on my way back to see if she’d be around.  Not only was she around and happy to have us all visit, our other nearby friend was also free.  Any attempts for more than two of us from that particular group of four to meet had failed and not even been initiated for years.  We had a really lovely afternoon that I bet wouldn’t have happened had we organised it weeks or months in advance.

Still buzzing from a lovely catch-up last night, I have a few people in mind to try next time I finish work early or have free time in central London.  And hopefully someone will try to get hold of me at a last minute opportune moment too!

{11/07/2012}   A country pub revelation

               On Monday night, a friend and I met for dinner at a pub we spent our late teens and early 20s frequenting on Friday nights, The Ringlestone Inn.  It’s a largely unspoilt ye olde 16th century rural pub, complete with log fires (marshmallows to toast in winter) and oozing history through its beams, flooring and wood panelling (it was a hospice for monks along The Pilgrims’ Way and soon after became, and continues to be, an ale establishment).  The revelation was that country pubs I’ve been to of late (and I mean proper country pubs, ie not even in a village, just in the middle of nowhere) have served over-priced, sub-standard food and not been quite the idyll I had had in mind.

               Admittedly, we had unwittingly arranged to meet on Monday Steak Night and we both fancied steak.  The meat was very good and the chips and, what I had, the cubed herby roast potatoes were clearly hand cut and cooked to order.  It was a really tasty meal.  We didn’t look at starters, but we did check out desserts.  They were all £6 and, if you read the menu carefully, mostly frozen, seemingly along the Arctic Roll lines.  For example there was a Lemon Meringue Cake, boasting an ice cream filling or layer or some such.  There was a Tiramisu … Ice Cream Cake.  Wrong.  We decided against pudding, not that either of us were hungry.

So we thought we’d have a hot drink.  £3 (though I have just seen on the online menu that some drinks are £2.50, the espresso for example.  There were three types of coffee, no coffee machine in sight, including cappuccino.  There may have been a coffee machine, I just didn’t see it.  As my friend and I can no longer cope with the late night tea or coffee drinking sessions of sober times in our youth, my friend asked if they served decaffeinated coffee.  It was enthusiastically established they did indeed.  On further questioning, my friend having clocked the lack of coffee-making equipment, we discovered it was instant, “It is Nescafe though.”  Oh, that’s all right then, is it?  For £3 (but it might have been £2.50).  I know I’m a coffee snob but, really, it’s not that hard to make a filter coffee at least for that price.  So we ordered a cup of hot water with a teabag.  For £3.  I know I sound like angry old woman but I object to paying that much for tea, let alone a sachet of Bisto-tasting instant coffee.

Despite my moans, we had a lovely evening, it is a lovely pub and the main meal was very good.  Everything has become more expensive and pubs are closing at a distressing rate so have to do whatever they can.  I understand that.  But I don’t like feeling ripped off and it doesn’t make me want to go back, at least not to eat or drink anything other than beer or fruit wine.

I have been to a few country pubs over the last year or two and all of them have disappointed on some scale, food being my main issue.  I guess there’s a lesson there: pubs are for drinking beer and snacking in (mmm, it’s only ever in a pub that I eat Scampi Fries!); hot drinks and fancy desserts are a no-no.  The other thing I’ve noticed is that all of them have seemed too quiet, except for Sunday lunch.  I guess people aren’t going out as much and, for those who do fancy a pub, it’s more likely to be one you can walk to or get to easily rather than one you need to drive to.  But if there were a really good one less than an hour from me to drive to, I’d go back.  Because there is something so wonderfully British and postcard-like about sitting in an old countryside pub, drinking a pint and chowing down on a doorstep sandwich, a ploughman’s lunch or, say, a nice pie, perhaps eaten in a large beer garden or inside with a coal fire burning.  Ahhh, yes, I might have to do some research, though I’m not entirely convinced they still exist or have been recreated.

                A good friend of mine is now officially dating someone I have never met before.  I realise this means that we will soon be meeting (well I hope so, it’d be weird not to meet the boyfriend of a good friend) and I wonder who of the three of us will be more nervous about this.

                I have always kind of dreaded introducing new boyfriends to friends, there is too much squirm and awkwardness potential.  But for the new boyfriend (as is this case, though I’m sure this applies to girlfriends too!), they don’t know their new squeeze particularly well, and certainly not as well as the friend.  Meeting your new partner’s friends is a huge step in the process of getting to know someone, for friends and boyfriends have to muddle along together somehow and if you dislike all or most of their friends, there’s a chance you are not dating the right person, for your friends are a reflection of you.

I think I have always been reasonably well behaved when meeting new boyfriends of friends before, though I know I am prone to gabble and can come across as a bit of a wally at first.  I do feel it’s really important to get to know new boyfriends and it is not as stressful or horrid an experience as I am perhaps implying, I am just feeling aware that it’s coming up.  He sounds interesting though and I’m sure if my friend reads this she will be vaguely horrified but, really, I’m looking forward to it!

I recently met another friend’s new squeeze.  He very bravely came along to a karaoke session with about ten of us.  He did a valiant job of getting to know people and getting on with having what ended up being a fun evening.  He was dispatched with soon after though.  I have been a tad on the pissed side when meeting a new boyfriend before and I recall later playing back a few hideously dreadful, embarrassing snippets of drunken conversations.  That’s a round about way of saying that I have disgraced myself with conversation topics in the past, something I hope never to repeat again!

Over the years, there is a chance you will spend a fair bit of time with your friends’ boyfriends, who may become husbands.  For me the test of whether I get on with someone’s partner is whether I could imagine being ok about conversing with the boyfriend if just he and I were stuck in a lift for five hours.  There are some boyfriends of friends (actually, I can’t think of anyone at present, though there have been exes and short-lived flings this would apply to) who I would struggle to get on with in such a scenario, so they fail the lift test.  I struggle with the concept of not getting on with a friend’s boyfriend at all because if your friend can like him, why on earth can’t you at least find something of common interest.  Fortunately a short-lived relationship, but I did once get introduced to someone I could find nothing in common with and who I dreaded even meeting.  I was so relieved that my friend gave up on him soon after a load of her friends met him, though probably not because of us; he really was a [expletive].

I look forward to meeting my good friend’s new fella, though really I think it’ll be worse for her and for him than for me, not that it should really be stressful for anyone as I have faith that she has good taste!  Anyway, another friend and I have already gatecrashed one of their dates by pulling up for a takeaway at the restaurant they were on date number two at – though it was the friend with me who got rumbled and saw them!  So I’ve seen the top of his head and am now labelled a spy, despite it being a total coincidence!

                As soon as a friend (I am writing this about female friends) has a baby, I believe your friendship is changed forever.  I am a friend without children and I have a mixture of friends with and without children.  My relationship with those without is, inevitably, different to my relationship with friends with children.  I think it is difficult for withs and withouts to re-establish post-baby relationships but it can and should be possible.  But I find it sad that there are some friends who seem to fall by the wayside once a baby is added to the equation.

                It has been known for people with children to tell (or imply unsubtly) people without children that they can’t possibly understand their lives because they don’t understand what it is like to have children.  I can see that is true, though it doesn’t need to be said.  But I think it is less commonly accepted that those with children no longer know what it’s like to be without them.  I am occasionally told I’m a jet setter or I’m busy or I go out a lot, purely because I am without children.  That is not a reflection of my life; it is not one big party.  It never really has been.  But, yes, the odds are high that I will go out more and do more impulsive things, from having a quiet cup of coffee on my own in a café to going away with friends for the weekend on a last minute whim (though I am struggling to think of a recent example when this has happened!).

There are some people who have had children and who you continue to have a lovely friendship with.  Yes, it’s impossible you will see each other as often or be in touch as much, but there are compromises that, once all is a little settled, fall into place.  Fortunately for me, it is like that with all my good friends, though there is a big difference between friends.  But I have known and known of people you don’t see or keep in touch with once a baby is born.

I feel I am walking on eggshells by writing this because it is a very sensitive subject.  There are a few people I know of who, to an outsider’s eyes, have a baby and suddenly drop all their non-baby friends for those they meet at various baby and pre- and post-natal groups.  It is always good to have friends you can talk to about certain things, eg work or children, knowing they can empathise with you.  But to exclude or distance yourself from friends who have been part of your life up until that point is to abandon a part of you, almost to disown the person that friend grew up with, whether from childhood or more recently.  I believe that women have a variety of potential roles, mainly friend, mother, wife, sister, lover.  To devote yourself (as sometimes seems to be the case) to one, say, mother, is almost tantamount to disowning your friend self, for example.  I think it’s good for children to see their mum in all her potential roles, for knowing how to be a friend is a necessity for everyone, particularly as you’re growing up.

I hope none of my friends are reading this and think I am writing about them, I’m not, though there are some of you I would like to see more often, though that is also my fault and a tangent, largely to do with geography.

My point is that there should always be a place for friends in all phases of your life.  Those friendships have to change as we move away, have busier or quieter jobs, have relationships, have children, etc.  Sometimes a few fall by the wayside for good reason, but essentially ending a friendship because one of you has a baby is not a healthy or happy option.  It may take a while to get used to the changed situation/priorities/dynamic, from both sides, but it’s always worth working at.  And, yes, I am writing this as someone who has lost a friend or two for these reasons.  And, no, they’re not even Facebook friends.  I am also writing this having spent a lovely day yesterday with a good friend who has two young children.

                There are a lot of things I associate with being middle-aged (precise age range unknown, maybe 40s as that is mid way to 80-98- but in my 40s it will be 50s!).  At 37 I feel I am in the transitory age between being “young” and “middle-aged”.  I don’t think it’s too bad a place to be as I feel I can get away with both.  But while I snigger at a friend “doing something middle-aged”, in reality the odds are it’s something I too do or quietly aspire to!

                Recently, a lot of friends have moved out of London, me included.  Ignoring marriage and children, there seem to be a lot of “middle-aged” things that go with leaving London, for example.  For the past few years, I have collected elderflowers and made cordial and/or alcoholic lemonade.  This is not something my much younger self would have considered acceptable.  But boo hoo to my younger self, you were missing out!

Along with baking, cooking and foraging (sloes, elderflowers, blackberries … actually I think that’s as far reaching as my foraging has gone), I have also discovered gardening.  This to me, showing my age here, was all a bit Percy Thrower, something parents and “oldies” did.  But now, not that I have a garden (though I have had a terrace with lots of pots and an allotment), I really enjoy gardening, particularly vegetables and herbs.  It is enormously satisfying to go from seed to plant to plate.

I now also have a pet, a cat called Izzy.  It took me years to decide to get a cat.  I’d really wanted a cat for years but the thought of not being able to go away for impromptu weekends, etc, and the general responsibility were huge issues.  I got her about four years ago, can’t imagine not having her, but do feel a tie.  But the reality is that I am more responsible and I enjoy being at home more than I ever used to.  But maybe the latter is also because I’m more settled than I ever used to be and I have furniture and other proper grown up stuff.  I even have a car, though for some reason I still think of that as being a luxury, something I’m far too young to have.  I don’t know where that thought came from because, on and off, I’ve had a car since I was 17, I just feel incredibly grown up to have a car, especially now I have a vaguely sporty BMW!

I earn more, eat out more, have more clothes, shoes, bags, accessories – materialistic, I know – but I also have more friends, more importantly more good, long-term friends, and my social life is much more about spending time with them than in pursuit of meeting new people.  For quite some years I felt boring for not really wanting to go out to clubs or even clubby pubs.  Now I feel happy about preferring a quieter pub or going to friends’ houses or a nice restaurant.

I have also joined the National Trust and, a few years back, English Heritage.  And, do you know what, I’ve had some really cool days out as a result!  I definitely day trip and picnic a lot more, and those are things I would no longer turn my nose up at.  I am much more open to suggestions and willing to do new things now.  Well, not in the more reckless, carefree sense but in a more open minded and less obviously mind broadening way, ie traveling and living abroad without much planning, packing or sorting out defined my younger interpretation of broadening the mind!

The biggest downside other than the steady decline in my memory and physique (but that’s a whole different issue, worthy of its own misery post!), in some respects, is that I am a lot less tolerant of other people and poor service.  Maybe this is a good thing but I do rant and moan about such things with a little more enthusiasm and repetition than is perhaps necessary.  I put that down to being more confident about my sense of self, more appreciative of money, ie that I worked for every penny of the money I spend, and to having had time, years of adulthood now, to gain experience.

So in conclusion, my “youth” was fun and experimental but my years of being between young and middle-aged are all about getting to know myself and abandoning hang ups about what I should and shouldn’t do, enjoy and behave like.  It is also about accepting that in your 20s, for example, you knew sweet F A about pretty much everything, but probably had a great time not caring about that!

                I am trying to organise my digital photos.  This is an epic time-consuming endeavour and I haven’t even got around to sorting through ones I’d like to print. When thinking about what I’d save if my home were burning down, beyond any humans and my cat, it’s photos I always say I’d save.  I suppose if I were really clever I’d have them saved remotely, but that’s not what I’ve been thinking about to trigger this post.

                My photos are my proof that I looked the way I did, that I did certain things and they are, perhaps most significantly, an aide memoire for people and experiences.  I have two areas of my lounge wall taken up with photos of friends.  Most people who visit have looked at and commented on the photos, whether of themselves or other people.  I love those photos, though in part because they are testament to the fact that at times I can galvanise myself into action and do things, from getting the photos printed to actually putting them up.

I know that a lot of my childhood memories are triggered or enhanced by photos.  My parents took a lot of slides and photos when I was growing up.  Sometimes I worry that my memories are based around certain photographs rather than what I remember.  But even if that is the case, it’s lovely to have that memory trigger.  I would feel a large part of my past had been erased if I lost all my photos and maybe it would more often make me call into question my memory for their would be no proof to certain things.

Nowadays, despite having a selection of digital cameras, film cameras and a mobile phone camera, I don’t take that many photos.  It seems a bit of a chore sometimes to take pictures.  But then I look at photographs I did take and I’m pleased I did and wish I’d taken more.

Sometimes when I go on holiday I don’t take a camera with me because I feel that without a camera I see more.  I went through a phase of feeling like I saw events through a camera lens rather than with the naked eye; no photograph can ever, I think, capture a moment like your memory especially if it’s a fleeting sight that is never going to translate well as a distant blob in a photo.  Your memory may alter events as time passes, but sometimes, so what.  My seeing dolphins leaping alongside the small boat I was in off Bali could never have looked as good through a lens as it did sitting there bobbing on the sea, with the sun rising, hearing the water break as they moved.  I have heard myself describing a magical sight and feel that the recipient has got a sense of my awe.  I have then showed a photograph of the same thing and felt people kind of sink, probably thinking, “Oh, was that it”.

I think photos of yourself are fantastic.  You can look back on rose-tinted years and see they weren’t so perfect, you can look back at yourself knowing you thought you were unattractive or pudgy at that stage and realise you weren’t and you can see how you change.  It’s fascinating.

I like to think I have a photograph of everyone I’m friends with on my wall, maybe it’s to remind me who and why my friends are who they are, maybe it’s to remind me of good times (it’s not like you take photographs of horrible things, and even if you did it’s unlikely they’d make it onto a “happy wall”) or maybe it’s to project an image of who you are, or at least who you’d like to be, that person laughing with a group of friends for example.  I have one such photo, taken about 12 years ago.  I know it’s not the most commonly witnessed version of me but I am sitting at a dinner table in Japan in the middle of four or five others.  I have clearly said something hysterically funny because everyone is laughing and looking at me, the originator of this great witticism.  That may not be the me witnessed on a daily basis, but it’s nice to see on my wall, and it is a snatched moment in time.  I sometimes like to think of my life, of our lives, based on moments in time.  That way, the bad stuff can be archived and the funny, fun and warm moments can be engrained in our memories forever, a kind of best-of summary!

{30/05/2012}   Being late

I have very limited patience for social lateness, my own and that of others.  Everyone’s time is precious to them and no one should have the arrogance to think their time is worth more.  I get increasingly enraged by lateness, particularly with the advent of mobile phones.  It is not ok to be late just because you’ve texted or called to say you’re going to be late.
There are of course exceptions, things way out of your control, that render you late.  I have a friend who was stuck in miles of traffic for a few hours on a bus on the M40 yesterday due to two major accidents; she was late for work, someone who I would not think of as generally, in fact ever, late.  I consider myself to be a punctual person and most of my lateness has been as a result of transport.  It makes me feel horrible, partly because of the lack of control but I think largely because I pride myself on not being late because of how much I hate others being late.  Plus the annoyance factor of leaving home with time to spare but still not arriving on time.
I think the longest I have waited for a friend was about an hour, by which time I was in a bad mood and should have cut my losses and left.  It didn’t help that I got regular text updates announcing she was almost there, thus obliging me to stay.  Had I not had a mobile phone with me, I would have left after half an hour.
There are some people who are always late, something I feel I can say is the opposite to me.  I did once give such a friend a time to meet which was 30 minutes earlier than I’d meant.  I was so paranoid and twitchy about being “late” that I arrived ten minutes earlier (ie 20 minutes late by the time I had given her).  She arrived fifteen minutes later.  I found that whole scenario almost as stressful as it meant I was upset about technically being late as well as that she was late.
I know I can be a festerer about such things, I really should let go, but maybe why should I?  If you make a plan, agree a time, why shouldn’t all parties expect to be meeting at that time?  There are some countries I could never survive in, where lateness is the norm.  I had invited some visiting overseas friends round for a picnic and a day out.  They were (I was warned it was in their culture to be late, but it still didn’t make it remotely ok even though I was waiting to meet them in my flat) more than two hours late.  I couldn’t work or socialise like that normally.
Knowing you are planning to meet a punctuality offender, I guess you can arrange to meet somewhere that you can happily and easily while away time.  I am increasingly considering telling people I won’t have my mobile with me in the hope that will eliminate the, “Oh it’s ok if we’re late, I can call her”.  I do find it kind of fascinating that we are all fairly consistent in our time keeping.  I pretty much know who of my friends will be late and I have long since learnt never to say, “Oh, any time after 7 is good”, because that makes a 9pm arrival not late whereas I had in mind between about 7 and 7.15!
I do not for a minute profess to be a perfect time keeper, I know I have kept people waiting, but in so doing I have felt really bad and I am pretty confident I have always had good reason if I’ve been late.  I guess we all expect everyone to keep to our standards, in all walks of life, but in reality we are very different, so I suppose I should just accept that and make sure I can keep myself entertained while waiting for certain people!

{24/05/2012}   Looking after yourself

     Last night, in the queue of an over-heated Tesco Express, I shared “it’s too hot” sentiments with a woman next to me.  She looked hotter than me, very red, despite wearing a sleeveless dress.  She had massive scarring on one arm.  She told me that she had got out of hospital the day before after skin cancer treatment and had been told not to go in the sun, but being as hot as it was she couldn’t face covering up.  I wasn’t sure what to say, but it reminded me of so many people I have worried about who haven’t heeded advice about their health.

     I am guilty of this too.  I did a motorbike driving test (the CBT, one-day test) a few days after a general anaesthetic for the removal of four wisdom teeth.  Wearing a helmet wasn’t fun and general anaesthetics take a good few days to leave your system.   If a friend had told me they were going to do this, I would have been really worried and not wanted them to do it.  What is it?  Arrogance that we know our own body?  Stubbornness about not changing plans?  Worry about losing face and losing money?

The same applies to smokers or drinkers who are warned about the damage they are doing to themselves, but a lot of people don’t give up because of that advice or warning.  It’s horrible for those around them, it’s really difficult being around someone you perceive as being on a mission to self-destruct, because that’s kind of what it is.

What does it take to make people change their lifestyle or habits when they receive advice that what they are doing them is either killing them or making them more ill?  I knew a 40-year old man who was a smoker, beer drinker and long distance runner.  He had had a few heart scares and been told to give up all three.  He carried on, then one day died.  As I recall, the cause of death was unknown in that there were four heart issues that could have caused his death but it wasn’t certain which of the four got to him.  Is it about wanting to live your life as you love it, not wanting to change, or perhaps not wanting to ALLOW your ill health to make you change?

There is nothing more frustrating and upsetting than seeing people you love flaunt their unhealthy habits, not go to the doctor when there’s clearly something wrong or say they’re ok when they’re blatantly not.  Likewise, it is hard to change habits and address health problems.  But how ill do you have to be before you do make that choice to look after yourself?  How much worse does my RSI have to get before I accept that I am in the wrong job; when limited movement in my hands renders me unable to cook or type or write and basically do all the things I enjoy doing?  What will make the lady I met with skin cancer not go out in the sun unprotected, when already she has painful-looking scars from her treatment?  Prevention is better than suffering, right?

{20/05/2012}   Birthday blog thank you

     *WARNING: this degenerates into naffness!!!!****  It’s potentially a bit sad to blog about your birthday but as it’ll only happen once over my six-month blogging challenge, I’m going for it!

     I started my birthday in a festering mood, sleep deprived and aching.  I stayed with my mum last night and had my cat with me.  She usually stays at mum’s on her own and sleeps in my bedroom.  With me in “her room”, she stood outside my door and yowled.  And yowled.  So I felt I had to let her in.  She kept me awake what seemed like the whole night.  She pounced on my feet, walked across me, played and, most disastrously, could be heard drinking water … which I realised was the saline I’d poured into sake cups to house my contact lenses in the event of forgetting my case.  She hadn’t got down to the lens, fortunately.  I also developed aches across my chest and arms from the previous day’s kayak rolling clinic!  So I actually felt like I’d aged about 15 years.  So I felt quite sorry for myself!

After a fry up with mum and some issues with fruit netting, I then got to Chris’s, and was again made a fuss of, had a nice chat with a neighbour on the train and felt in fine fetter by the time we got to London Bridge.  I was then quite overwhelmed with the loveliness of everyone who came to my semi surprise lunch.  Thank you to all of you for making it such a lovely afternoon.  And to those who texted, Facebooked, posted cards, sang Happy Birthday and called me.  I really did feel special today and very much like a bit of a birthday princess!

I also realised how useful it is to have a blog in the run-up to your birthday as there was a distinct theme to presents and cards, based on things I’d mention in my blog!!  So there was tea, cake-related things, some quirky and interesting books and kayak themed presents.  I also got my birthday Battenburg cake from my mum and as one friend gave me a (very grown up!) cake stand, I now have my birthday cake taking pride of place on the stand, though I have mauled the iced age numbers as there is a slight degree of denial that I am ploughing through my 30s at a rate I just can’t quite comprehend!

Totally pointless blog in terms of general interest, but I really was overwhelmed with lovely birthday cheer and vibes today and it’s lovely to be reminded that you have wonderful friends.  I also really appreciate Facebook messages from people you wouldn’t otherwise hear from on your birthday.  It’s all lovely!  And a big thank you to Chris for organising today, rather him than me!   I think I may actually be gushing so I’m going to curtail this!  Thank you to everyone who contacted me in any way today because it was my birthday; my sleep deprived, achy self would’ve moped for the rest of the day otherwise!

et cetera