On Saturday I turned 40. I had been in two minds about celebrating the occasion. I have never been overly concerned about the number or even getting older. After all, most of the women I admire are older and I admire them for the characteristics that age brings: wisdom, experience, serenity… I am, however, less enamoured with the aching joints, deteriorating eyesight and shrinking range of hearing that seem to come with age!
As it happened, I hardly got a say in whether to celebrate or not. Mr M had kindly organised a weekend away. An attractive hotel on the south coast, a restaurant with a strong seafood focus, just the two of us and… then I was struck down by some virus. Rather than strolling round the old town, making our way down to the harbour or hiking over to Dungeoness (Britain’s only desert) for a squint at the nuclear power station*, I took to bed as Mr M went in search of a hot water bottle for me on the hottest day of the year.
Now the day has been and gone (and the shivers and spasms have subsided), I can celebrate being 40, despite the physical niggles. There were no major revelations of course. Turning 40 just provided an excuse to take stock, have a look at the Great Book of Reciprocity, flip through the Giant Encyclopaedia of Life and scribble some mental notes in the margin.
Here are just some of my scribblings:
- I have a grand family: Mr M (of course!), my siblings, my little niece, a couple of old friends of my parents (a last link to mum and dad) and close friends who travel miles to share the joyous moments and drop everything to support me in the darkest ones. They are all utterly precious, and I need make use of every occasion to catch up with them as life rattles on with all its commitments and distractions.
- Friendship is a blessing but one I never take for granted! I may not see or speak to my friends as often as I should like but I really do believe that we reap what we sow. How else do I explain friendships that have endured across continents and decades…?
- The world needs more random acts of kindness and generosity, and especially towards strangers. Best of all, they offer a win-win. Paying somebody a compliment, sending a thank you note, sharing a meal, seeds, your harvest…, giving a small home-made present… Such ‘gifts’ brighten the day for the giver as well as the receiver.**
- Producing is much more fun than consuming. In many ways, it takes me back to the imaginative, inquisitive child I was. Figuring out that I am perfectly capable of making practical daily objects (whether growing my own food, stitching my own blinds, carving a spoon, throwing a bowl…) is satisfying. It is not just a creative process but also an act of defiance, and yes, I take delight in that too!*
- A lifetime is not enough to learn all the languages, musical instruments, skills… I’m interested in! Rather than lament the lack of time, each August I scour the prospectus of local community colleges and sign up for courses, workshops… This year I’m eyeing up more violin lessons, another pottery course and maybe some Gaelic, although I would also love to try my hand at instrument making…
- As much as I love prose, poetry and music, silence is golden! Yes, I am the person who points out the Quiet Carriage notice to noisy passengers on a train and I prefer restaurants where people speak in hushed tones. (And really, how many telephone conversations are so urgent they need to be had in public?)
- Moods, frustration, melancholy… are generally eased by pottering in the garden. Leaving aside the restorative nature of fresh air and natural light, there is so much life in the garden, even on a winter’s day, that it is impossible not to forget oneself for a while.
- Lotions and potions are no substitute for healthy food, plenty of water, sleep and a sun hat! (And there is certainly no need for plastic micro-beads that pollute watercourses and poison fish. Pinhead oatmeal and honey or sea salt and olive oil work just fine.)
- Bodies are designed to move. Although I am not a natural athlete, my body feels a whole lot better for regular exercise.
- As much as I enjoy the occasional meal out, Mr M’s goulash is still one of my top three meals ever!
- I drink far too much tea and always shall but somehow, most of life’s problems, ills and challenges seem more manageable after a cuppa. Throw in a decent night’s sleep and I’m all but invincible…
- At 30 I thought I would end up a batty old cat lady and was okay with that prospect. At forty I know that I am an eccentric cat lady cum urban cottage gardener with a penchant for yarn, home-made preserves, gin and obscure (if not dead) languages as well as a 10K personal best that it is getting slower… and I am revelling in all of it!
* As an ex-energy lawyer and general energy geek, electricity (as well as water and sewage) plants are interesting sites! Mr M is the same with trains and boats…