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Reflections upon turning 40

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!*
Hand-carved wooden spoons

Quirky but perfectly functional, and all my own making

Porcelain buttons

Another practical make: porcelain buttons

  • 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…

** The spirit behind Make Something Month is a lovely way of linking acts of generosity with the joy of making, which is why I embraced it, and continue to do so.




  • KerryCan July 22, 2014, 11:18 am

    Great post (even though 40 seems a long time ago to me . . . and it seems like yesterday). Your musings are interesting and thought-provoking. I especially like the point about creating vs. consuming. You’re right–we can do so much if we try and it is SO satisfying!

    • Meg and Gosia July 22, 2014, 5:50 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post… Yes, rediscovering that we are in essence creative creatures rather than consumers is life-enhancing!

  • jackiemania July 22, 2014, 12:41 pm

    Happy, happy birthday!

    Your spoons and buttons are so beautiful! Tell me a little more about carving the spoons — do you need many tools? What wood do you like? I’ve been wanting to work with wood in some way and keep on seeing projects that need many, big tools and POWER and that’s not what I want to try. My grandfather was a carpenter and I miss the smell of wood being worked so much.

    • Meg and Gosia July 22, 2014, 6:05 pm

      Thank you! In an ideal world I’d love a bandsaw but I have neither the money or space for one (or rather I don’t have the space & if I could find the money, I would prefer to spend it on musical instruments!). Apart from occasionally using the jigsaw, I use hand tools: saws, a file, Swedish knives and lots of sand paper!

      In terms of wood, I love black walnut but it’s costly and hard. Instead I mostly use ash and sycamore as they are quite soft (even when seasoned) and abundantly available. It’s part of my holistic approach of looking to closed loop cycles for most of our needs…

      I’m certainly no expert spoon carver – there are some real artists in the green wood and hardwood sphere – but I may blog about my dabbling as I like to think it is accessible (both practically and aesthetically).

  • Sarrah J. Woods July 22, 2014, 2:16 pm

    I love every single one of your musing points! If I had to pick a favorite, at least today it would be the one about not lamenting the lack of time in which to learn everything you want to but just trying to learn as much as you can—and enjoying it. That’s a mindset I’m trying to learn too; my hunger to learn everything is immense. My best friend, who is 45 (I’m 28), likes to remind me that knowledge is not a destination—when I learn what I want to know, I’ll still want to know more—but rather a journey to be savored and enjoyed.

    • Meg and Gosia July 22, 2014, 6:11 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed these scribblings, Sarah. Learning is most definitely a journey. The ancient Greek word schole from which we get our word school actually meant ‘free time’/’leisure’. In the ancient Greek culture there was a real appreciation for learning for the sake of learning, an attitude my parents instilled in me and my siblings!

  • Debra July 22, 2014, 3:51 pm

    Happy belated birthday! Now you have me thinking about learning how to carve wooden spoons! Yours are wonderful. I am a rapt follower of Ariele Alasko on Instagram. Such beautiful woodwork http://www.arielealasko.com/

    Pots, spoons, languages, gardens — I love how you are making time for it all. xo

  • Meg and Gosia July 22, 2014, 6:19 pm

    Thank you Deb! I love Ariele Alasko’s work!

    I have a really daft/aspirational idea of being good enough at potting & carving some day so I can make a simple doll’s tea set for my niece. (In my mind that is cool; not sure what a little girl would think of it…) She’s 6 months so I have a few years to practice…! I have a few other aspirational ceramic projects up my sleeve too which involve legal forms of alcohol. And if I could find a peddle operated lathe, I’d be turning plates too 😉

    You’re not doing too badly yourself: photography, pots, Français, curating an Etsy shop…

  • Sarah July 23, 2014, 8:47 am

    Happy birthday! I’m impressed you point out the sign to people in the quiet carriage – I just sit there quietly seething. In fact I’ve given up on booking in the quiet carriage – it wasn’t doing my blood pressure any good.

  • MargotBarbara July 23, 2014, 7:14 pm

    Happy birthday, and what a lovely post. Your spoons are gorgeous. I completely agree with your feelings about learning being a journey. One lifetime will never be enough anyway! I love how many things you’ve just tried out, I shall aim to emulate you, as my wish list of things I want to do grows ever longer…!

  • georgetteann July 25, 2014, 1:52 pm

    As a woman in my forties, I could relate to much of what you talked about in this post! I think age has a way of mellowing us and bringing life into perspective. I feel much more grounded these days. I’m looking forward to more of your posts!


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