47. That is right, I turned 47 the other week. My children are of the opinion that 47 is still quite young, some of my older friends and colleagues call me a ‘spring chicken’, Mr S., bless him, seems to think I do not grow older at all, but I feel perilously close to 50 and yes that makes me feel a tat old.
The birthday is lovely though. It all kicks off with strict orders to stay in bed from the 12 and 13yo and a cup of tea from Mr S. to let me know they really mean it. Reading a book in bed – completely guilt free – for an hour and a half in my book makes for an extremely good start to the day. (The fact that I cannot a week later remember what I read is a bit worrying but I guess that is being 47 for you).
When the three of them finally make me come down, I find the living room decorated with a string of blue and pink balloons, adorned by my daughter with smiley faces, happy birthdays and mum’s-the-bests; all up side down, as she had not realised that you do not string balloons the same way you hold them. It is just lovely.
Every breakfast item known to man is laid out on the festive table and Mr S., who normally starts asking me weeks in advance what he should get me for my birthday, now surprises me with 47 red roses and a harrowing tale about how he visited every florist in our village fifteen minutes before closing time, to find exactly 47 red roses.
The 13yo, completely true to character had not managed to find me a gift, as a consequence of which he had to get up ridiculously early (from his point of view that is) to cycle to the market, shepherded by the 12yo, who knows exactly what he should have bought his mum in the first place: three dark purple petunia’s. How very me indeed. My daughter, who started planning my gifts weeks, if not months in advance, surprises me with a hand made voucher for a ‘luxury dinner for two, completely free!’ (providing I buy the ingredients of course) in her own restaurant, which she, with a keen eye for detail, has given four and a half stars.
My daughter by the way also gives me another hand made voucher with some banknotes taped onto it to go and buy myself some make-up, which has me thinking I do look old and in desperate need of some ‘glow-in-the-dark nail varnish’, hot pink lippy and bronzing powder. On the purchase of which, she no doubt will advise me. I can not wait!
Shortly after breakfast, they all leave me. The 12yo to go to an all day party, involving all her friends and a subtropical pool and the 13yo and Mr S. to go to play slash watch some field hockey. I spend the morning (and the better part of the afternoon) food shopping and baking, because that is what you do in the Netherlands on your birthday. To the amazement of my expat friends and colleagues, Holland is the only country they have ever been, where etiquette requires you to bake several cakes and then bring them to work. Or else the firing squad awaits you.
I never looked at this tradition from their perspective, but after baking four (!) lemon meringue pies, I can totally see how lovely it would be if someone else would do the baking for you. The good thing though is that since the children are out all day and most of the evening too, I decide it is totally okay to accept an invitation to a BBQ from our lovely friends P. and M., who conveniently live a five minute bike ride away.
So totally against Dutch protocol someone else cooks me a totally scrumptious birthday dinner, invites some more friends and then gives me some lovely presents on top. All I have to do is turn up, drink some bubbles and be merry. The evening is such a triumph that from this day forwards any invitations for the 23rd of May will be gratefully accepted! (Mr S. will happily throw in a couple of bottles of fizz).