A very bookish birthday

I am undecided about my feelings towards my birthday. Shedding the years seems a sad activity and the celebration of another year passed can seem odd when, like me, you had a ‘to do when I am (fill in age)’ list as long as your arm. Last year I was supposed to go and see a musical (I have never seen one), take a ride in a hot air balloon, go to a theme park (I have never been to one), learn calligraphy and learn Latin. The list does go on and it is safe to say that I did NOTHING that was on the list.

What happened? Where did the year go? Time seems to get much faster as I get older – and I often wonder what happened to those long, endless summers? I would spend hours drifting around my mother’s garden – the mossy lawn would spring between my toes as I would go down to the vegetable patch to pick whatever my mother needed for our supper. Balmy evenings would be spent watching the swallows whilst lying on my bed with the windows wide open – the warm breeze nudging me further towards a sleep which seemed a thousand sleeps from the morning in September when I would wake to a stiff collar, crisp pleated skirt and a new pair of sturdy, awful shoes that I would ‘grow into’. I now have an irrevocable aversion to ever being ‘sensibly’ shod – much to my mother’s annoyance.

Time seems different now and in acknowledgment of this I have not written a list for this year. The only thing I would like to do is ride in a hot air balloon at the end of a hot summer’s day, (with a bottle of cold champagne, of course) to listen to the silence of the air as I look down on a patchwork burnt by the sun. This, I think I will do.

I had a very lovely birthday weekend spent wandering the streets of Oxford in the early spring sunshine and a day spent at my parent’s in the company of my family including my lovely eight week old niece who stole the show entirely – understandably. My mother baked me a fantastic cake bedecked with glitter and I have just scoffed the last piece with a cup of tea.

I was very spoilt and have been given a truck load of books – I received two Persephone Books vouchers (cannot wait to spend on Saturday) along with the following stack.


The secondhand copy of Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree and Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Summer will Show were bought in the Oxfam bookshop in Oxford with some birthday money from my Granny. The Lovely Bones and The Other Queen were given to my by my Sister – here is where I confess my dirty secret that I read Philippa Gregory, still everyone needs a bit of mental chewing gum now and again; surely? The snob in me is screaming to deny my ever having heard of her – the shame. My lovely friend bought me Elizabeth Goudge’s The Bird in the Tree and Coco Before Chanel which I have wanted to watch for ages as I adore Chanel and my mum gave me Meals in Heels (I did mention my aversion to sensible shoes – it pervades every aspect of my life) which has me salivating already. The still wrapped Persephone is House-Bound by Winifred Peck which I am sure will render me house-bound for a while. And finally, Rachel (Book Snob) gave me Elizabeth Goudge’s Green Dolphin Country which I have wanted to read for ages.

The long, endless summers may have become short but this hardship is counter-balanced by the realisation that I would rather a shorter summer with no starched school term looming ever closer – now I can decide my own reading list and while away my Sundays with books that I enjoy rather than a maths textbook or my MA thesis to write (of which I still have nightmares) – and that is absolutely worth getting older for.

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26 thoughts on “A very bookish birthday

  1. Happy birthday! And don't give up on learning Latin, Latin's lovely. I'm a big Latin geek, nine years from middle school to university, so I always want everyone else to learn it too.

  2. Happy Birthday!Under the Greenwood tree is wonderful early Hardy, light, funny and romantic and I was moved by The Lovely Bones (although the film is best avoided). Hope you enjoy all your new books.

  3. What a nice birthday! Am so envious of your birthday cake – my Mum gave up making them for me YEARS ago. I'm also envious of that Townsend Warner – if I hadn't been on a bookban I'm sure I'd have got there first (where was it from – Oxfam??)I miss long hot summers too. They nevr seem very hot either now. I always save as much holiday as possible to take over the summer.

  4. My present is clearly the best in the stack! You know it!That cake looks amazing. A bit of glitter always goes down well. You've got some great reading coming your way – The Lovely Bones will actually make you cry.

  5. A very happy belated birthday! What a wonderful stack of reading gifts and a cake that is making me envious. Enjoy your Persephone vouchers too (are you and Rachel going to the UK book bloggers meet-up in May?)I don't make birthday lists of things to accomplish (speaking of which, you MUST see a musical!) but last birthday and I imagine this upcoming one, it does weigh on me what I would like to accomplish and how I have not achieved what I imagined I would have by this age. Sigh. Take me back to the time of birthday parties and pass-the-parcel!

  6. I certainly think Philippa Gregory is nothing to scoff at or be ashamed of!and how funny…I have similar experiences of the long summers by the window, and yet I'm a whole hemisphere away…xAimee

  7. Such a gorgeous cake and that stack of books…well, it's my dream come true kind of birthday! Happy Birthday from Across the Pond!Listening to a podcast recently, I learned that the days of our childhood seemed so long because children stay in the moment. As adults we're always looking toward the future and thinking of things we need to do. Your list of things you'd like to do sounds perfectly lovely though…enjoy!

  8. I once bought a "Teach Yourself Latin" book. I still have it, but I have never managed to get beyond the first chapter/lesson. It assumed a formal knowledge of English grammar, something I don't have on account of having been educated in the 1980s, when the emphasis was on very much on promoting confidence and self-expression rather than rule-based learning. Perhaps a more enjoyable way to dip in to Latin would be to read Harry Mount's "Amo, amas, amat" which was put out for the Christmas gift market a few years back. I've always intended to get hold of that one.Speaking of the 1980s gives you a clue to my age. I suspect I've been pottering about on planet earth for about a decade more than you have and, if it is any comfort to you, I've probably experienced far less of the excitement that the world has to offer than you have. I've certainly never been in a hot air balloon. Indeed, I haven't flown anywhere at all.Apparently the reason life seems to go more slowly as a child is all a matter of perspective. When you are ten years of age, five years seems like a longer time than it does at 30 because at 10 it is half your life so far whereas at 30 it is only one-sixth.Here's hoping you have a summer of fulfilled ambitions and realised dreams ahead. If you do go flying past me in that balloon, please wave!

  9. Happy belated birthday!Ever since I saw Out of Africa many years ago I have had a yearning to take a hot-air balloon ride! One day …You have some great reading material there – I read The Lovely Bones a few years ago on holiday and couldn't put it down but please avoid the film at all costs! However, one film you WILL love is Coco Before Chanel, which I saw at the cinema, and posted about on my blog:-) Under The Greenwood Tree is wonderful, of course … happy reading and have a great time on Saturday browsing in Persephone Books!Jeanne x

  10. Happy (belated) birthday. I know all about the undone list… however, you DO have a couple of Elizabeth Goudge's in your birthday stack, and that pretty much makes up for any number of balloon rides not taken and theme parks not visited. Enjoy them!www.lampandbook.blogspot.com

  11. Your description is beautifl..I feel the moss under bare feet & the breeze gently blowing the curtians.Age does not trouble me as I am happy & healthySometimes I don't act my age though and then get told off by my daughter !Enjoy your new books

  12. Happy Be-Lated Birthday!! Your post totally strikes a chord with me as I feel exactly the same way. I remember when I was young complaining of being bored. How I wish I had the luxury of being bored now! It doesn't seem like there is enough time to do everything I want and the time flies by (at least my own time). Maybe this year you'll be able to line off a few things from your list! 🙂 But your cake looks yummy and the books are of course very lovely. I've only seen the film of Under the Greenwood Tree, but what a great story. Enjoy your books!

  13. Very happy late birthday wishes and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Green Dolphin country. First read when I was 14 and thought it was wonderful. Recently re-read when capuchin press reissued and loved it all over again. Here is my review if you are interestedhttp://randomjottings.typepad.com/random_jottings_of_an_ope/2008/10/green-dolphin-c.html

  14. Belated birthday greetings to you. Yes, learn Latin has been on my 'To do' list for a long time and never actually even being started. I am re-reading 'Under the Greenwood Tree' at the moment. Loved the film about Coco Chanel too.

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