Thank you for all the good wishes

Beautifully illustrated by Kristin Oberholster from Sunshinegun

“How old are you turning, Mommy?”

“44.”

“44! That’s halfway to… death.”

From the mouths of babes. Or, in my case, a 14-year-old precocious teen.

My birthday came and went as birthdays do, and I expected it to pass with little fanfare due to the whole Covid-19 lockdown and the ever-increasing amount of candles. At this point, my cake would collapse under their combines weight.

But, thanks to social media and its handy little birthday alerts, I was inundated with wonderful messages and telephone calls. It was like that first experience of good champagne when it tickles your nostrils and you know that little fizzy bubbles are about to make you happy.

Even more surprising was the baked chocolate cheesecake my children cooked up in the middle of the night. At 2am. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

The best gift of all was this little illustration done by the talented Kristin Oberholster at Sunshinegun. I laughed so hard it took me a while to really appreciate each nuance of my character she managed to capture. From the asshole cat that my husband loves more than me, to my indecent obsession with alien conspiracy theories fueled by deciliters of tea. Oh, and the hat. Can’t forget the hat.

Despite all the trials and tribulations that this horrible virus has wrought, this small display of love and friendship has meant all the world to me. It reminded me that small gestures, like small pebbles, can make big waves.

AtoZ: Z is for Zen

James

To my beloved son on his 12th Birthday

12 years ago you came.

A small sweet thief of our hearts.

You turned our world around and remade it in your own image.

With eyes of wisdom and wonder.

With a laugh that shakes the foundation of the universe.

A son.

A brother.

A young man.

Our world is better for you being in it.

Much more zen.

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I owe so much thanks to all the wonderful people at Jacklin Enterprises who went so far out of their way to assemble this incredible set for James. Mr. Jacklin, Andrea and HP, you guys are absolute super heroes.

It’s my birthday!

Birthday

37 years ago today the world was gifted with me.

How terribly conceited is that?

As I get older my birthdays get better.

Gone is the stomach churning terror no-one would come to my midwinter birthday party.

Gone is the mid-twenties depression that saw me hiding under the duvet waiting for the day to pass.

Now I just enjoy them.

I like being serenaded.

I like getting pancakes in bed made by eager little children.

Tiger of Sweden Freya

I like that my husband remembers my birthday meal – roast lamb, roast potatoes and butternut.


I received a joint birthday and wedding anniversary gift of an exquisite full length jacket from
Tiger of Sweden from the Husband.

Brilliant man – be brought it back from his last trip to Stockholm and managed to hide it from me and three would-be 007s.

IMAG014My mother took me to lunch at Chez Girard where Girard made me a crème brulee exactly as he did for my 21st birthday.

He used to be the chef at the Inanda Club during its heyday. As a small child I used to check out his desserts before choosing anything to eat.

The trick was to get to the desserts first or they’d disappear in about 0.2 of a second.

 

20120409_An-Evening-with-John-Cleese-orgMy belly full of good food we spent the rest of the day at An Evening with John Cleese at MonteCasino.

I did not know his name is really Cheese. Apparently his dad changed it when signing up to go to war. Not a bad thing.

 

He was truly brilliant and it was incredible to have this man whose work has been so much a part of my life and my yardstick for judging other people, right in front of me.

If you can’t pick up a Monty Python reference you are dead to me. I went home and watched Fawlty Towers, Clockwise and a Fish Called Wanda.

For all its faults, social networking and FaceBook have made my birthday a truly wonderful day with messages from people far and wide.

I also have a sparkly new laptop. She is as yet unnamed, I shall have to think about her moniker.

Now, all I need to make this day perfect is for my court date to be issued against The Man Who Won’t Pay Me.

4378197206_dd6765fb09Now I am going to finish my very large slice of chocolate fudge cake that my lovely colleagues bought for me this morning. Even better – they’ve given me the day off!

Thank Mom and Dad for having me, for being the best parents any child could have hoped for. For showing me the world and giving me a sense of humour with which to view the world.

Most of all thanks for putting up with me for 37 years!

 

To my Son on his 11th Birthday

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For every birthday my mother takes her grandchild shopping.

Usually she can’t wait to tell me what they’ve chosen. This year I got a phone call.

Mother: “Um, well we had an interesting shopping trip.”

Me: “So, what did he get?”

Mother: “Um… <long pause> it might not be quite what you were expecting.”

My heart fell.

Was my son going to go swag on me?

Was I going to face the public while my son tripped over his trousers while his bottom flashed at passersby?

Oh, the horror.

Doc who 1Me: “What. Did. He. Buy?”

Mother: “A bow tie.”

Me: “Well, bow ties are cool.”

Mother: “I think he has been watching too much Doctor Who.”

To which I say there is no such thing.

He is now wearing a conglomerate of Matt Smith and David Tennant.

It looks pretty cool.

Eleven years ago my neighbours in our flat conversion in Blackheath, south of the Thames, were complaining of my using power tools at an ungodly hour of the morning.

the-fat-cowTo which my husband replied: “No she wasn’t. She was giving birth.”

Apparently I sounded like a constipated cow, which was exactly how I felt.

 

Now that tiny little baby boy is a tween.

In South Africa I am often complimented on my “Firstborn”.

He really has grown up into an amazing little man.

397616_10151145131256116_1141865247_nHe is funny, clever and the best brother his siblings could have wished for.

I am very proud and humbled to be his mother.

Each day he teaches me something new or asks a question that makes me think.

James Leo Alexander, you are the best James in the whole world.

Thank you for choosing me to be your Mum.

I promise I’ll do my very best not to embarrass you.

 

Wind in the Willows

Nina Say Cheese

As a child you wait with bated breath for your next birthday, not only for the presents, but for that elusive thing called “being a grown-up”.

Around 25 something very odd happens, suddenly birthdays are approached with near dread and an awakening sense of mortality.

When I informed my child of my decision to remain 35 for the next 10 years, he accused me of being mathematically illiterate. He’s right, I am, but that was beside the point and below the maternal belt.

Around 50 another paradigm shift occurs, when each birthday represents a triumph, a success and a testament to survival.

My glorious mother celebrated her 70th birthday on St Patrick’s Day.

She remembers bombs falling on London, sailing to South Africa because transcontinental flight was unavailable, the first TV sets and the swinging sixties.

 

I still have her mini-skirts, which my father banned me from ever wearing outside of our home.

He told me a paternal truth that day, “What you want your girlfriend to wear and what you want your daughter to wear are two profoundly different things”.

All of which is beside the point, because to celebrate her birthday we discussed:

Madame Zingara (not kid-friendly)

A trip to the Cradle of Humankind

A picnic at Toadbury Hall.

The picnic won out.

Toadbury Hall is about 20 minutes from Fourways on the banks of the Crocodile River. It is in the middle of wedding country, so offers a chapel and (my favourite) a forest wedding option. At least I assume that was what the lectern in the middle of the trees was.

We took advantage of the late summer sunshine and arrived at our private picnic spot on an island to find a table and chairs all laid out with three gigantic picnic baskets and two bottle of exquisite red wine.

Blankets and pillows were arranged on the grass for a post lunch nap and the kids disappeared off to play Pooh Sticks on the bridge.

A troop of monkeys came past to offer felicitations and have a chat, before wandering off down the banks to visit the other picnickers.

Small boy aged 7 gibbered ecstatically at them explaining he was hoping they’d take him with and raise him as a monkey.

I explained I was already doing that and passed over a chocolate brownie.

Despite spending the better part of the afternoon eating delicious (vegetarian) wraps and other delicacies we have still come home with enough food to feed a small army. Luckily we have one.

Three adults and three children came to just over R1000 (probably about $700?). If you balk at the cost of the picnic, don’t panic, they also offer a lovely restaurant overlooking the river, which is just as good.

It is a wonderful way to escape from the city, the smog, Playstation, Nintendo and the TV.

The boys found crabs, fresh water clams and plenty of enormous spiders all of which had to admired.

The Small girl found dragonflies and skipping stones which captivated her for hours.

And when exhaustion set in they lay down for a power nap on a heap of cushions.

Toadbury Hall offers a lot more than magical weddings, great food and a secret forest to explore. They also have 5-star accommodation and for the more active, a cycling route among the trees and along the river. Speaking of the river, unlike the toxic Juksei, the water is absolutely pure.

Wind in the WillowsIt really is a wonderful place for a romantic tryst or a family lunch.

You could almost expect to see Ratty and Mole messing about on the river.

Say Cheese

On 20 February 2006 the world changed forever.
Maybe you didn’t notice, but the world as I knew it shifted slightly to the right.
Alexandra Isabella was born at 06:50 and promptly altered the state of the universe to suit herself.
Today is her sixth birthday and like most mothers, I suffer from party panic.
You may scoff, but I have been to parties where the mother has broken down into hot tears of hysteria because the kids didn’t want to pin the tail on the donkey.
I have spent sleepless nights baking elaborate birthday cakes in the shape of the Sword of Omens and a robot.
I have iced 100 small pink cupcakes and stuffed party packs full of toys and candy from China Mall.
Each year there is a not-so-subtle parental competition – one that usually ends with you substantially poorer. You can easily end up spending as much on a birthday party than you did on your own wedding – only Daddy doesn’t pick up this bill.
I have been to a party where one of South Africa’s premier soccer teams played ball with a bunch of 7 year olds. Former State President Nelson Mandela made an appearance at one.
I don’t bother even trying. I sent the boys to bootcamp to wallow in the mud and be yelled at by ex-Navy Seals. They go hone happy,exhausted and covered in mud. Most the time they are happy with a water pistol and a jumping castle.
Girls are harder.
This year as I was lamenting the impending day with gloom, the power of social networking led me to a review by Shelli Nurcombe-Thorne who knows more about Johannesburg than anyone I have ever met.
Largely because she writes a Joburg blog about it. She had just reviewed a kids’ photo studio and promptly sent me the details of Nina Say Cheese.
Lexi and her best friend were duly collected on Saturday afternoon and chauffeur driven (by me) to the studio of Nina Say Cheese in Fourways.
Vanessa Lewis is a professional food photographer, but was inspired to start a children’s studio after the birth of her daughter, Nina.
She offers four magical sets, an aeroplane hanger, a circus, a forest and a tea party.
She also provides delicious cookies and macaroons from a real pastry-chef.
The girls put on identical pink ruffled skirts, pretty tops and sparkly shoes. Suddenly these two scruffy little tomboys blossomed into the most beautiful and ladylike little girls. They posed, they played and they laughed and laughed and laughed.
I haven’t got the pictures yet, but I know they will be beautiful.
So all-in-all it was a good way to celebrate without having to entertain 25 small girls and their 50 associated parents.
Social networking again helped me out on the birthday present front. Having expressed interest in a Barbie Bride at a friend’s house,her mom called to tell me about the best place to buy Barbie clothing.
Hint: It is not Toys R Us.
The Rosebank Market on a Sunday is home to a remarkable stall. An elderly man painstakingly designs and makes exquisite furniture for baby dolls and Barbie Dolls. His wife equally painstakingly designs and sews tiny clothes, sleeping bags, duvets and other necessities for small girls and their dolls.
For R300 I bought a wardrobe and 6 perfectly made little outfits, including a wedding dress. Unlike the cheap and nasty Toys R Us clothes, they don’t fall apart as soon as Barbie is dressed up and they cost a damn sight less.
I highly recommend him to every mother of a small child who balks at the idea of buying yet another Barbie. Lexi unwrapped her gifts this morning in total rapture.
I also got out of baking a million cupcakes by strolling into Mother Hubbard’s in the mall and purchasing for R70 a Happy Birthday cake for her school birthday ring.
Far less stressful.
This afternoon I will pick up little karate kid and take her out for ice-cream with sprinkles on.
Heaven.
And when we get home Lexi can model the pretty clothes purchased on her shopping experience with my  mom – from Zara no less!

Many Happy Returns

A pyre of flame
A crowd of people singing my name
Take a breath
And make a thousand secret wishes
Candy and chips load up the dishes

She wants a fancy cake
Ice cream and magic shapes
She wants a Princess encased in cream
More presents than she ever dreamed
Streamers, balloons and a musty smelling clown
Guaranteed to turn a frown upside down

Small girl stands face contorted with fear
She cannot extinguish all the fire
Face burning bright to the laughter of her peers
How many boyfriends does she have this year?

These days I hold my breath to see
If a lover is waiting in the wings for me
Pretend that’s it’s not such a big deal
Don’t really want the whole birthday spiel
But, that small girl inside these womanly curves
Still deserves to be a Queen for a day
And invite her friends to come and play

Another year older and deeper in debt
Light up another cheap cigarette