Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Thoughts from around the display


Yesterday was my 35th birthday. It's an odd age because it puts you at exactly the same distance from 40 as it does from being 30, so is perhaps more of a mental leap than some of the other 30-something birthdays that come before it. I'm not sure that I currently have any worry over ageing (I think that's a thing that tends to come in phases arriving by stealth in a flurry of freshly grey hairs) - when I say that it's a mental leap, it's more that I mean that there's a sudden awareness that time really is actually moving on...because how did I get to this place where I am only five years away from being forty? It's an odd sensation, isn't it?


When we were growing up and would receive birthday or Christmas gifts my mother would always encourage us to make a little display of them on a shelf or beneath the tree. My love of doing this has stayed with me: it's nice to have a few days of coming back to stop and admire all the lovely new things before they're absorbed into the house in their new places.


I had so many wonderful books this year: I've photographed them above, in case any are of interest to you. From the top: a collection of poems by the wonderful Lemn Sissay entitled Morning Breaks in the Elevator sent from my sister; When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbitby Judith Kerr - this had been added to my wish list after hearing Judith, author of the much-loved Mog books, on Desert Island Discs. Her life story is amazing and this is a work of fiction that seems to be drawn heavily from it; The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt chosen for me by my husband; Travelling Light by Tove Jansson given to me by a dear friend; a pattern for the beautiful, bias-cut Colette Jasmine top from my mother; The Synonym Finder which has been on my Amazon wish list for a long time and I hadn't realised it would be quite so enormous - but double excitement that it is. It was a gift from my parents and my mother has declared it better than any thesaurus she's ever seen and is now ordering a copy for herself; Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques by Lynda Maynard - the photographs are unusually contemporary for this type of book and it was my choice of birthday bedtime reading last night; The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957, published by the V&A which I'm looking forward to dipping into soon.


My husband made me a compilation CD and created a cover from a Liberty print fabric this year - he often makes a CD for my birthday. There are some songs that appear over and over (such as Daughter by Loudon Wainwright III or Lookin' Out My Back Door by Creedence Clearwater Revival - a song which we've both loved since discovering it when he was asked to learn and play it for a friend's wedding party several years ago, along with anything by Josh Ritter) or which reappear from our past after years of neglect (like Pulp's Babies or Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl) and then new ones which we're listening to over and over at the moment (such as Frankie's Gun by The Felice Brothers...a crazily good song in which the story of a Mafia killing unfolds. Bob Dylan fans will either love it or hate it).


This antique printer's stamp of a Singer sewing machine was one of my most surprising and delightful gifts. I'm almost sure that my sister will have bought it from Portobello market. I wasted no time in pressing it onto a golden ink pad!


Several years ago my husband bought me some large fabric-covered magnets as a Christmas gift. This year he found these beautiful Liberty print magnets on Etsy and they've joined the others on my pin board. Much as I love Pinterest, it's nice to have a real pinboard too where special photos and notes can be treasured for a while before being squirrelled away into a drawer. You can see a scrap of paper on the board - it's a note that my little boy left for me to find in the washing basket, it reads: work is hard, so do you want me to do it, written neatly in his sweet, idiosyncratic spelling. I have to admit to weeping and laughing over the washing waiting to be put away when I found it. Beneath it there's also a scrap of silk that I was given a sample of last year...I'm still considering adding it to my stash, although keep thinking better of it as turquoisey blues aren't colours that suit my skin colouring.


My husband also found this beautiful hand-printed tea towel on Etsy from Lulu & Luca.



And all of his gifts came with these stunning gift tags...which because of the golden stitching on them are just as beautiful from the back as they are from the front, but in a different way.

This morning I was reading some of the poems from Lemn Sissay's collection and came across an old favourite entitled Invisible Kisses (my sister actually included this especially for me in her cloth-bound poetry anthology, Poems for Love, which she edited for Penguin a few years ago). I love this poem as it reminds me of my husband and how he makes me feel so cared for. It ends with the lines:

All I can send is love
In all that this is
A poem and a necklace
Of invisible kisses

Isn't the idea of walking around wearing a necklace of invisible kisses a deliciously lovely one! Reading the poem this morning made me laugh though, as one of the verses reads:

If there was ever one
Who when you are cold
Will summon warm air
For your hands to hold;
Who would make peace
In pouring pain,
Make laughter fall
In falling rain.

The reason why this made me laugh is because I'm always cold and my husband decided last week that this is because I don't move about enough each day. So rather than allowing me to buy the electric heater I was requesting (in addition to the central heating), he forced me into my running gear and drove me off for a woodland run. It was very muddy, but not entirely unenjoyable, although once I'd cooled down I felt no noticeable increase in warmth, other than bathing in the sunny glow of virtue...which isn't quite as effective as a blow heater.

Florence x

37 comments:

  1. Such a lovely post, hope you had a lovely day! :) x

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    1. Thank you! I did, although we're actually postponing my birthday celebrations until Friday when there will be cake and other good birthday things.

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  2. What a lovely post, and a great birthday haul! Happy Birthday Florence :O)

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    1. When my husband was a teenager he made my parents laugh a lot by standing up from the Christmas tree, thanking them for their gifts and declaring it a very fruitful morning! There's always a little part of me that thinks of birthdays and Christmases as being fruitful now...so yes...a super haul of peaches, Joanne. x

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  3. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is a lovely book; I need to find a copy of it to have here for my girls to read when they're older. There are two sequels, which if I remember correctly are called Other Way Round and A Small Person Far Away. Actually I think I need all those so I can read them.

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    1. I hadn't realised that at all - thank you so much for letting me know!

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  4. Happy birthday Florence, it's lovely to see all the beautiful gifts you received. I know what you mean about getting older. I turned 46 in January and in my head I still think I'm about 25. I'm shocked when I look in the mirror. I try to remember we have no control over our age and we should all just enjoy each day. Hope your birthday was lovely.
    Ali x

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    1. Yes, so often the reality of what's in the mirror is entirely divorced from the feeling inside...not such a bad thing ;-)

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  5. Happy Birthday Florence! You got some beautiful things (including that stamp - how cool!). I love your note from your little boy - so sweet!

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  6. Happy birthday, Florence!
    You really have received some wonderful gifts. I loved being 35 as that was the year I got married and decided to move to England. Adventures happen at all ages and although I'm now in my forties I still feel there's a lot of life and creativity in me.
    Have a lovely celebration on Friday!

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  7. Oh, a belated Happy Birthday! Looks like you had a great day. I know exactly what you mean about turning 35 - I did so last year and it's not until I've started filling out questionnaires that I've realised I now have to tick the 35-40 age group box which makes me feel a bit old (despite still feeling 22yrs in my head!!!!!) x

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    1. Horrors! I hadn't even realised that this would put me in a different form-filling category. I think it may be easier for people if they allowed us to put both an actual age and an imagined age.

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  8. Happy belated birthday Florence, I hope you enjoy the celebrations on Friday. Like Sonia I too was disgruntled when having to tick the next age group boxes.

    My Mum says you never feel any different on the inside - I was 35 last September and I still wonder when I'll feel as though I've grown up! x

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    1. Thank you! No, I'm increasingly beginning to realise that we probably don't...which makes me wonder how surreal it must be to reach your 90s!

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  9. Lots of lovely birthday goodies. I love Credence Clearwater Revival, it reminds me of home and growing up as my parents used to play it. My brothers and I are the only people I know who have come across their music - and you too! Juliex

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    1. Hurrah! Oddly, I haven't looked into any of their other songs, but that one feels a very happy one indeed. Are there any other particular tracks that one should hunt down?

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  10. Happy Birthday Florence, I hope you had a wonderful day. What beautiful presents - thoughtful gifts always make me want to weep with gratitude and yours are all exactly that! My favourite is the sewing machine stamp, I'm very tempted to go trawling Portobello market in search of one! x

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    1. Yes, me too. Do go trawling - every time I go there I'm amazed that so many lovely things can actually exist all in one place...I seem to remember once discovering a stall just of vintage velvet ribbons...and another time one of antique wooden music boxes that were utterly stunning. Oh and printing press trays galore. x

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  11. Many Happy Returns of the Day , Florence! I'd never thought of it as an official *thing*, but I tend to make a little gift display too. Or if there's a bag or other container as one of my gifts, I love to put all the others in it. That Singer stamp is a real find, and I am of course delighted to see some Tove Jansson in your reading pile. I haven't read 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit' although I know friends did when we were at school - 'Mog's Christmas' remains a favourite of mine, though, and I'd never realised they were by the same author. I was going to say Mr Teacakes deserves some sort of prize for thoughtfulness but actually I guess you're it! x

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    1. I'm so pleased you do that too.

      My favourite was the one where Mog wins a prize and does a wee on Mr Thomas' chair because they've put a marquee in the place of her usual lavatory.

      Yes, he does deserve some sort of a prize, doesn't he - I'd never thought of myself as being it before...what a curious thing. He seems to rather like me, but I'm not entirely sure I'm a suitable or fair reward for all his lovelinesses. x

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  12. Happy birthday! Oh, to be 35 again - although having said that - I turned 40 last year and to my surprise, I love it!
    Your gifts are beautiful - i you ever get sick of the sewing machine stamp, I'd happily take it off your hands ; )

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    1. I think I may have a few takers for that, mightn't I? Form an orderly queue and bring provisions....you could be waiting for some time! x

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  13. Happy Birthday - if only i was 35 again but alas the years keep on rolling by. Funny to see your books you got, there are some that i have on my list to read. I love my books that are to be read stacked up on my bedside table, comforting i find. x

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    1. Yes, it's really comforting...much like a stash of fabrics! x

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  14. Happy birthday! I am envious of how elegantly you've been treated. My hubby frequently runs out of wrapping paper and has been known to give gifts half wrapped, in bin bags or gaffer taped. No gold stitched gift tags for me! Boo hoo.

    The little rubber stamp is very sweet and my favourite goody. And the CD, how romantic!

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    1. I love the bin bags and gaffer tape - I think there's something quite sweet about that...so much better than not wrapped at all!

      Yes, isn't there something oddly special and romantic about someone making you a mixtape. I completely agree.

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  15. Happy birthday dear Florence! What a lovely post and such beautiful thoughtful gifts. Thanks for sharing the poems - I love them. And my husband and I have the same warm-cold banter going on. I will have to tell him later on. But I hope he's not going to send me out for a run because it's so wet here!! I've been wanting to read the pink rabbit book too, and I would love to know what you think of AS Byatt's.
    Danielle x

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    1. Danielle, was it you who asked me if I was on Goodreads a long time ago? I hadn't known what it was at the time, but I've since discovered it...what a super place.

      I'm really suprised by how many people already know and want or know and have read the Pink Rabbit book...it's not something I'd ever seen until this year - HOW had I missed it!

      So pleased that the warm/cold debate exists even in Australia. x

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  16. Happy Birthday dear Florence. I love the thoughts you put together and the poem is lovely. You're family is lucky to have you. Don't worry too much about age...says the nearly 38 years old :o) Grey hair is surely annoying!

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  17. Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours Teaching English

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  18. happy birthday - good fun life you have! you should look at our new brand www.bluemojito.co.uk - fab beach kaftans etc - think you would like themx

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  19. Happy birthday Florence. I'm just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris
    http://chelencarter-retiredandlovingit.blogspot.com/

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  20. Happy belated birthday!

    I have a couple more months of being a youthful 34 still to go. The sad truth, though, is that I had to ask my husband how old I am, as I couldn't remember...

    (your husband sounds too good to be true: thoughtful gifts and lovely tags? Still, don't knock Pinterest - for husbands like mine, it's invaluable when it comes to giving unsubtle gift suggestions...)

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  21. What lovely gifts you have received - all showing love and thought from your family. Enjoy and Happy Birthday.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x