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.