Two weeks ago I had a lovely birthday.  It began with cards, flowers and presents and then a superb lunch, cooked by Jennie and GG for the extended family where we ranged in age from 8 weeks to 91 years. This reminded me of previous birthdays (of which there have been many :))

When I was a small child, in wartimes, it was usually an extended  family tea. My mother used to hoard any extras to the rations over the weeks before to put on a special spread. Sometimes this had been supplemented by food parcels from my father who was on the North Atlantic convoys. I don’t know how legal this was but he bought food and presents on his shore leave in America. Often he was given extras by the kind family, the Winfields who befriended him in New York. He also seems to have made a friend of the ship’s cook because I remember at least one splendid coconut cake we received. I was lucky to be a summer baby because there were always stawberries and raspberries. No cream or icecream, just top of the milk (in those unhomogenised days), evaporated milk or “mock cream”.

I usually had a new dress for the occasion. This was either one my clever Mum had made or another of those parcels bought in America.

Another time my father bought me a new birthday outfit was for my 16th birthday. Dad came home from work on the Friday and asked if I would walk up to the post office with him. I was wearing an old cotton dress and wearing a rather ancient pair of sandals, but as it was only a walk to the post office, I jumped up and went with him. When we had completed his business he suggested that we walk up the road and look at the shops. I began to feel uneasy when we carried on up the road and into the city centre. In those days a “trip to town” entailed dressing up a bit. My mother always wore a hat and gloves and I at least had a wash and brush up!

He then proceeded into one of the department stores, with me trailing reluctantly behind, and we bought a new dress, jacket and shoes. I think the assistant must have thought I was some urchin he had taken pity on, (but it was a very nice outfit!)

When I reached my teenage years most of my friends were members of the school guide company (99th Nottingham) and several of us had birthdays within 10 days  in July so we sometimes celebrated together. They were a super crowd and now 65 years since we left school  and even though we are very scattered geographically, many of us have kept in touch with each other. Not all of us with everyone but each to a few so between us we convey news between us. Some, sadly, are no longer with us but the only two I haven’t had news of recently are Halina our Polish friend and Chris Bond who I saw briefly when Jennie was a baby, so if anyone has news of them I would love to hear it.

When I was a student nurse I was usually working on my birthday, but we usually had a pyjama party in the Nurses’ Home after work.

On my 21st bithday I was working on the Obstetric ward at the QE in Birmingham. After report I walked onto the ward feeling a bit miserable that this momentous day should be passing without acknowledgement, when the patients started singing “Happy Birthday”  and one of the Midwifery Sisters followed me in carrying an iced cake and suddenly I was inundated with cards and flowers and presents.

In the intervening years I have celebrated my birthday in various parts of the UK and Norway  My last birthday with Dr Alf was celebrated in spectacular fashion at Glyndebourne. It was Dr Alf’s 40th year in General Practice and I was leaving London 1 month later, so he arranged what he called a staff outing on my birthday, which happened to be a Sunday. It felt very strange to be walking out of our flat in evening dress on a Sunday afternoon, but we had a lovely time.

Now we have come full circle and Jennie is arranging family parties and we are so lucky that we get on well with GG’s family and share with them.