Category Archives: My forty birthday parties

If you threw a party…

… invited everyone you knew,

You would see the biggest gift would be from me

And the card attached would say

“Thank you for being a friend!”

It would be wrong to write my first blog post as a 40-year-old without starting with this song, the theme song from The Golden Girls

Much Love Monday could not start without a thank you to all my wonderful friends – those who could come on Saturday night and those who could not – for everything they’ve given me over the past few years. Maybe one day, we’ll all end up like The Golden Girls. Not dead. Well, that… eventually. But the bit before that.

Who in the world would have friends who… would wear a thermal snood in public? would ear support stockings just to amuse them? would wear granny nighties even though they most certainly came from a nursing home and were probably worn by dead people? would wear a hairnet and several flammable materials? would abandon family and friends just because you were having a party? would let you take over their house and drink their booze?

So, Much Love to…

January’s cherry

Natasha’s curlers and blue eyeshadow

Caroline’s frilly nighties

Verity’s hair net and old lady lippy

Deb’s chocolate fondants

Rachel’s snood, Bakewell tart and support stockings (sorry, Jim! That tart was too good to  leave leftovers)

Nancy’s falling asleep after a half-pint of pineau

The best moment was Phil dropping off our takeaway curry and asking where I was, when I was standing right in front of him in my nylon nightie, white wig, nylon dressing gown and rain hat.

I would also like to have a little Much Love space for several ladies who I wished could have been there – my sister most of all – and Deb and Joanne. That would have completed my night!

Much Love, of course, for my gifts. Who in the world has friends who send them sweetie parcels, stripper videos, rainhats, their favourite Dairy Milk, nylon nighties, hot sauce, old lady hand cream, denture cream and many more treasures besides?

The highlight has to be this amazing shopping trolley:


I’m so taking this down L’Eclerc when I go shopping. Practical and funky. What more could an old lady ask for?

It has been a weekend of great stuff. From fish and chips in Confolens on Friday to lunch in Angouleme on Saturday, then my party, then tea last night with even more lovely people. Today seems just a little miserable and wet in comparison. Time for a big fire, some indoor games with Heston and Tilly Wiggle to make up for the fact the rivers are so bloated and swollen that most of our usual walks are totally treacherous. The Tardoire has broken its banks and there’s more flooding than I’ve ever seen; the Bandiat is also overflowed. The Bonnieure is higher than I’ve ever seen it and even the Bellonne, which has always been nothing but a dry bed, is back. The water table still has some way to go because my puits are still empty and the lakes in Massignac are still low, but there’s certainly been enough rain. Where last year, my water bill was 200€, this year it is 37€

No love at all for Coliposte. 3 days of sitting in waiting for a parcel. Soon, I’m going to have nothing edible in the whole house. The parcel has been in France for 7 days and I’m super disappointed by their service.


Anyway, it’s Christmas and my tree is up. It has not yet been eaten by the Heston wrecking ball of fur and that in itself is a small mercy!



This year, the theme is red. It’s only a little tree, but it is quite delicious.

Time to get a wriggle on. I have fires to light, cleaning to do, lessons to prepare. Enjoy your Monday, my lovelies. I’m outta here!

Fanfares for Forty

I make no excuses for this shameless ‘me’ post. Well, I kind of do. I am actually so very talented that it would just hurt your eyes and offend you if I told you exactly what I’d been doing all my life. So I’ve saved it for one post. Plus, when I was 30, I booed my eyes out for three days about how little I’d accomplished in my life.

So… without further ado…

My forty greatest accomplishments

  • Telling author Philip Pullman that teaching is like sex… If he’s not enjoying it, he’s not doing it right.
  • Patting Patrick Stewart’s head and telling him he didn’t need a wig in Antony And Cleopatra.
  • Telling renowned Irish poet Seamus Heaney that I was his girl groupie.
  • Asking Jussi Jaaskelainin of Bolton Wanderers if they were a Sunday League team.
  • Having ‘learn to be more humble’ written on a performance review.
  • Doing a marathon… having done so many that I have a box-full of medals.
  • Then doing a triathlon… they make marathons like a walk in the park.
  • Being able to benchpress twice my body weight.
  • Having done training regimes that would make grown men cry.
  • Having written books – actual published books no less.
  • Having written ebooks that make more money for me than the robbing publishers give me.
  • Having an actual regular column in an actual regular magazine. It’s not Sex in the City, more Words in the Wilderness, but it’s still an actual column.
  • Learning Japanese.
  • Having been to meetings as a Government advisor.
  • Having been paid to stay in an £800 a night hotel in Kensington.
  • Having been invited to lead training sessions at the Emirates Stadium.
  • Never having ever had to depend on anyone except my parents.
  • Having taken this photograph in Brazil and then hand-processed it old-school in the darkroom. Pre-photoshop. This what you got:


  • Having done this drawing. I love pastels


  • Having made this cardigan


  • Having learned to write


  • Being able to get up on a kitchen stool all by myself.
  • Being able to make a pavlova that rivals my Nana’s.
  • Singing Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You by Glenn Medeiros to 400 people AND to a girl on stage. I was Prince Charming!
  • Being able to give Sue Sylvester a run for her money in terrorising naughty boys and making them quake in their boots.
  • Having a voice that can be heard above 20000 crazy ice hockey fans.
  • Having trained my dog (the greedy one) to give me a paw.
  • Having trained my dog (the clever one) to show me his wiener.
  • Being able to sew a straight seam.
  • Having been able to do 100 squat thrusts without vomiting.
  • Being able to sleep for 15 hours solid on an international flight.
  • Knowing all the words to The Lost Boys movie.
  • Having a freezer-full of cake.
  • Having the recipe for carrot cake in my head, no cheats.
  • Knowing camera geek-speak, using only manual focus and aperture priority on an SLR and being an all-out chemical darkroom genius.
  • I make a kick-ass fire.
  • I can unblock a toilet.
  • I do such a good Liverpool accent that it freaks me out.
  • Being able to dance Gangnam style.
  • Having seen Grease approximately 2,475,125 times
  • I can make a chocolate fudge sauce that will both send you to a veritable heaven and give you diabetes at the same time.

There you are. I feel a lot better now. I’ve obviously achieved a lot in the last decade! Anyway, it is but two nights’ sleep until my big day. I feel about five million times more wonderful at 40 than I did at 30. I’m all for embracing the day!


Today was birthday number 2. I went with four friends and my sister to have a pamper day at the very beautiful Hotel Karina, in Jarnac. Those of you not from the area might know Jarnac for its most famous alcoholic export, Courvoisier. Photographs don’t do the hotel justice, as it’s an absolute haven of tranquility and relaxation. We didn’t go into Jarnac itself, which is a lovely town that always seems remarkably quiet, but to the outskirts, tucked in between the vines and the maize fields. And if yesterday had been a bit ‘meh’ with the weather, today was glorious. Not too hot. Mid twenties. Perfect pamper day weather.

Hotel Karina, Jarnac

Although I could have stayed beneath the gazebo all day, we managed to drag ourselves pool-side to make the most of the sun.

And just to make you all jealous, the day went a little like this (following an interlude at the bank. When Francois Hollande realises that more cash machines = more spending, austerity might end):

  • coffee, fresh juice and patisseries on the veranda as the day warms up and we all decide what we’re having. Pedicures and reflexology are the order of the day.
  • Sitting by the pool, having a dip, chatting, gossiping, working out who liked 50 shades and who didn’t, finding out just who’s had what medical complaint resulting in a suppository, who’s had colonics, whose neighbours might be swingers, who’s been to a nudist colony, who was asked to manage a swingers’ bar and who would indulge in toe sucking.
  • Having a wonderful pedicure and turning my hammer-toed monkey feet into something less unattractive.
Lovely lady feet!
  • Having a gorgeous salad, lovely steak and rosti potatoes and a divine ‘mini’ pavlova (wait until you see this ‘mini’ pavlova…)
Mini pavlova

And as if that wasn’t quite enough, we had afternoon tea and chocolate cake. Now, birthdays just don’t get more lovely than that!

Only 38 left and I’m already feeling a little sad.

Birthday stats

Number of friends celebrating with me so far: 10

Number of days to my actual 40th: 130

Food consumed so far by me: moules & frites, caramel ice-cream, bacon salad, sirloin steak & roast potatoes, mini pavlova

Most fun moments: splashing in the sea with Damon and Jacob, eating mussels with Damon, watching the fireworks with Deb, Damon, Jacob and Haydn, the boys all asleep on the way home at three in the morning, Rachel after a glass of wine (okay, three ‘English’ size glasses…) and discussions about suppositories and toe-sucking.

It might be 130 days until I finally get there, but so far, being 40 is fabulous!

I had a lovely discussion with Allie about how lucky we are to live and be able to celebrate and how being 40 is an achievement that many people don’t have. I truly believe that. If I can’t celebrate with every single one of my friends this year, I will need a few more parties next year too!



As you may know, I’m 40 this year. I’ve decided to celebrate this event by having 40 birthdays. As it’s a difficult activity to have 40 parties – almost a month and a half if you have one every day – I’m starting now so I can get them under my belt.

My last monumental birthdays haven’t really been monumental. I can’t much remember what I was doing for them other than having a meal with my family. That’s pretty much the same thing I do for all my birthdays, so I wanted to do something a little spectacular.

Not only that, but my 30th birthday, I spent in bed wondering what I’d achieved with my 30 years. This time around, being 40 feels like something of an achievement just to be that old. 42 is the life expectancy in several countries across the world so to be 40 is something that a lot of people don’t even achieve.

The first of these parties is a beach party. I’ve never had a beach party on account of having a December birthday, so having a beach birthday was one on my list:

We went to St Palais Sur Mer, up the coast from Royan. Royan was my first holiday destination in France, and if I had all the money in the world, I’d live in one of the gothic mansions on the beach. Dinard, St Malo and Royan are my favourite seaside places. Royan itself is a busy harbour town with plenty of shops and restaurants. Damon and I were on the look-out for moules-frites, which was very easy to find, though it wasn’t easy to find something to suit everyone else. Unfortunately, if you don’t like seafood, fish, pizza, pasta, salad, risotto or meat in sauces, it’s harder to find other things. Jacob and Deb were left with a choice of entrecote or entrecote.

Damon very much enjoyed his moules-frites.

He finished the whole plate in record time. Then it was on to the ice-cream course. If you can’t have ice-cream on (one of) your birthdays, when can you?!

I opted for nougat and caramel. Damon had raspberry and chocolate.

He’s a boy after my own heart.

Finally, as all good birthdays should, it ended with fireworks. The St Palais fireworks festival is a competition between three countries. This year, they were doing fireworks set to cinema music. India won with a fabulous display of bright fireworks and Bollywood music. We got home at 3 am, but it was certainly a birthday party to remember!