The Birthday BBQ

In a few days I will turn 30. But since weekdays are rubbish for parties and I’m tied up next weekend with secret adventures, my family gathered in Croydon in my old ‘hood to have the party of all parties yesterday. For some people 30 doesn’t seem to be such a big deal, but for me this is a Major landmark birthday and I was really into celebrating it in a Major way.

My mother’s legendary raspberry/chocolate trifle: a thing of great deliciousness and impressive calorific prowess.

Friends, family and neighbours all gathered for a proper, massive party. It was the best party ever and I felt extremely lucky to be surrounded by so much love and joyousness.

Dear Old Pops.

There was brass music set up by my dear old Pops and the Brass Quintet. From the youngest age I remember staying up late and sitting on the stairs to listen to my parents playing duets on French Horn and Tuba, and the sound of brass instruments has been around me for my whole life. I kissed the whole Quintet when they were done as their lovely playing reminded me of being 5 years old again.

…and there was cake. Much cake. My mother (Bam) outdid herself with a fruitcake with a whole bottle of brandy in the fruit, and Sian (one of my sisters-in-law-to-be) invented this amazing ball-of-yarn cake with many red, strawberry-flavoured shoelaces being the ‘yarn’ and chopsticks functioning as knitting needles. It’s amazing how good lemon buttercream icing and strawberry laces taste together…

Sian’s ingenious yarn-themed confection.

My mum’s old coffee-morning gang were there too. Mary, Bam and Carol used to gather for coffee-mornings when me and my brothers were still very young. As a child I loved interrupting their coffee-mornings as I was certain that all the secrets of womanhood were contained in their chats. Seeing them together over 20 years later I found myself hoping that I will still be friends with my much-loved girlfriends in 20 years time, and that we will be having the same conversations that my mum and her friends still have. It’s amazing to be in touch with the people that saw me having tantrums when I was 7 years old and to meet them more than 20 years later as a fully-grown woman and to say ‘hey, I’m now around the same age that you were when we met…’ And I realise how deep it is to share that kind of time with someone, to share memories that cover so many stages of being alive. It makes me think about what the phrase ‘keep in touch’ means…

The league of red-shoe-wearers who unofficially gathered on the decking at the BBQ: may we all still meet in red shoes and share our news in 20 years time.

Liz, Ruth, Gemma and my grandparents.

My friends who knit caused quite a stir amongst some of the older party guests who began to reminisce about the things they used to make and who were extremely impressed by all the sticks, string and chatter going on around the knitting table. I really enjoyed my Gran – who taught me to knit many years ago – sitting at the table with us and seeing for herself the immeasurable richness that her efforts have given me in my life. Really, some of my very deepest and most beautiful friendships are growing out of knitting. I love all the time that gets worked into all the stitches, the things we share when we knit, and the creativity that goes with the craft. Sian’s mother gave me some of the patterns she meant to knit back in the ’80s which was awesome as well; all adding more family history to the knitting pile.

Liz gave me the most amazing giant knitting needles with which to create giant knitted items and I also got a skein of Malibrigo sock yarn from Kirsty in the lettuce colourway, which is a very beautiful, luscious green and which needs to become some kind of extraordinary birthday sock. My brother Ned and his wondrous partner (and happily soon-to-be-sister-in-law) got me a gorgeous necklace made from buttons.

Ned shows his mastery of burger-biting.

My brothers bought their customary joy to the party. Teg was the king of the BBQ, enthusiastically explaining how he had marinaded the chicken in cinzano, garlic, honey and lemon and that sausages BBQ best if boiled beforehand. The sausages were indeed amazing, as was the chicken and everything else that Teg had been organising for the weeks leading up to the party. Ned provided loads of entertainment for all the youngsters and proved that he still has the biggest beefburger appetite of us all, competing with cousin Denis for the title in the beefburger munching championships that they unofficially organised between themselves. When not eating burgers Ned spent a lot of the afternoon entertaining the youngsters with swingball.

Mary, Fergus and Carol.

Fergus wasn’t initially able to make the party as he couldn’t get leave from the boat that he works on, but at some point in the afternoon we had the idea that we could ‘include’ him in the festivities via the powers of photography and a really amazing rap that he wrote for my birthday a few years ago. He was there for the vital cake-cutting moment and his rap bought some pretty tears of joy and big loud belly laughs to the gathered crowd.

Fergus helping to cut the cake.

Fergus at the decks.

Fergus drinking in a blue dress.

Fergus trying out life as a member of the league of red-shoe-wearers.

Fergus dancing at the party.


And the Irish contingent – Iz, Caro and Sharon – although not able to make it in person, transmuted their joyousness to the whole event via telepathy and the powers of Cheese. When Sharon turned 30 she had an extended, cheese-themed party of wondrousness and she showed me The Way of The Cheese. I was reminded that this is the true path when some truly smelly and awesome cheese of great deliciousness arrived by mail for me on the morning of The Big Day.

The day was also massively helped by having The Right Clothes. Thanks so much to the wondrous ladies at Prick Your Finger for helping me to organise myself enough to pick up these natty trousers in time for The Big Day.

Thanks, in fact, to everyone. I am so very lucky for all the love I get and I try not to forget ever how beautiful it is to be alive or how amazing it is to have family and friends. They say you spend your twenties finding yourself, but I think I spent my twenties finding my peoples.

Thanks for coming and for making my day so special, and thanks, too, to all those people who drop by and read this; you’re part of the party too xxx

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