Rather than taking leave of my forties at a stroll; turning 50 was a commando roll. In the midst of plans & preparations for our move to Taylors Arm November 29 snuck up on me as the focus suddenly shifted to celebrating my 50th birthday, which until the light dawned -literally- on Sunday morning, seemed notional. Read the rest of this entry »
Trying to get the G.O. to celebrate his birthday is like trying to prise a stubborn crab out of its hidey-hole. Unsurprising as he is born under the Cancerian astrological sign. For the first time ever I managed to persuade him to ditch work on a weekday birthday. Coercion that involved me using a precious annual leave day and suggesting he wouldn’t want me to celebrate his birthday on my own. It worked. Just. My backup tactic was to suggest if he didn’t stay home with me, I’d go to work with him. Read the rest of this entry »
The days counting down to our anticipated long weekend away weren’t promising. Quite unwell with a throat infection, by day I tried to convince myself staying home and doing little was self nourishing, and by night I coughed. Neither the G.O. or I got much sleep. On Friday morning I dragged myself to work via a doctor’s appointment and pharmacy for dreaded antibiotics and cough mixture. But there was nothing else for it; despite rest and a repertoire of natural remedies I was getting worse, not better. I spent a bare hour at my desk preparing for 3 more days absence.
On the way home sitting in the train I thought to call the G.O. to tell him I’d escaped, noticed my phone battery was very low and my keys absent from my handbag. And concluded my mind also was absent. Trying to explain the situation to him briefly to conserve battery took quite some doing. We agreed as I had a spare key but no front door or lift swipe that I’d see if I could find the building manager or a neighbour home and get them to let me onto our floor. No luck.
I called the G.O. again and he reported he was on his way home but would return to work. I waited on a sunny bench in the park for an hour which did me no harm at all. When the G.O. arrived sanity had prevailed en route and he announced he was finished for the day. He considered packing the ute and leaving early for our drive north but lack of sleep and imminent peak hour traffic swayed him to get a good nights rest. We were in bed asleep by 7 pm.
But we were up and on the road early, crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge just after 3.30 am and by the dawn of my birthday were well along the highway. We stopped for BYO breakfast & cups of tea at a rustic roadside area, and made it to the M.I.L’s in less than 6 hours. After a brief chat with the M.I.L. and quick grocery shop we arrived home at Taylors Arm around midday to a messy garden that needed rain and a house that could do with a tidy up, but we were happy to be there to do it.
A couple of industrious hours and a well-earned shower later my birthday proper started with a glass of wine & opening of a cat adorned birthday card plus delightful, colourful gifts amassed by the G.O., and culminated in a seafood barbeque dinner.
On Sunday we pleasantly pottered, put up the Christmas tree and were visited by a Blue Tongue lizard and Soossie Cat. On Monday we had business to take care of in town, and the garden got a welcome few hours of enjoyable evening rain. All too swiftly Tuesday morning came around; time to head back to Sydney via a stop at Dad’s.
I had prepared for the drive which we have done super-numerous times, by downloading our first ever audio book onto my phone for the diversion of listening to Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander (#1) which I’ve read and we recently watched the TV series set in Scotland, enjoyed by the G.O.
At Dad’s we handed over his cakes, a bottle of his favourite oysters we’d picked up at Sandy’s Famous Seafood and a bag of Christmas gifts for the family. Dad handed over a card decorated with rubicund poppies (a flower loved by both Mum & me) in which he’d penned “sentimental 49th birthday wishes” accompanied by gifts of 2 old books; Mum’s Commonsense Cookery Book c 1963 and Nanna’s Advanced Commonsense Cookery Book -Mum’s handwriting on the flyleaf, a gift from Dad, Mum and me c 1968.
It was generous of Dad to confer these books to me. Mum’s Commonsense Cookery Book in particular bears the marks of being long used… and worrying evidence of contact with a stove hotplate!
The start of the final year of my fifth decade was simple, sentimental and splendid. My sister marked the occasion by sending me Kimberley Coffee Company teas she’d bought on her recent trip and a National Parks & Gorges calendar to tick off the months until my next birthday at which time all going to plan we will be on the threshold of stepping aside from our city-working-week-world into the next stage… of country living and caravan-on-the-road travels.
As far as I’m concerned too many long weekends are never enough, so opportunistically as the G.O.’s birthday fell on a Monday I suggested he take the day off work. Possibly influenced by his daily 160 km commute the G.O. weakened from his it’s just another day stance and agreed, but when I lobbed the idea of a weekend away into the air he let it bounce out of the court… The weather probably be won’t be any good and we’ve just been away for your sister’s wedding and at Taylors Arm…
I, being a good missus took the G.O.’s birthday off as well to keep him company. So it came to be that we had a self-proclaimed mid-winter long weekend in Sydney. In 9 years we’ve never spent a long weekend in Sydney, and otherwise a rare sequence of days greater than 2 in our apartment only due to illness or injury.
What to do? Well, nothing in a hurry – one of the benefits of having an in-house coffee machine. Eventually Saturday started out as usual with a walk through Sydney Park, on via the local Triumph motorcycle showroom as we were sort of heading in that direction to lunch at Velvet Garage then a detour to browse along King Street, stopping at a second-hand shop to pick up the kookaburras the G.O. had been thinking about, and a spur-of-the-moment frog.
Sunday morning didn’t look like we were going anywhere at all, as our lunch plans had fallen through, until the G.O. remembered he wanted to go to the movies. We couldn’t rouse ourselves further than the local Dendy Newtown, but The Rover (“featuring Guy Pearce – an Australian dystopian crime drama film… a futuristic western that takes place in the Australia outback, ten years after a global economic collapse”) was on at 2 convenient times so we got a wriggle-on and aimed for the earlier. Slightly confronting, we agreed however it had merit if not enjoyable in the usual sense of the word.
Monday even though it wasn’t my birthday was worth celebrating just because the alarm didn’t go off at 5 am. After the G.O.’s morning still-trying-to-give-up-cigarette (and being interrogated by the apartment building’s formidable lady-caretaker putting out the bins while he -apparently a stranger- appeared to be loitering out the front rolling it… “can I help you?”), coffee, porridge with stewed apples-pears & walnuts, gift unwrapping, and birthday phone calls, the G.O. decided to proceed with his only plan for the day, a short drive to Victory Motorcycles so he could inflict another round of exquisite should-I-shouldn’t-I torture on himself.
The G.O.’s lunch suggestions were boring so we went with my brain-wave to go back in time and across the city to our old stomping ground at the West Ryde Hotel aka Mary’s. Shock horror, the same-same exterior hid a surprise; the interior had been revamped… it appeared recent but given neither of us had set foot there for quite some time it could have been done well over a decade ago.
Lunch was excellent, the G.O.’s meaty as is his preference, and we dined in the less-changed grapevine covered beer garden. With time to kill we stopped in off in Balmain-Rozelle for a stroll and something sweet to take home before setting off to our post-4 pm collection point to pick up the Baron Star Bar handlebar for his motorcycle, which the G.O. used his previous birthday IOU to order from the U.S. just a week earlier. (Note to DHL couriers, not happy you couldn’t manage to press our buzzer to deliver it in person – we were at home).
Neither of us felt like much dinner, so it was birthday banana bread*, very appropriate for a Coffs Harbour raised boy.
* I’m not a particularly assured cook, and assumed café offerings such as madeleines, friands and banana bread weren’t the domain of ordinary cooks. I’ve now attempted all successfully, dispelling the mystique, but none more so than this simple banana bread I resorted to a couple of weeks ago because I had bananas in the freezer, and (unusually) milk in the fridge but no eggs.
Combine 3 mashed bananas, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 2 1/2 cups self-raising flour, and 1 cup milk, bake in loaf tin in 180 C (356 F) oven for 40 minutes.
Mum’s mum, Nanna S. kept two letters written to her by my mother in an era when married and moved less than 40 kilometres away to live with your new husband’s family you wrote home. Nanna had her own reasons for saving these letters for me, but what I read in the lines of my mother’s handwriting were words describing as a toddler how much I loved my Dad.
Dad had his 70th birthday last week. I called him late morning to allow him time to indulge in the sleep-in I knew he’d have. “You made it” I greeted him. He responded with “I got up for my usual quarter to four piddle and wondered what day it was, and realised that… I made it”. He knows better than anyone else no bookie would have given him odds on a 70th birthday celebration.
The day after his birthday, despite unseasonably cold wet weather every family member who could, drove hundreds of kilometres to turn out for the celebration of this milestone in our family history. My grandfather, Pa, born in 1913 died at 61, and my grandmother died a couple of years before him age 50.
Dad, the eldest son, surpassed this and leads the way. His two brothers only a few years behind, the cheeky buggers never let him forget, chipping at him with comments such as “what’s it like being old?” Dad bides his time until posing for a youngest–eldest photo he casually comments to his brother in regard to 4 month old Ethan “your grandson’s got more hair than you”. No matter his age, Dad’s still got more hair than his brothers, very little grey and no mercy in playing his trump card.
My aunt, the only sister and youngest, responds to Dad’s assurances that he’s now obedient and doing what he’s told, with “It’s about bloody time, you’re old enough”. To which I can only remind her, “It’s words, just words. He does what he wants.” Much as the siblings are alike, Dad never took to conforming. This could account for Dad’s birthday being a day I greeted happily but on which I also shed a few private tears… for there were many times I thought he wouldn’t make 50.
One of my first blog posts was about Dad, Ron: the year that was. I introduced him by explaining “As my parents’ only child I often attempt to explain my relationship with Dad by saying I only have one team to barrack for. Whatever he does good or bad, he’s all I’ve got left in the way of parents. This gets him away with a lot. Dad can be infuriating & amusing, randomly & concurrently. The longer you’ve known him helps, sometimes, understand him but not necessarily. Often you are just perplexed.”
Dad’s 2 main astrological aspects also provide further insight. He is sun sign Aquarian “… Lots of people like rainbows. Children makes wishes on them, artists paint them, dreamers chase them, but the Aquarian is ahead of everybody. He lives on one… you’ll have to be constantly prepared for the unexpected with Uranians. Generally kindly and tranquil by nature, Aquarians nevertheless enjoy defying public opinion, and they secretly delight in shocking more conventional people with occasional erratic conduct…” (Sun Signs – Linda Goodman) and moon sign Sagittarian “… Independent; philosophical mind; gregarious; adventurous; rebellious; humanitarian; intellectual; inspirational; social concerns; urge for expansion; verbose; big-hearted; tactless; confident; good teacher; optimistic; zany humour…” (Sun Sign, Moon Sign – Charles & Suzy Harvey). My sun and moon signs fall the opposite.
Coming up to age 23 when I was born he was a typical father of the Sixties. He worked as a motor mechanic, went to the pub, played sport and Mum & I tagged along. At almost age 40 when my first half-sister was born, he became a typical father also of the Eighties, starting a second family as I approached adult life. Mostly, Dad never fully acclimatised to modern father. I’m not sure if he attended the births of my three half siblings but at least with them [I believe] he attended the hospital rather than waiting at home for news, as he did for me in 1965. As they grew up, he didn’t like grungy hair, grungy clothes or loud grungy music. Dad continued as much as possible with Sixties style parenting but also did what he does best, coaching and running around to kids’ sport, following his own philosophy “the family that plays together stays together”… He grumbled a lot but predominantly ignored anything that didn’t fit with his view of the world. The kids are now wonderful adults some of an age to soon be starting families of their own.
For his birthday the G.O. and I gave Dad tickets to a show & dinner next month for him, my stepmother and us. After we’ll stay the night at their house and spend some time. However, I couldn’t allow Dad’s 70th birthday to pass without making him a little gift from me. I baked & assembled in an ordinary plastic container his favourite Rock Cakes, and dressed them up in a fancy box. Receiving the unexpected gift, he looked at me questioningly “what’s this?” opened it & peeled back the blue tissue paper, laughed, looked around and said “Don’t think I’m sharing. These are going in my shed”.
And, although Dad received a great selection of birthday gifts, my true 70th birthday wish for him, is to “keep going”… so he can also be the Best Pa.
“I grow old … I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled” are lines from one of my favourite poems: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot. Beyond that I hadn’t thought much about attaining the age of 50 even though according to my family on the occasion of my 46th birthday 50 is just around the corner.
Then, this message appeared in my In Box in the form of a joke email.
If you haven’t grown up
by age 50
you don’t have to.
I took heart. The few people I mentioned it to laughed and said “you don’t have to worry about that”. I think they were being kind?
Any thought I’d given to 50 wasn’t with dread, the age part at least, but the family expect a party and have pencilled out a two week exclusion zone in their calendars for the end of November 2015, and my best friend whose birthday is a fortnight after mine has already asked me about joint 50th birthday holiday destinations, for older women (WTF?).
I’ve always taken heart in the quote “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning” (Catherine Aird). Now I have something else to aim for. In the next 3 1/2 years I have to avoid:
- getting married, again.
- having kids, my own or care of anyone elses’.
- “acquiring” any more debt.
- getting another “proper” job – this one is my last, I swear.
- cutting my hair.
- getting a sensible car – what’s wrong with an almost 20 year old BMW? I rarely drive anyway.
- going with Mrs S. on a holiday tour for older women.
Even though I heard somewhere that 50 is the new 40, I don’t want to revisit my 40’s as it’s been a few years of just plain hard work & not as much fun as I’d have liked. It’s always been my plan to make my 50’s and beyond, the gypsy years… but whatever, I don’t have a problem with turning 50. The alternative is worse.