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Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Today is my 43rd birthday. It is no understatement to say I have waited all my life to be this age. If Simon Cowell were here I would cry and tell him that this is my last chance at a 43rd birthday and that it means EVERYTHING to me.

Cos it does actually, mean the world to me to be 43. Even though, to all but the most deluded, I am middle aged, and middle age is not supposed to be something one celebrates. How do I know I'm middle aged? Well apart from the maths, which you can do if you wish, the signs are all there.

I read the warning notices on fairground attractions; I find aerial photography quite fascinating; I worry about listed building regulations. And then there is the physical deterioration, not catastrophic as yet admittedly. An extra crow's foot or two, a shade more wobbly round the jowls, a smile which is becoming, literally, 'long in the tooth'.

Am I delighted to face the inexorable signs of ageing in the harsh morning light of the mirror each day? Yes and no. No, because I am a bit vain and sentimental and it would be just lovely to think you could stay young and pretty forever. Yes, because you can't.

Five years ago my cousin Dawn died having been diagnosed with breast cancer two years before. Unfortunately, by the time she was diagnosed the cancer had already spread and she was told there was no chance of remission.

Dawn was a fearless child. One who would jump hollering from the highest diving board while I practised a safe, neat little dive from the side of the pool. I always envied her that. And she had the most beautiful strawberry blonde hair.

She was only in her early 30's when she died, leaving not just her little boy but her husband, mother, father, brother, sister-in-law and tiny new-born nephew. And a whole host of friends. I never knew how many till the day of her funeral.

So if I feel sad at the onset of another winter, I remember that I will celebrate Christmas with my family on 25 December. And I think of Dawn who died in December and celebrated her last Christmas early so she could watch her son open his presents one final time.

If I look in the mirror of a morning and feel a little maudlin, I think of Dawn and the way she bore her illness and I determine again not to be sad at the passing of the years but grateful for them.

Seeing what happened to Dawn may not have turned me into someone who treks in the Himalayas and watches the dawn over Macchu Picchu, frankly that's not really my cup of tea. But it has made me determined never to regret another birthday.

So believe me when I say I will enjoy today, my 43rd birthday, and I shall raise a glass to Dawn who never got to enjoy hers.


  1. My brother Alan's birthday was October 30. He died of lung cancer four days into his 54th year. I am now farther into my 54th year than he will ever be. It is now another October and the third year in which I will watch the leaves change and fall and feel that sense of his spirit falling with them. His ashes were scattered in a place he loved, and the tree I planted there for him grows well. In the spring it will put out new leaves and somehow, if only in my heart, his spirit will continue.

    Congratulations on your 43rd birthday, Shelagh;sympathy on your loss. And a glass raised to all who's birthdays we miss.

  2. That was one of the best and most worthwhile things I've read in a long time. Good for you.

  3. Happy Birthday by the way, have a great day


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