Sunday 18th February – it’s my birthday……
Friday was my birthday, that was weird. It’s difficult to describe how I felt when I woke up on Friday, on one hand I am here, I have a wonderful life and should be happy to reach another milestone; but I didn’t. I felt sad and detached from it all. I sat up in bed with Filly as we ate our breakfast and she opened my gifts from her, Ally and the boys and I started to weep, I knew I should be thinking about how lucky I was but it all felt so unjust. I shouldn’t have to have these thoughts, I am in my 30s (still!) with a toddler, I shouldn’t have to wonder how many birthdays I have left, or whether I can push the boat out and have a glass of wine or go off ‘chemo-diet’ and have a slice of sugary cake. I’m not sure Ally really knew what to do – who would? So he threw my jodhpurs at me and sent me to the farm for a ride while he and Filly packed the bags so we could head up North to my parents’ post-ride.
It was one of those idyllic, Cotswold wintery mornings when the sun was out, the sky was blue and the birds were cheeping; it sounds untrue but it really was a beautiful day. My very best riding pal was waiting with Bluey and Ella so we tacked up and headed out. We were out for a couple of hours and went through the woods, up and down hills, through puddles, we saw Linnets and Skylarks, thousands of snowdrops, the first stems of Bluebells and wild garlic leaves. There was no way that I could feel anything other than completely blessed. A good few people have ‘recommended’ that I don’t ride during chemo, and this is my proof that it absolutely, categorically, for me, does more to lift my spirits than anything else can. Muddy, cold and happy I headed home with a brilliant card and the gift of organic, home reared steak from a young bullock called Stompy!
In better sprits we made our way up to my parents’ house, but not before brunch (poached eggs on avocado toast with fresh tomato and aged balsamic salad) cooked by Ally, with Alyson (my mother in law) who popped over with even more lovely presents. We arrived up North to “no fuss please” in the form of balloons and banners and cakes and gifts and songs – it was brilliant. It turns out that sometimes other people do know what’s best, but please don’t tell Ally and my parents. It even turns out that I didn’t have to worry about ‘breaking’ my diet, my brilliant mum had made a sugar and dairy free chocolate cake, we all made a mess stuffing it in our faces!
After Filly’s bedtime we had a scrumptious vegan Mexican feast for dinner; my mum had cooked the works, with extra chilli for me and no chilli for Ally (he sweats at the thought of a Korma!) I had a glass (and a dribble) of a delicious 2015 Domaine Julien, Fleurie; it was delicious and aromatic with just a little tannin and enough acid to bring out plenty of ripe strawberry flavours. After a difficult start to the day I went to bed very full, very happy and looking forward to the rest of the weekend.
The following day, we went National Trusting. I think I’ve mentioned before but Ally and I were given Nat Trust membership for Christmas, as were my parents. We went to Attingham Park with all 4 dogs to feed the deer and have a picnic. The weather was cold but it was another bright day. We happily walked for over 5 miles with a break in the middle for a picnic prepared by my mum (she must have spent days cooking for us all before we arrived.) We had salads and humous (Filly’s all time favourite) and a homemade quiche, which is one of my mum’s specialities and more cake with a cup of tea (or for me a coconut milk decaff latte – great work National Trust) afterwards. It sounds unbelievable after all of the food so far, but on Saturday night my brother took Ally and I out for supper, thankfully all of the walking had given us an appetite. We went to a local country house and to start I ordered everyone cocktails, so that I could live vicariously through them. For my brother I ordered a Negroni, one of my favourites after visiting the home of the Negroni in Italy in 2017; sadly he wasn’t as much of a fan and as I couldn’t finish it Ally did, as well as his own! I had a virgin elderflower mojito and a good, healthy sniff of everyone else’s! To eat I had leek and Savoy cabbage bon bons, which were crispy little balls of yum followed by pigeon with cauliflower puree and blackberries, I couldn’t resist the pigeon, it’s a great favourite of mine and thanks to my mum’s cooking so far I hadn’t gone off plan at all. I didn’t have a pudding but my brother ‘insisted’ and twisted my arm into having an Irish coffee, and despite severe difficulties including a fork to the hand, I managed to get a small taste of Ally’s pud. It was such a fun night, and again we went to bed full and with our sides aching from laughing so much.
On Sunday, after rolling ourselves out of bed we started preparing a family Sunday lunch. My brother and my granny were coming over so we would all be together before Ally, Filly and myself would travel home. I feel like I shouldn’t be describing any more food, but my mum’s Sunday roast is something special. I am lucky in that my mum and Ally’s mum both cook amazing roasts, and lets face it a roast is all about the vegetables and the trimmings which they both do extremely well, so we rarely have a need to go out for a lunch, I can get horribly grumpy if I get a bad roast!
Despite the difficult start, I had a wonderful birthday. I received so many thoughtful cards and gifts and messages I am humbled and definitely blessed. I hope someday, in someway I can let people know just how grateful I am for their support although I think it will take someone more eloquent than me.