I never used to have much birthday action. As an adult, that is. Throughout boarding school and university my birthday always fell smack in the middle of exams. My memories of birthdays when I was very small are of my mother valiantly decorating a table with a white bedsheet and magenta bouganvillia flowers. We probably had lovely fluffy lemon sponge cake a la the Chibembe camp chefs, or even a chocolate cake, thin candles drooping in the November heat. I'm sure we had the bounty of those wonderful care packages that used to arrive from my German grandmother (chocolate that had melted into every crevice of its silver packaging and shrilled the grown-ups' fillings, jelly babies for us, and salty liquorice for dad.) The only photographic evidence I have of one of these birthdays is a hilarious one, with me in centre looking jolly pleased with myself and Miranda scowling the jealous scowl of a younger sister, nursing her thwarted ambitions to the birthday throne.
I remember birthday parties with egg and spoon races, blind mans buff and cakes themed like cars, or exploding volcanoes, but there's an accompanying feeling of anxiety related to these. Other kids were always a bit of a mystery to me, having spent my early days in bush solitude. I was terrified of those games. I was terrified of a throw-away line my mother used once - 'cry on your birthday, and you'll cry for the rest of the year'. Where do these nuggets of terror come from? My first encounter with the idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When I turned 30, Bernd invited some of my friends round and we shared such a beautiful evening together that I decided I would always do something with friends on my birthday, because this is what makes me happiest. So where other people grow out of birthday parties, I have grown into them. I love my annual gathering of nearest and dearest.
If I do an analysis of the wealth in my life, I would score very high in the friendship box. When I look around me see such a collection of beautiful, warm, talented, clever, generous and witty women as I saw in my garden this Saturday, I feel incredulous at how lucky I am. I feel mirrored in them, and consequently feel utterly fabulous, for this is what they are. Ok, there's usually a smattering of fine men as well, but this year, for one reason or another, the male of the species was under-represented. Except of course for my diligent co-host the unrelenting Bernd, maker of fine coffee, producer of garden umbrellas at the precise right moment, and intuitive DJ. You were a marvel my dear. Thank you.
I find it a little annoying when people try to match make me socially. "Oh you must meet so and so you'll love them, they also [insert irrelevant thing you have in common]. So I don't take it for granted that my friends all manage to socialise so elegantly with one another, even though many of them only see each other once a year at my birthday!
I love you all, you gifted and gifting gals. Hermien who can withstand the icy cold sea in the Western Cape with no wetsuit but wimpers (spelling intentional) and flees at the sight of a high-veld storm rolling over the hill. (Sorry you left so early, but thanks for bringing the water-bomb balloons); Nicci, I know you never let anything quite so inconvenient as a massive head injury get in the way of a good time, but thanks for coming, and I'm looking forward to being captained on the St Francis waters soon. Stacey (aka Spacey Spanks) the only Jewish Zimbabwean lesbian comedian actress filmaker poet I know who can really whip up a whoop in my lungs, a real one. And dear Zu, you are so utterly chic and fabulous you make my eyes hurt.
And there in spirit - Thandi, working on a presentation, sorry dear, and Renate, nursing a bad flu (chicken....) and A and A, thanks for your messages from colder climes. The sun is waiting for you, and so is our glorious garden, with its Mexican blue wall, purple basil, and seething spring chaos of lettuces mixed with pansies, herbs and spinach next to squash and beans, mielies next to ornamental bushes. YEeeahaaa! The chillies, cherry tomatoes and sunflowers are still rehearsing, and by the time you get there they will be ready for their big show. (and you Freya) Talking of rehearsing, Rob was unable to make it as he is gearing up for the next episode of Strictly Come Dancing... you can DO IT DUDE! And James had a valid excuse - best man at best friends bachelor party, yeah, yeah, I get it. Nesh, what do I call that fly-by drop in visit en route to the cherry picking festival? hmmm.... well, the gift does make up for it, sorta.... Anu, with her usual bounty stayed the full day (hooray), beyond the emptying of the bubbly. And you Jen, that silvergreen dress, your eyes... what can I say - a perfect garden accessory you are. Its important for designers to be decorative. All that and brains too. Janet - bravo! The number of hours spent chasing your 17 month-old Oliver must have utterly exhausted you. I fondly remember that a couple of years back you were the first to arrive and the last to leave and as your champagne drinking marathon record remains unbroken, it is quite acceptable to bow out early.
Glorious, glorious, is all I can say! If these are my friends, there is hope for me, and inspiration too. Much fun and silliness was had by all, and there are no photographs to prove it. Which in my book is proof that we had a splendid time - when you're too busy enjoying yourself to bother with cameras, you soak it up properly.
My favourite moments -
The poor little fiscal shrike attacking its own reflection in the garden mirror that Bernd put up. Ouch.
The way we so gracefully gathered up the blankets, the salads and food and whisked them inside when the rain came.
The elephant conversation. There's always an elephant conversation.
Watching Oliver attempt to drink the entire contents of the water feature, in all its green slime deliciousness.
Stacey in the mask.
Seeing Hermien leave in record time when she spotted that storm coming over the ridge. We usually take up to 20 minutes to say goodbyes but she was in her car in under 4 minutes.
Sneaking away to check my email on my phone and finding so many good wishes via email and facebook - thank you!
Oh, too many, too many moments to list.
You had to be there.