Monday 11 May 2020

Backyard Birthday

This time last year I'd just returned from a long weekend in Devon with Chris to celebrate my 40th birthday, including a stay at the utterly fabulous Burgh Island Hotel. This year's celebration of turning 41 years old on Friday couldn't have been more different! A birthday in lockdown, in our back garden. And it was just right.

After my favourite breakfast - smoked salmon in scrambled eggs - we had a walk in our local forest again. No buzzard vs crow combat on this occasion, but we did hear a rather exuberant cuckoo. It's an area that's very quiet, with usually us encountering only a couple of other people on our hour's loop. You would think that being on top of a mountain with the horizon stretching out infinitely that this would make it easy to keep well over 2 metres away. We were astounded then, when at a fork in the track, an older couple coming from the other direction seemed intent on walking straight towards us, until Chris spoke to them. Honestly, some people seem oblivious!

On our return to the house, I decked the garden with floral bunting strung from the fruit trees. The baby was settled to sleep in the pram under the sun umbrella, we brought out some chairs, put on some music and spent a lovely afternoon enjoying the sunshine. We had a bit of an afternoon tea spread, with sandwiches, and a selection of homemade cakes. I'd baked another rhubarb cake and an orange and poppy seed cake, whilst Chris had made me a chocolate cheesecake. He's a novice baker so it was a great first attempt. I'd also made some rhubarb syrup from a River Cottage recipe, so made some rhubarb bellinis using that and some pink champagne. After eating, we cleared some space and played a game of boules. I won! The baby slept for hours, so it was actually a very relaxing afternoon for me.

Above: orange and poppy seed cake 

Above: I added some velvet ribbon and a 1930s' belt buckle as a toggle to this battered old hat.

My birthday present from Chris was the pair of Freddies of Pinewood dungarees that I'm wearing in the photos. I've been wearing my men's '90s ones so much for gardening, that I wanted a smarter pair for when I'm not doing manual labour. I also bought myself a Freddies jumper in their sale, and finally got a tablet with some birthday money.

All around us the streets were decked in bunting for VE day, so I pretended that was all for my birthday too. I actually felt a bit uncomfortable this year about all of the VE celebrations. It's obviously right to mark the anniversary of the end of a world war and honour the contributions of so many, but especially in these times where nationalism has seen Britain's exit from the EU, I am not feeling particularly proud of being British. It seems that many people used the day as an excuse for a massive knees-up but couldn't care less about understanding the history. It was also a day where social distancing was completely ignored by many of the same people who are out there clapping every Thursday for the NHS. Our local healthboard has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wales per 100,000 population. Those claps are sounding hollow. Here in Wales, another 3 weeks of lockdown was announced on Thursday last week, so it's particularly astounding that literally the day after that, people still went ahead with their various celebrations.

I have used the garden to stay calm in the face of such idiocy. I've been weeding like fury, planting more seeds, hardening seedlings, and having a general tidy up and washing up used pots etc. The peonies are out in full force, they look spectacular! We have several plants. Last year we divided one of the larger plants and it's worked very well, we now have even more plants dotted around the garden. The peonies have done so well that I bought a trio of varieties from Sarah Raven. The plants are small but doing okay, and next year they should flower for the first time, adding blooms of cream and pale pink to the crimson show we have now. The mouldy allium bulbs I found in the shed and planted anyway have fared less well - only one grew!  But it would have been a shame to waste them.

Above: clockwise from top left, allium, hosta, peony, chives.

I've continued to tackle the mending pile. A job that's been on my list for at least a year is revamping an old Vivien of Holloway tea dress that I've had for about 10 years! The colour had faded, the piping was fraying, some buttons had signs of wear, and one of the darts had pulled through. It wasn't cheap at the time, I think I paid around £60, but those dresses are still around in an updated version on the VOH website for £99 upwards. To rescue mine, I mended the dart, took off the piping, and re-dyed the fabric using Dylon machine dye. I then found some vintage buttons in my stash and replaced the old ones. I'm pleased with the result, it's got a few more years of wear left in it again. I'm certainly getting my money's worth!

Above: wearing the dress in 2011 

Now that our birthdays are over I have to stop baking cakes. We haven't managed to eat all of the ones I've baked already, there's a lot of cake in our freezer! It's a good job there's much more manual labour to do in house and garden, we need to keep up the exercise.

No particular plans this week, more of the same domesticity I expect. I probably haven't conveyed here that 90% of my days are either looking after the baby, staring at the baby, showing family the baby via Facetime, or taking photos of the baby - these blog posts are about the remaining 10%!

Stay er, alert? Hmm... Stay home and safe all!


  1. Happy birthday! Your home and garden celebrations sound very enjoyable, even if it was very different from that amazing experience last year. Love the bunting, your new dungarees and the revamped dress. Those buttons are delightful! Can't believe people can be so careless. I had to tell quite a few people off when they kept walking right up to me. And it's usually the ones who are clapping the hardest who are acting irresponsibly. And I won't even mention the crowds in the streets now that the shops have re-opened today. My garden is my safe haven too! xxx

  2. Happy Birthday! I too had a backyard birthday as well, like you two, my and my husband's birthdays are relatively back to back, we just celebrated his last week.


  3. Happy belated birthday. Your Fortieth doesn't seem like a whole year ago, I can't believe how time flies.
    It sounds like you had a wonderful celebration despite lockdown, the cakes look utterly wonderful, I'm very impressed with Chris's baking.
    Another beautifully photographed post.
    The dungarees, your revamped hat and repaired dress are all fabulous, no shlepping around in grey jersey joggers for you, thank goodness! Love the bunting, too.
    It beggars belief how idiotic people are, I dread to think what's going to happen now England have changed their advice to "Stay Alert", at least Wales is sensibly sticking to Stay Home.
    I hadn't heard of anyone contravening the rules on VE Day, although it's hardly surprising. I can understand the national celebrating though, how nice to have a diversion from the dreaded Covid!
    Stay safe & fabulous! xxx

  4. The happiest birthday my dear! One with life, health and family.
    Hopefully next year you can have friends and family in that beautiful garden you are growing.

  5. I'm glad you had such a lovely birthday. I can't get over how idiotic some people are, like you I try not to dwell on it. The red dress looks fabulous, I have to say I do think Vivian of Holloway are over priced for the quality, but maybe that's just me.

  6. Happy Birthday! Despite the circumstances, a backyard tea and cake sounds like a lovely way to spend the day.


Comments from readers make my day!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...