*WARNING! This post may contain images that some may find offensive. If you are easily offended, please turn back now!*
Yes, it finally arrived.
I’ve been mentioning this birthday with apprehension and dread for a while. Even on the evening before I was still sure there was something I could do to prevent it, but no. So I finally had to admit defeat and turned 30 on Sunday.
Luckily, I’ve managed to surround myself with lovely people, who made it a lot less depressing. On Saturday afternoon I’d even managed to get up to the level of excited.
Last week was a busy one for us. We hosted BBC Cardiff Singer of the World as we normally do every two years. In fairness, I don’t have it as bad as some of my colleagues, who will no doubt be having early nights for the next fortnight to recover. But it’s a wonderful competition and actually quite a fun week to work. It’s lovely to see the whole building being in use the way it ought to be. And I mean the whole building. Even our photocopying room was turned into a makeshift editing studio. Old faces returning, wires running through holes in the wall you didn’t even know existed and a constant sound of opera scales everywhere you go. It’s like the building pulled its socks up and thought ‘This is what I was built for!’ and got on with the job. Marvelous.
Birthday celebrations started on Saturday morning as we prepared for what was by comparison was a peaceful day. They let the singers have a rest on Saturdays.. Well, I’m, sure lots of rehearsing happens, but no public performances to gear up to. This means lots of quiet for us. Well, relative quiet. We kicked off with cakes I’d bought on the way in for the team. (Please don’t think me generous. This is the rule of the building. On your birthday you must bring cake. And lots of it.) I picked the apple turnover if anyone is interested? Yum. We then settled in for a relaxing afternoon with a lively twist..
NAKED BIKE RIDE DAY!
Ahem.. excuse me. Prepare yourself for pictures..
I LOVE naked bike ride day. I realise that there are disapprovers out there but I’m firmly in the other camp. I didn’t even realise it was a thing until I started working here and got an amusing shock. It’s done to raise awareness about, well, being aware of cyclists. And you can’t miss them. They come tearing down the streets with hooters and streamers (pun intended) making a racket. It seems like such a fun thing to do. Exhilarating and freeing for the riders too I bet. I’d like to say that one day I’d join in, but I don’t own a bike so that gets me out of that one.. Let me just wipe off my brow.
Anyway I never remember when it is, but I always get disappointed if I’m not working on the day. It truly is one of the best things about working in Cardiff. To have it happen on my birthday weekend, my 30th birthday weekend even, seemed like a bit of a gift. It also got me into the party spirit, which was good, seen as we were expecting guests later on.
One of the best things about having a birthday in June is having the good weather. And goodness it was spectacular. It was just before it got too hot like it has been today, but still lovely and sunny and warm until very late in the evening. With this in mind, we carried out our usual tradition of throwing a birthday BBQ. It works for everyone. Himself likes to BBQ, I like to eat his BBQ food, and everyone else helps us eat what we can’t finish, which is nice of them.
I’ll get on to presents in a bit, but I always say that all I ever want on my birthday is to see everyone. That and a day off obviously. I wasn’t disappointed this year and got to see some wonderful friends. It really did take away the birthday blues. Anyway, 8 of us in all, which was a pleasant number. While we have a bigish garden, it’s still looks like a building site. Add to that that the grass exploded while we were on holiday and it makes for a very messy area with a small patio to accommodate everyone. Himself worked tirelessly (or so he tells me) to get everything sorted in the day and did a wonderful job. But he is only one man. We’ve had years where food has been delayed until very late because we were more concerned with having a sensible looking garden. We now understand that the food is the important bit.
It was a bit of a meat lovers feast really, so I felt bad for the one vegetarian. (Yes he was catered for!) We had all the burger varieties obviously, beef, lamb, veggie and bacon and cheese which was interesting and of course sausages. We also went through huge quantities of plastic cheese. Plastic cheese you ask? The stuff that comes in individually wrapped slices? You know what I mean. We call it plastic cheese, so much so that when I do my food shopping I get annoyed that Tesco doesn’t understand what I mean. Himself also does wonderful chicken and The Gwr brought halloumi which went down a storm.
She also brought delicious cakes. In fairness it is against all the rules of our relationship for her not to have baked something for my birthday. She’s come up with some corkers in previous years. It could be a blog post all by itself. This year I was treated to lemon cupcakes with a very lemony curd on top. Lemon is my favourite. You can’t get too lemony in my opinion.
But it went very well all in all. Huge kudos for Himself RE: the food. Everyone fed, everyone watered, everyone happy. With the food done and the darkness setting in, it was time to light the fire.
This always gives me a slight groan. I think the all men are naturally pyromaniacs, but Himself is probably slightly ahead of the curve. We have a mid size chimney and we still get flames that dwarf it. More and more wood is added at regular intervals so that it actually means that people are warmer than they were in the day. He always seems to mistime it too and put another log on just before people depart, meaning we usually are left to ourselves sitting outside watching the fire die. While this always frustrates me at the beginning, I’ve come to look forward to it now. It’s nice to be just us again and reflect on the day. More importantly we had adventures to plan.
Then it was time for presents! Apparently I was like a kid at Christmas. At least I can still behave like a child eh?
Here is a list of some of my favourite presents. It is by no means a comprehensive list, just a quick outline of some of the best. Here we go:
- New sunglasses from Himself – Well, from the kittens apparently. They are polarising ones,which I didn’t even know existed before Himself. I was wandering around for a long time wondering at the new old world in front of me. ‘They’re better than my actual eyes!’
- New crochet bag also from Himself – One of the ones where it has lots of holes poking out of the top. Perfect for my new c2c adventures and works pretty nicely with the temperature blanket.
- Wrist ruler from The ATRs – She’s a fiend that Mrs ATR. She apparently bought this right in front of me in Wonderwool when I’d gushed over it. Such a clever idea.
- Marrying Mr Darcy game from The Gwr – Yes, this is a Austen card game. I told you she was good. This has already been played with The ATR team and while it starts quite confusing, it is brilliantly clever. Funny too. You’ll understand what I mean when you see this card..
- A mountain of sock yarn from The Parents – Enough for 14 pairs to be exact. I won’t blow my load all in this post, you’ll have to keep coming back to see the prettiness.
- A proper tapestry stand also from The Parents – Finally! SAL ladies and gent will know how long I’ve been meaning to get a proper stand sorted for Big G. Well now I have one. No more struggling to hold my frame while stitching. Hopefully this should speed up the process. It’s a tad small for the frame I have now, so I’m expecting a smaller one in the post tomorrow. This is no bad thing. When I started Big G I bought the biggest one I could find, but now I’m focusing on specific areas, I don’t need the space. Having a less unwieldy frame is a greater priority than size. More to come on this in the SAL update on Sunday!
I feel very spoilt. But even more spoilt as everyone had obviously gone to a lot of effort to think of things that I’d really like. And as I keep telling Himself, it’s not about the money spent, but the effort put in.
Time for our adventure! More new traditions. Last year we visited Dyffryn Gardens and had a lovely day meandering about the place. This year we decided to try Tradegar Park. It’s always the way, but we live so close, but I’ve never been. Tut. And after researching I found that they had a little patchwork fabric shop there. You can imagine my excitement. Unfortunately my researching obviously wasn’t as good as it could have been. If it had,Ii would have seen that it was closed on Sundays. Sigh. No matter. Next time.
Morning potterings meant that we got there at lunch time, so food was the first priority. We ventured in and both selected cheese and leek quiche. How very Welsh of us. We made the right choice. It was chunky, generously filled but most importantly delicious. Especially with a warm roll on the side. Birthdays are all about good food right? I do feel for the poor ladies working in the ridiculous heat though. I’m not sure how kitchen workers stand it. I felt a couple of degrees warmer just looking at them.
The need for sustenance disrupted the route slightly and I feel that we might have done the trip a bit backwards. We did the shop next, then on to the gardens! From my exclamation mark you’ll no doubt understand that these were pretty beautiful. Not necessarily huge, but nicely adequate. They ranged from contained wilderness as you walked through the front gates..
.. to orchards further on..
.. to wonderfully kept lawns and clean lines around the house.
We saw tall foxgloves
And this stuff.
Which was everywhere and smelt amazing.
From my substandard research I had managed to ascertain that the house would be completely covered in scaffolding as they repaired the roof, but there was still enough brick on show to give you a feel of the place.
This was just the stables! Imagine what the main house is like.
We roamed through the house,
looking at the artwork,
taking in the history and taking silly pictures.
They had lots of interactive areas, which I like. My favourite was the games table where, amongst others, they had a game of Fox and Geese. Mrs ATR and I played this at Hampton Court a couple of years ago, but I’d completely forgotten about it. (She wiped the floor with me by the way) Someone please remind me to look for my own set for home. If anyone lives in the Hampton Court area, go in and give it a go.
My favourite room was by the Housekeeper’s room by a huge margin. I walked in and came face to face with this.
This was not interactive. I had to really stop myself from sitting down and doing a bit of stitching. You could smell the room before you got to it I have to add. The lovely volunteer was making lavender bags to be used around the house. Not a bad thing to spend the afternoon doing. She very kindly told us about the linens and candles and of course the lavender bags. She then sat us down to look through a little filing box. They were collating information about people who used to work there and invited everyone to either find out more or contribute. Having a surname that’s not widely used, I didn’t think I’d have much luck, but I found one right at the front! And not just one, but three! I was overjoyed. Of course I knew nothing about them, couldn’t even say if they were part of the same family and could contribute nothing. But still. It was pretty neat.
House complete we drifted outside and to the park. Another favourite birthday part time is finding a nice patch of grass and sitting on it. So we did.
Simple things eh?
We found a shady bit and lolled about just enjoying being able to be in such a beautiful place. The park is free to enter and was full of families having a day out. It’s great that most of these houses have beautiful open park land, and that it’s so accessible. Space to run around is important. We were no different and threw a ball about for a bit until we realised that time was getting on and we needed to head back. Sad to go, but enjoyable adventure very much achieved.
Every six years or so, I’m lucky enough to have my birthday fall on a Sunday. This means that we get a special day double whammy. I would always spent time with The Father on Fathers Day, but it just feels that extra bit special on my birthday. We both get to be pampered. We’d decided on a takeaway for specialness, ease and as little effort as possible in the heat. It was a lovely end to a lovely weekend.
So yes, I’d give that one a thumbs up. Five gold stars. Top notch. Huge thank yous to all those who wished me well, bought presents, cake or showed up and generally made the effort. You are the important ones. I won’t forget it.
Much love xx