My Brilliant Birthday Week

Good morning! What a week it’s been, busy but fun and for once I don’t have anything to rant about. As you know, it was my birthday on the 17th, so I booked the week off work and my lovely boss arranged my working days at either end of my holiday, so I ended up with eleven days off in total. It was so wonderful going home on Saturday evening knowing that my holiday had started.

On Sunday, you may think I’m daft, but I spent the whole day cleaning the house, tidying the garden, stripping beds, and catching up on laundry. I wanted to catch up on everything so I could relax and enjoy my days off and not be fretting about how untidy my house was. Also, I was having some company over the week, so I needed the house to be presentable – well, the public areas anyway.

Monday was a dull and rainy day, but I didn’t care. I was going out with my old friend Becky Wright whom I hadn’t seen for real in over eighteen months. So, I climbed out of the shower early that morning and wandered into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. The cat was fussing about my legs waiting for her breakfast when we both heard a rustling and scratching coming from the tall cupboard next to my fridge/freezer.

We looked at each other, then the cat ran to the cupboard and started sniffing at the door. Hello, I thought, I think I know what that is, I bet I’ve got another bloody mouse in there! Quietly, I opened the door and started taking things out. Sure enough, at the back on the floor, I saw little black blobs and knew they were mouse droppings. Bugger it. We’ve had the odd mouse in there before. I don’t know where they come from, but there’s a space to get behind the freezer at the back of the cupboard. Now, I’m not scared of mice. Pet mice are sweet, and little mice out in the fields and hedgerows are fine and obviously where they are meant to be. But in my house? Running around my kitchen? Potentially scurrying around areas where I stored and prepare food? Nope. Sorry, little mouse, but your days are numbered.

I still had some old-fashioned mouse traps left from the previous mouse, so cut a piece of cheese as bait and set it at the back of the cupboard. Humane traps are no good because the mouse would just come straight back in, and poison is the worst thing because the mouse might not get enough to kill it quickly and could take ages to die in pain. Plus, there is always the danger it could crawl off under the freezer to die where it would decompose, and stink and I’d be unable to get it out. No, the traditional method was the only way to deal with it in this case.

Of course, the only cheese we have now is the lactose-free stuff and I wasn’t sure the mouse would fancy it, but it was all I had so I set the trap and left to spend the day with Becky. It was strange though; even though the last time we met was December 2019, it was like we’d seen each other only the week before – but that’s how it is with close friends. We drove to a nearby town and had lunch, which was lovely, and swapped birthday presents because her birthday is the day after mine – how strange is that. It was so nice to see her again though, and even though we’ve messaged and even video chatted it’s not the same as sitting opposite someone, coffee in hand, catching up on all their news. She gave me a beautiful hardback edition of Pride and Prejudice as a gift. It’s gorgeous and matches the copy of Persuasion she gave me last year.

Pride and Prejudice

When I got home later that day and let myself in the front door, I had the added surprise of finding a certificate of merit lying on the mat. The judges for Bury in Bloom had been around during the day and even though I didn’t think the pots and hanging basket I’d made were a patch on last year’s display, they must have thought them worthy of a certificate.

I also wondered if I’d caught the mouse and went to have a look. The cheese was gone, but the trap hadn’t been sprung. So, Mr Mouse, you want to play hardball, do you? I cut another piece of cheese and this time made sure it was jammed securely onto the trap.

Tuesday I was out to lunch again, this time with another old friend who is absolutely nothing to do with the author world, so our conversation only very briefly touched on books and what was happening in my writing life. We went to a local restaurant, so we could share a bottle of wine with lunch. The weather had improved from the previous day, so after lunch, we were able to sit in my garden and share a glass, or two, of prosecco and chat about everything. This summer has been a bit of a nonstarter and days warm enough to sit outside have been far and few between. She bought me a lovely scarf in a beautiful shade of teal, and a fun pair of cat socks. Socks are always a good gift for me.

Lovely presents

After she left, I suddenly remembered the mousetrap and went to check it. In the gloom at the back of the cupboard, I could see that the trap was now upside down. Had I been victorious or had Mr Mouse defeated me again? Carefully I picked the trap up and there he was. A tiny brown mouse with a creamy tummy and two bead black eyes, quite quite dead in the trap. I didn’t feel guilty, well, not much. There are a lot of mice in the world, it’s not like I’d killed a white rhino or anything, and I couldn’t leave a mouse running about pooping and weeing everywhere.

Doesn’t catch mice!

Wednesday my parents came over with my presents and I was very relieved that they’d bought me a bottle of my favourite perfume – Burberry Classic. It’s not available to buy in shops anymore and can only be bought online, so I’m constantly afraid it’s going to be discontinued. Once upon a time, there were several perfumes I could wear including CK1 and Happy, but then I got pregnant and suddenly much-loved scents smelled horrible on me or didn’t smell at all. It was so weird, maybe it was the hormones that changed the way my skin reacts to perfume, and it took me a long time to discover that Burberry perfume smells wonderful on me and lasts! A day later I can still smell lingering undertones on my skin. But it must be the classic perfume in the squat bottle with the gold lid in the plain box with the Burberry stripe along the bottom. Over the years, I have been bought variations of the Burberry perfume – Burberry Weekend, Burberry Touch – but they don’t smell of anything on me. It must be Burberry Classic, nothing else will do.

We went out for lunch, and I was surprised by how busy the restaurant was for a Wednesday. We had to queue to get into the restaurant and service was very slow, but then I suppose they are having to clean each table extra thoroughly so it takes just that bit longer.

Thursday, and I was thankful it was a day without any birthday shenanigans. No, the whole day was earmarked for attempting to work on my latest book. I had made a start the week before, but I’ll be honest, I had found it sticky going. The story started well enough, but then I’d floundered a little, so I sat down Thursday morning a bit apprehensive as to how it was going to go. Would the old magic work? Or was I experiencing writer’s block for the first time?

No, it was fine. The magic didn’t let me down and by the time I stopped to make dinner that evening, I’d pounded out over 4500 words and had a clearer idea of where the plot was going, which was a huge relief. Time is ticking on and if I want to make my publishing deadline of the end of November, I need to get this book written.

Friday, I’d arranged to go for coffee and cake with my favourite cousin. She was a bit nervous about going into a crowded coffee shop and asked if we could go somewhere with a garden, but in the centre of town, there aren’t any cafes that have nice gardens. Luckily, the weather was gorgeous – a beautiful sunny morning – so we wandered down to the Abbey Gardens and called into a pretty takeaway cafe to pick up coffee and waffles to take into the gardens to eat.

Our coffees were ready instantly, but they said as it was still so early our waffles wouldn’t be ready for about fifteen minutes if we wouldn’t mind calling back for them – the waffle machine needed to warm up, or something. So, we wandered into the Abbey Gardens and found a table under a big shady tree and sat and drank our coffees and chatted. When it was time to collect the waffles, I offered to go so we wouldn’t lose our table – the gardens were crowded, and I thought the moment we moved we’d probably lose it – and asked if she would like another coffee.

Yeah, I didn’t think that plan through, did I, because the waffles were HOOGE! Seriously massive, in flat cardboard cartons with no lids. I eyed these great mounds of syrup-drenched Belgian waffles with blueberries and cream, each topped with a pretty purple flower, that I was supposed to carry, plus two large cups of coffee. The assistant helpfully gave me an empty carton to put over one waffle so I could balance the other on top, put the coffees into a cardboard cup holder, and gamely I set off back to the gardens.

About halfway there, I realised people were looking at me with amusement and when I looked down at myself, yep, you’ve guessed it, I was wearing half the top waffle. A great dollop of cream had transferred itself to my left boob and the flower was stuck on top! Great. Just great. I had a creamy tit. When I got back to my cousin, she looked me up and down, started to laugh, and claimed the unsullied waffle in the bottom carton for herself. I wiped the cream off – luckily, I was wearing a white top, so it didn’t show much – and ate the rest of the waffle. It was so good. Two thick waffles with syrup and cream and blueberries, and the coffee was excellent. Going to do that again, but this time I’ll make sure I’m not trying to carry everything by myself.

In the afternoon, I had the usual zoom meeting with my local author group and about ten minutes before it was due to start, my mobile rang. It was Rory from my car insurance company. Funnily enough, I had been thinking about this and wondering what the situation was. I’d heard nothing since I’d sent them my four-page witness statement plus all the photographs I had taken of the road to prove that if the Yodel delivery driver had been making a delivery at the time of the accident, then it would have been physically impossible for any other vehicle to get by him to drive into the side of my car. Seriously, my road is narrow anyway, add residents’ cars parked up on both sides, and there was barely room for his van to get through – let alone anything else.

I’d sent all this information to them six weeks previously, but had no response, nor had I received my policy excess of £100 back so I assumed it was still unsettled. Anyway, the lovely Rory was phoning to let me know that at long last the other insurance company had admitted liability! The accident has gone down as not being my fault, and my £100 will be repaid into my account within the next three to four working days. This is such good news! Not just about the money – although it will be greatly appreciated – but that it’s not going down on my record as being my fault. It still seems deeply unfair that an accident can be considered your fault when someone else drives into your car whilst you are in your house!

Driving to pick up Miss F from work I thought about the plans for the next day. My favourite niece and her husband were coming over lunchtime and we had arranged to go uptown and eat in Edmundos. But, due to corona, they weren’t taking bookings. It was a case of turn up and hope they can fit you in. I’d had lunch there Tuesday and again on Wednesday. Tuesday hadn’t been too bad, but Wednesday we only just managed to get in and I knew lunchtime on a Saturday was going to be even worse.

Also, it had been a really hot day and the forecast for Saturday was even hotter. Did we want to be going into a busy, crowded town and squeezing into a jam-packed restaurant? I wasn’t sure I wanted to. No, I’d much rather lay up the table in my cool, shady, and peaceful garden and maybe order a Chinese takeaway? It would certainly be cheaper and, I felt, a lot nicer.

I reached the restaurant, collected Miss F, and as we drove home, she said – I’ve been thinking about tomorrow, do you think it would be nicer to stay home and order a takeaway?

Case of great minds think alike.

Saturday dawned – blazing hot as forecast. Even at 8am as I drank my tea, the temperature was already in the mid-twenties. I was sure my niece and her hubby would be fine with the new plan, so I swept up the garden, cleaned the table, and we put cushions on the chairs and laid the table nicely ready for lunch.

An interesting pile of presents was lying on the floor from Miss F, so I sat and opened them, and the little love had managed to track down an obscure book I wanted. I have recently discovered that my favourite author, Robin Hobb, also writes under the pen name Megan Lindholm, so I wanted to collect her books as well. Some of them are out of print but Miss F had found a second-hand copy of one on eBay. I don’t mind pre-loved books at all, especially if it’s the only way I’m going to get the book. She’d also bought me a tiny radio for the kitchen. I like listening to Radio 2 when I’m cooking dinner and up until now the only way I could was to have the stereo on full blast in the dining room – which is no fun for anyone else in the house.

Pile of sparkly presents!
Tiny radio

She also bought me an ergonomic mouse which is the oddest thing ever – more like a joystick than a mouse – and will take some getting used to but apparently will help stop my hand cramping. Finally, there was a wireless, ergonomic keyboard which really will take me a long time to adjust to. It’s one of the reasons that my blog is a little late this morning because I’m finding it hard to type on and keep making mistakes.

Very odd mouse
New keyboard

Our company arrived at 12:30 and were more than happy to have a takeaway in the garden – especially as it was now unbelievably hot and muggy. We knew the town would be heaving with little social distancing and no one wearing masks outside and none of us fancied that. Chinese was agreed upon and we ordered from a restaurant that’s only a couple of minutes away.

They gave me my presents – more books, yay!

Books!

The rest of the day was great. The meal was delicious. Miss F and I sometimes have a Chinese takeaway, but she is not very adventurous and always has the same thing, so it was great to have more variety to choose from. Also, if you’re the only person eating Chinese then you can only have one meal because it’s too expensive and wasteful to have any more than that.

We played games most of the afternoon, which was fun. This is when my garden comes into its own. It’s quiet and shady and my round table can seat up to ten if necessary. The silver birch and the cherry tree provide shade from the fierce sun so it’s cooler. The weather was glorious though, truly Mr Blue Sky was on his best behaviour for my birthday, and it was warm enough to sit outside until almost midnight.

And now it’s Sunday morning and my laptop is telling me it’s already 22 degrees centigrade and it’s set to be a scorching day. Other than tidying up after yesterday today is earmarked for writing – if I manage to get the hang of my new keyboard! I do need to get some milk from somewhere though, I made my tea this morning and the milk curdled into lumps. Yuck.

It’s been a fabulous week of friends, family, and fun, and I have been blown away by the outpouring of love, best wishes, and birthday messages that I received on Instagram and even on Facebook. I have tried to respond to them all, but there are so many I know I can’t get to everyone so would like to say a big thank you.

The next three days will be quiet ones of reading and writing, then on Wednesday Miss F is taking me out for lunch to a local pub that has allowed us to book so we know we’ll be able to get in, and then Thursday I’ll be back to work, and it will all be over for another year.

I hope wherever you are you have had a great week, and I look forward to chatting again next Sunday.

Julia Blake

2 thoughts on “My Brilliant Birthday Week

  1. Such a lovely birthday week. I am so happy for you. The outings worked out well and the take away of Chinese food in your garden sounds perfect. And the best part, you got to see good friends and family that you haven’t seen in a long time. I love the story about the waffle. So delightful! It is like a scene from a sitcom. Poor little mouse, but it couldn’t be helped. All your gifts sound wonderful. Ms F always thinks of the most thoughtful things. It was a pleasure to hear about your birthday week.

    Liked by 1 person

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