I'm loving the smell of wild freesias growing alongside the roads where I live. They bring me back to being a teenager and walking down Henry street and Moore street where the women of inner city Dublin would shout out their wares from displays precariously balanced on milk crates and old fashioned baby prams with big wheels. "Bananas 5 fer a powund" "Come an get yer apples" "Wrappin paper 5 fer 50" Your ears would be assaulted by each woman calling louder than the next.
Then there were the flower stalls where you could buy simple small bunches of flowers for a few pounds. Tulips, Carnations, Iris's and Freesias. My Mum loved the yellow ones. The small yellow freesias with a heady perfume. I sometimes bought her some, just because.
It's not so easy when you live across the seas. I could go on Interflora, get out my credit card and order a fancy bouquet of roses, liliies, have them delivered to her door. I'm sure she wouldn't complain but they wouldn't be the same. They would never beat the small bunch of stems wrapped in cellophane and with a bit of patterned paper scrunched around them, damp and dripping down my jeans all the way home on the bus.
Last week in a fit of sentimentality I went detouring on my way to drop the kids to tennis. Down a small side road where I had seen some fresh blooms in the steep banks lining the road. I jumped out of the car, engine running and grabbed a couple of stems before jumping back in. The sun was dipping in the sky and the last few rays were about to go below the horizon. I knew it would be dusk as we arrived at tennis. The light would be fading and I realised I wouldn't be able to get a good photo of the flowers to send Mum. I pulled the car in again . Jumped out with freesias in one hand and mobile in the other. I held the flowers high into the last ray of sunshine and took a photo on my phone as cars whizzed past. The kids were dying of mortification in the car. "Mum, What are you DOING?" "Everyone will see"
But it was worth it. The photo was bright and vibrant and I got to email it my mum that night with a message telling her to pretend they were from Henry Street. It didn't cost a fortune. She can look at them again in coming days and they won't wilt and fade. I get the sweet smell of them every time I walk past the little vase in the kitchen and they bring me home. Back to the streets of Dublin...
"...Get your Freesias, any colour now, only a fiver love"
Today was truly a wonderful day. It was exactly what I had wanted for my 40th Birthday. Cards and presents in bed, hilarious video messages from my Mum and sister in Ireland that were being played and replayed long after they were gone to sleep. Messages from friends far and wide and some unexpected photos taken on my birthday nearly 20 years ago by my american cousin Andrea that made the kids laugh and laugh at the youthful appearance of their mum, Granny, Grandad Joe, Uncle Joe and Auntie Carrie! I'd like to think we haven't changed that much but by the howling laughter I'm not sure.
There was an amazing tropical spread of fresh fruits and warm pastries for breakfast prepared by Byron and the kids followed by numerous cups of tea and some vegging while the girls finished some homework assignments. This afternoon we drove into Newcastle and walked along the beach at Nobby's head and Merewether. I handed the camera over to the girls and had fun being on the other side of the lense for a change.
I went to bed tired but oh, so happy! Is it all downhill from here I asked myself ...?
As today marks my 40th Birthday I thought I would make a list of 40 things that make me, well, me!
1: I love the colour red
2: I watch forensic shows on tv as I iron
3: I have no self control around chocolate
4: I graduated as a nurse 20 years ago
5: I was born in Dublin
6: Byron was my first boyfriend with a job and short hair
7: My parents nearly wept with gratitude when I introduced him to them
8: I made my own guitar from scratch in the Guitar workshop of Strato Anagnostis
9: I cannot play the guitar
10: Although I plan to learn someday when I have spare time (!)
11: I love making my own cards for friends birthdays
12: I rarely manage to post them in time
13: My hair has been various shades of red since I was 15
14: I have been proposed to more times than I care to share
15: Every time but one it was by little old men in the hospital
16: I have bungee jumped once over land
17: And once over water
18: I will never bungee jump again
19: I was painfully shy growing up
20: I have painstakingly built my own Harley Davidson Low Rider from scratch
21: It was a small plastic kit but that didn't stop me using it as a chat up line when I was 19
22: I loved Heavy Metal music as a teenager
23: Some of the best concerts I have been to were Nirvana, Guns'N'Roses and Red Hot Chilli Peppers
24: I think it's really lucky Byron
rescued met me when I was 20
25: I have had my hair cut short since I was 13
26: I once wondered if I'd look sexy and alluring if I had flowing locks of blond hair
27: I borrowed my sisters fancy long hairpiece and positioned it on my hairline on my forehead
28: I looked more like a nerdy librarian
29: I never follow a recipe exactly but I honestly didn't realise it until my sister-in-law pointed it out 3yrs ago
30: I have had a first edition of a novel dedicated to me
31: I often start things, make a terrible mess and walk away without cleaning up
32: Inside my wedding band is engraved "Cariad O Hyd" Welsh for "Love Always"
33: I learned a lifelong love of finding out how to fix things from my Dad
34: My name is engraved on the Welcome Wall in Sydney harbour next to Byrons
35: I am a Leo
36: I cannot really Irish Dance but all my non-Irish friends think I am related to Michael Flatley
37: My maiden name is Sheeran and my kids delight in the knowledge that Ed Sheeran is my second cousin.
38: I met Byron when I was 20 so today he can say he's known me for half my life!
39: When I was eight my Granny offered me £100 if I would become a nun (I seriously considered it)
40: I love life and plan on squeezing in a lot more living over the coming decade!
For those who know me well in real life, have I surprised you at all?
For anyone with a question left unanswered feel free to ask in the comments section....
This is my last week in my 30's. On Sunday I will leave this decade behind and start a new one. This doesn't bother me too much. It really is just a number. However when I was asked if I wanted a party I said no. Where to have it? Who to invite? How to feed everyone? What drinks to get in? I just didn't want the fuss.
There is a great group of us mums that have a monthly cheap and cheerful girls night out at the local yacht club. The invites go out to maybe 10 or 12 old faithfuls but on an average month there are about 8 of us who can make it. This months night out was already set in the calendar for Tuesday. The girl who sends out the reminders suggested we dress up a bit because it was so near my birthday. I am not a big drinker and often volunteer to be the driver but this time my friend Francesca insisted she drive so I could have a glass of wine. The last few weeks have been so busy. I have been working twice my normal hours covering for a colleague on holidays. When my friend Monica said "See you Tuesday" I had no idea what she was on about. She reminded me about the dinner and I said of course I would be there and then promptly forgot again.
Fast forward to yesterday. I got home from 9 hours of driving around Newcastle hospitals doing pre-admission assessments. My head was like jelly. I jumped in and out of the shower and slapped a tiny bit of make-up on while cooking dinner for the rest of the family who were all at after school activities and work. Byron's car pulled up the driveway minutes before my lift arrived. We really were ships passing in the night. A quick kiss goodbye-dinner's-on-the-table-don't-forget-to-check-Gareth's-homework and I ran down the drive into Francescas car. We nattered as she drove and I felt the tiredness lift and I looked forward to catching up with the others.
When we got to the restaurant we were the last to sit down at the table. The usual girls were there and they were all dressed up and had got me a helium balloon with "40" on it. I was chuffed. The waitress settled us all down and passed out the menus and left us to choose our food. Then the lights dimmed, the restaurant went dark then went bright again. We all looked around wondering what was up and then someone walked out of the kitchen.... Anne, my brothers Australian Mother-in-law who is a dear friend and a great person for me to lean on when I am so far from my own family. I was really chuffed that my friends had obviously thought to invite her. But then behind her walked Simi, my lovely friend from India who also has no family nearby so we both kind of adopted each other. Then Tracey from work, Then Julie from Kindy group, then Bev from Church and Kathy from book club. They just kept coming, this amazing mixture of women I have had the good fortune to meet over the eight years I have lived here in Australia. My heart was pounding and my eyes filled up as I started to realise I had been tricked. This was no quiet girls night out. This was a celebration!
I was so emotional and overawed that my friends had arranged this for me. Everyone kept saying "It was Monica, she sent the emails!" It turns out she not only sent emails but went through my facebook friends, rang my workplace and accosted women in shopping centers that she otherwise had no contact details for. She opened up the night to absolutely anyone and told everyone to just spread the word. Even Angela our local travel agent who had booked the cruise for us came along!
It was an amazing night. I am still trying to recall the details through a general fog of euphoria and emotion. My friend Jo made a speech. It was so funny, I have her notes that she scribbled on a napkin when she was asked to talk. Jo is so practical and down to earth. One of the funniest things she talked about was when Monica went to collect the cake. She had asked for "Happy 40th Birthday Gina" to be iced on it but when she collected it it said "Dina" She rang Jo flapping and asking what she should do and Jo's response was "Oh for heavens sake, it's close enough" Luckily Monica was patient enough to wait for the lady to remove the D and re-ice a G instead! For the rest of the evening I was called Dina and I think that nickname will stick for a while to come!
I was asked to give a speech and I can hardly remember a word of what I said except for one sentence. To quote the wonderful Monica yet again "We all have different hair"
This was something Monica said one day when a group of us were together and she was taking in how different and individual we were compared to another group of women sitting at a nearby table who all looked identical with their perfectly straight and glossy long brown hair. We tease Monica over that comment but yet it is so true. As I looked around the restaurant I saw a big group of women, wonderful and individual, different ages, different backgrounds, different hair. I'm so proud to be a part of this group. And so unbelievably lucky to call them my friends.
It was Byron's birthday today. Being mid-week it was a busy day with me off to work at 7 and Byron dropping all three kids to their schools before going on to work himself. Knowing that we decided to celebrate his birthday on Sunday evening with a walk along Merewether beach and a pizza at Merewether surfhouse.
It was a magical evening. Not as cold as recent winter days. The sky was clear and the sun set as we sat looking out from the long cafe window. I asked Rhiannon to take a nice photo of Byron and myself using my camera. She did but Gareth and Sian decided to get in on the action by photo bombing Every.Single.One.
A mother sitting eating with her husband and kids was watching and came over and offered to take a family photo for us. It was lovely to get all 5 of us into one photo, and in such a beautiful setting with the light so soft and golden.
Happy Birthday Mr B. You bring colour to our lives, and humour, lots of humour. I'm pretty sure that's where the kids have got their personalities from. Don't ever change!
I've had a few attempts at growing a veggie garden. So far the chickens have "helped" me to thin out my seedlings and aerate my herb gardens by flying over every type of fence I have placed between them and the veggie patch. The few carrots that did thrive were very oddly shaped altogether and made for much titillation (due to their similarity to a certain male body part) but not much eating. The beautiful big leafy beetroot plants looked amazing but yielded only a handful of marble sized beets. Enough as a side portion for one but not quite enough to sustain a family of five through the winter.
Anyway, I decided to try again now that the weather is warming up. The fence became double height and still the bloomin' chickens got over. I am now at two and a half panels and seem to be winning (crossed fingers)...