Monday, December 24, 2012


Today I am thirty two, which is a happy number.  When I said last year was the happiest of my life, I meant it sincerely. And when I say that 2012 has been even better than that, it really has.

So much has happened this year that I'm in danger of sounding like one of those awful smug Round-Robin Christmas Letters (the family recently received one with the line "According to my calendar, I didn't do anything in September - but I expect I was simply too busy to write it down!"). But I am proud of what a full life I have now, and memories of arriving at so many birthdays with a sense of disappointment, shame and the desperate hope that next year would be better, make me want to celebrate the fact that I now enjoy my birthday and only hope that next year will be half as good as this one.

Of course, this year's not been plain sailing; my health is more stable than it used to be, but there have still been several periods when I've been stuck in bed all the time. Stephen's health has been up and down, there's been stress, serious illness and death in the extended family, and earlier in the year we lost a special family friend.  However, today is all about the good stuff.

My thirty-second year in bullet points (but no particular order):
Stephen, a beautiful white man with dark wavy
hair and glasses, behind a birthday cake with
number-shaped candles reading "30".
  • Between us, Stephen, my sister and I organised a surprise party for my Dad's 60th birthday - which remained a surprise until about twenty minutes before the event. This was a massive undertaking, negotiating with my mother, organising food and drink and smuggling a gazebo in the boot of Dad's car under the pretense that the weight was just books and clothes. I also made a great deal of bunting in the early spring, not realising that, with the various events in the summer, I would have been able to buy bunting for a few quid a mile. 
  • Stephen himself turned 30 in May. That was a fantastic day. 
  • Stephen had his graduation in March. We traveled into the centre of London (the first time in seven years for me) and attended the graduation at the Barbican. 
  • We made our first music video, which went viral and became the ukelele precursor to (and possibly the inspiration for) Gangnam Style.

(Click CC button for closed captions.)
  • I entered a painting into the National Portrait Competition. That was exciting. I dragged Stephen and Mike to Shoreditch as a detour on our way to Stephen's graduation and about a month later, Mum went on a railway odyssey to pick it up again.  As expected, nothing came of it - the winner was very well deserved - but it was a very positive and interesting experience. 
  • I didn't do a great deal of painting this year, but I did paint an A1 (about 600x800mm) portrait of Dad for his birthday. It's very tricky to paint on a canvas that size without an easel (I have a suitable easel, but I didn't have it with me). It's also fairly tricking to move such a painting and its frame around without a person you live with noticing. Fortunately, he's not very observant.
  • I made cards and things as I always do, but my favourite artsy things this year was designing a plate for Alex. I bought Sophie a melamine plate with a lion on for Christmas and decided to look for something similar, but a bit more grown-up for Alex. I couldn't find anything I liked even slightly so with Stephen's help, I got a plate made from a design I had drawn on paper and coloured in on the computer.
  • The plate was partly inspired by the fact that this year, one of us got the best diagnoses ever.  Find physical impairment emasculating? Fed up with bodily difference being considered a sign of weakness? Try Viking Disease
  • Stephen's photography was featured in an exhibition at Guildford Cathedral. He exhibited two photographs and somehow managed to sell three.
  • Another week of photos, and I will have completed a Project 365 (or 366 - I did get in a muddle and I do appear to have lost a day somehow).  You can tell the parts of the year when I was unwell, as I have taken one or two hundred momentously boring photos. 
  • We also made an incredibly realistic alpaca puppet. Yes, that is a puppet. No, honestly - if you look really carefully, you can see the strings.
  • The low point of the year was, after having had surgery to remove a tumour on his kidney, Stephen's uncle became very seriously ill. For several weeks, we were almost certain that he was going to die, with one crisis after another - internal bleeding, accumulating gasses and MRSA - until he finally turned a corner. And now, despite the fact he still has what amounts to an open wound on his belly, the uncle is fit as a fiddle and has been recently driving round France. Meanwhile, so much of the tissue of his kidney died that it seems very unlikely that the cancer will come back.  
  • In July, Stephen and I got engaged. We've set a date for next summer and we've talked about it a lot, but to be perfectly honest, that's just about as far as we've got.
Sophie - A pale-skinned baby with dark eyes and a wide mouth
looks up and smiles. 
  • Our niece Sophie was born. We went down to the New Forest to meet her, which was a huge day but a really special one. Sophie visited us in Surrey in November. She is an incredibly smiley baby, and my sister's family seem extremely happy.
  • I didn't expect to be affected by the Jubilee in any way, shape or form. As it was, the Sunday of the Jubilee weekend with Stephen's Monarchist family was a very special day, I wore my tiara, we violently spatchcocked and barbequed a whole chicken and then had hysterics over the BBC coverage of the Jubilee Flotilla (this coverage was later criticised, but it was as if Brass Eye had done it, so it was great). We fell asleep at some point and woke up to see the chamber choir singing in the rain. Now that's what I call pluck
A Union Flag flies amid the greenery.

  • We ended up watching more sport over a two week period than I have in the last twenty years. I really enjoyed the Olympics, although I felt much less positive about the Paralympics.

    • I entered my first novel into a competition to have it read over and assessed by a literary consultancy. It won the free read, and I got such a lovely flattering e-mail about the sample chapters that I printed it off and stuck it to the notice board. I received the report last week and it was really positive - there were weaknesses I knew about, and my reader pretty much spelled out what I needed to do. Enough time has passed that I'm quite looking forward to going back and polishing it up a bit. 
    • Despite so much going on this year, my second novel is progressing at a pace, and it feels really good.  Of course I have massive wobbles in confidence, but other times, I think it is bloody good. I never felt that way about my first novel whilst writing it. I hope this is another sign of increased confidence, and not a tragic delusion.
    • In the last few weeks, my forth wisdom tooth is on the move.  Yes, I'm still teething.

    A very Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and a peaceful, relaxing few days to everyone else. I hope you all have an excellent 2013 - you all deserve it. And thank you, one and all, for your ongoing presence and support.


    Anonymous said...

    Happy happy birthday!

    Matthew Smith said...

    Hope you're enjoying your birthday and that it's as happy and healthy as it can be. Love the song! It rhymes! And makes sense! Unusual for a love ditty. I remember the ZX Spectrum from my childhood - we actually had that very model you showed in that picture. To think people now have phones that are much more powerful than that!

    I actually got a computer for my 32nd birthday. And I asked for it because, you know, 32 is a computerish number. Even though 32-bit was old hat by then, which is why I wanted a 64-bit one.

    The Goldfish said...

    Thank you both. :-)

    I'm glad you liked the song, Matthew. Stephen also had a ZX Spectrum (despite being born in 1982). I wish I could remember the first computer that came into my house, but I'm certain it wasn't very exciting. Mum got it for £5 as the council was throwing it away. I could write my stories on it, but one day, as I was typing with particular vigour, the machine started smoking!

    It is a computerish number, isn't it? I like it. So far, 32 is a great age to be. :-)

    polecat said...

    Thanks for your wonderful blog. I never say anything but I always read. Happy belated birthday.

    The Goldfish said...

    Thank you Polecat - lovely to see you around. :-)