Thursday, 11 December 2014

My Last Day at 28

My oldest daughter is out-blogging me by some distance now but this is particularly moving (for me 
anyway) so I hope you enjoy this. Happy Christmas! 
"When I was one, I was just begun.
When I was two, I was nearly new.
When I was three, I was hardly me.
When I was four, I was not much more.
When I was five, I was just alive.
But now I'm six, I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six now forever and ever."
By A.A Milne, 'Now We Are Six'

As age always seems to go up and never stays still, it was with a little irony that I recalled A.A Milne's poem which 
was at the back of the hardback poetry book about Winnie the Pooh that I had been given for winning the Maths 
Prize in Primary School. (Not so good at maths now.)

Tomorrow I turn 29 and, if you read the earlier blog, you will know that I get nostalgic, melancholic, (even 
tenebrific - what a great word) around my birthdays. A little bit disquieted. Part of this is the fear of growing old 
or wanting to stay young forever. Peter Pan was for a long time my hero, at least before I studied the darker 
meanings behind J.M. Barrie's words at university, the boy who never grew up. 

It is a bit of a nuisance that your birthdays creep up on you so quietly. As Dickens said "Old Time, that greatest 
and longest established spinner of all!...his factory is a secrety place, his work is noiseless, and his hands are 
mutes." What a con artist.

Suddenly you're scratching your head, having no idea of what you have been doing for the past year. Pondering. 

To be realistic, my memory is still remarkably intact and I am young enough still to get away with an immature 
sense of humour. I am still tickled by this old Pashtun song I came across last week - 

"There is a boy across the river with a bottom like a peach,
  But, alas, I cannot swim!"

This blog is starting to sound very melodramatic.

But, 28 years old holds some precious memories - some concrete, others stirring repetitions of daily life - the 
renovations of Alex's new house; seeing the new skylights in the loft, sanding wooden stairs so they brighten 
anew, sloshing acres of white paint over the hated magnolia, black slates on the bathroom floors. Bacon 
sandwiches with Annabel, every week, in cafes around Holborn, Covent Garden, Crouch End or beers in local 
pubs that brew Yorkshire Ale - sitting on sunny steps on an empty afternoon. Parties after the rugby, every 
Saturday, at the Big Brother House that some of the boys rented living in Great Gatsby style. Watching a young 
blind man play the piano in Nottingham, in his own solitude, at the end of a course I ran for students with 
disabilities. Similarly, the captivation in a single moment when a young African man stood up and read a poem 
thanking us for sponsoring another programme in London. 

Sitting with Sophie, in the humidity of Mumbai, at a bar devoid of people with the exception of a group of 
Indians celebrating their drivers' birthday - the driver aforementioned, eating a sandwich in the car and waiting 
for them outside. At home with the family, watching Mrs Doubtfire, after Robin Williams passed away. Walking 
down the aisle as a bridesmaid, behind my beautiful Vicky - behaving immaculately then climbing trees with 
Annabel behind the marquee. The accomplishment of doing a single chin-up unaided, after months of punishing 
gym workouts with my personal trainer and friend, Matt. Skyping my sister in Turkey, to only see her hand pop 
up with a sapphire engagement ring, blinking at when she had become a grown up. Packing up to travel, then 
delayed by a wonderful part in 'Call the Midwife' - a tremulous moment after months of no acting work. Dinner 
with my girlfriends, at Broadway Market, then sitting in a heap on the bed with red wine and overcome with 
laughter. Going on this adventure with Alex, seeing Vietnam - so many memories with this boy to mention. 

A singular lowlight in my life this year, was my mum getting cancer. When I woke up this morning, on this pre-
birthday, it took me a while to lift all good memories out of the box when there is this dull haze of pain 
around six months of seeing my mum so sick and fragile, feeling so helpless. The 25th of June will stand alone 
as a marked shift in my life forever - a thumping sense of how precious my family is. Skyping my mum from 
Thailand last week, she bravely announced "I am now as bald as a coot. Just like Yul Brynner," sharing how she 
had asked my father to shave the rest of her head and how he practised on his own armpits before fulfilling her 
wish. It's a grin with the shaking of a head - right there - as I write this recent memory, but one that requires 
me to blink back tears too. 

Moving past that, it has given me some of the most precious memories of my family this year, because of the 
weight of their meaning. Pain mingles in a cocktail with Joy - the chemathon episode with the hedgehog, the 
Freda wig - "Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match", making Hugh Grant lorgnettes to read over your 
cold cap, performing 'When Harry met Sally' - the infamous episode which I was to reproduce with Channel 4, 
cooing over pictures in the bridal magazines (even though Mum would say even now, "I never coo"), Antonia 
saying no to every single one of them. As the hundreds of well-wishers that Mum is fortunate to call friends 
rally around us, we too as a family have weaved a tighter knot together with Mum standing, sitting or lying 
in the middle. 

So 29, what beckons for me? The great adventure, backpacking around Asia - Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, 
Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Phillippines and New Zealand all waiting for us alongside many others. I will 
be strong as the cancer treatment goes on, so far away. That book, that has been waiting beyond my grasp for 
so many years, I now will write. A film job or two, throwing myself into the rigours of transformation and 
emotional turmoil that is required. Coming home to see my beautiful red-headed sibling walk down the aisle. 
Figuring and facing destiny, or the future, hand in hand, with Alex. Come what may.

As I grow one year older, much more yet to come, I will remind myself of this saying, which I came across 
whilst bemoaning growing old.

"It's important to have a twinkle in your wrinkle" 

A wry grin that makes of me now, as I go on to face a new day.

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