A Tale Of Two Birthdays

I’ve just had a birthday. It was a quiet one, of course – the day spent at home, gifts arriving via post and email, birthday messages virtual for the most part. I was lucky, nonetheless, to hear from so many people, and to have immediate family with whom to spend it. It was very different, though, to how things were a year ago. I had a big number birthday last year, and celebrated via a pub lunch with extended family in a crowded restaurant, then by watching Supergrass at the Alexandra Palace that evening. My parents stayed over for the weekend and, the following evening, we all went to the Royal Albert Hall to watch my daughter dancing in the Schools Spectacular. A wonderful, yet fairly normal weekend… then. Now? Unthinkable.

A lot of people were happy to see the end of 2020, and I understand that. For me, however, the turning of the year was tinged with sadness, as 2020 was the last year of the old days, when things were as they used to be. Our world wasn’t perfect – the fact that pollution decreased so dramatically in the first few months of lockdown was an indication that we really needed to stop moving – but it seemed bright, compared to the narrowness of our current existence.

The first lockdown, coming only a week or so after my big birthday weekend, was a shock to the system. Spring was already making an appearance, the weather turning. April and May were glorious with blossom and sunshine, there were rainbows in every house window, and more bees and butterflies than I remember seeing for years. But it was a frightening time as well, none of us sure what would happen next. I was paralysed creatively for the first few weeks, unable to unlock my writing until I joined a virtual Camp NaNo cabin. Yeast took up residence on the back of my hands thanks to the sourdough I tried to ferment, and I confess I did worry a bit about loo roll. I still remember my first trip to the supermarket a few weeks after lockdown (we’d managed to get deliveries until then). I stepped out of the car and it was like a new world, as though I’d never been outside before; the sky gold and purple, the trees heavy with white blossom, the car park almost empty.

Now we are a year into rolling lockdowns. Over 120,000 people in the UK have lost their lives to Covid, and over 2 million people world-wide. It has been an extraordinary year of grief and loss and scientific discovery, a year that will be written into the history books, and that our grandchildren will ask us about. The UK has been working hard to roll out vaccines, and there is hope that all restrictions will be lifted by the summer.

And, the day after my birthday, I received a text inviting me to book my own vaccination appointment. I’m booked in for next Tuesday, for the first of two doses.

Last year, my birthday was a flash of light, a last gasp of the old world. This year it is the first light of hope, of us moving forward towards a brighter future, of life and love and seeing family and friends once more. That’s a pretty great gift, I think.

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40 thoughts on “A Tale Of Two Birthdays

    • Ah, I’m sorry to hear that, Craig. The UK has messed up quite a few things in their response to Covid but the vaccine rollout has been very efficient. I hope you get your invitation sooner rather than later.

  1. A beautifully written post my friend ❤ what a strange year it has been too. I can understand this nostalgia for times before and the hope for times to come, as spring dawns there I hope that it brings more hope 🙏 💜

    • Thank you so much 🙂 Yes, with Spring comes hope, and I’m looking forward to a summer where we can see family and friends and go places again. There are weddings to celebrate and dances to be danced! Hoping things are good where you are xx

  2. I also celebrated my birthday with a lovely meal in a restaurant last year. A week later we were in total lockdown. Scary times but we managed. This year we can only meet with one other couple on an outdoor patio. Which will be OK, as long as it doesn´t rain. Oh well, at least I am around to celebrate, many aren´t. Happy Birthday my fellow Piscean.

  3. I read somewhere recently that 2020 was the end of the post WWII era. It resonated with me … I suppose from now on for a generation at least we’ll be in the, hopefully, post Covid era.

    • Let’s hope so. And that’s quite something, to think of how far we’ve come since WWII – I suppose 2020 was 81 years since it started, so it does make sense. Let’s hope we continue to learn from it 🙂

  4. Pingback: A Tale of two birthdays – Helen Jones | Stuart France

  5. My birthday was also recent, Helen, and it has been a bumper ride year. I have been working at home for a year now. We are heading for our second lockdown winter now so I don’t expect much change for a while to come. I hope you had a good day despite everything.

  6. Let’s hope the birthday marks a positive turning point, Helen… towards a world we can shape and share again, moulded into a better image than the one we saw in Derbyshire…

  7. A belated happy birthday, Helen. I had one myself not so long ago, and was grateful to be able to spend it writing. Great news about the vaccination. My first one is booked, though not for another 3 weeks. Just glad things are moving forward. With any luck, I shall be able to spend some time with my grandson in the summer. But I’m not counting my chickens yet…

    • Thanks, Graeme – and a belated happy birthday to you, too 🙂 I do feel glad to have had my first dose now, it does feel like the next step towards freedom again. it’s going to be strange, having all those things we took for granted returned to us again. Life will be even more precious than before 🙂 I hope we all get to see our families this summer, and going forward

  8. I love the way you spoke of this, especially when you said “A last gasp of the old world…” I went to a wedding right before that first lockdown. That time felt so surreal, and you were right about how shocking that lockdown was. Even though I was still going to work, I wasn’t immune to how quickly and drastically things changed.

    Happy Belated Birthday dear friend. I’m happy you’re getting the vaccine soon.

    • Thank you so much, dear friend. I am now vaccinated and, after feeling rough for a day, feeling fine! Pleased to be one step closer to experiencing all the wonderful things life holds once more 🙂 I hope you get yours soon as well.

      And yes, it has been a shocking and strange year, that’s for sure. I think we’ll be feeling the reverberations of it for some time to come… xx

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