Whoever tells you their birthday means nothing to them is lying. Even if you’ve no plans to party, I defy you not to feel a frisson of excitement as the clock ticks round past midnight and your birthday officially begins.
There’s something thrilling about spotting evidence of your special day. Wherever the date appears in public – on the masthead of a newspaper, on the start-up screen of a computer, on a notice about roadworks – it seems as if the world is celebrating your birth.
18th January: this day belongs to me. Although I despise the ostentatious show of wealth, I will forever regret not snapping up something I spotted for sale a few years ago: the personalised car licence plate DEB181 – a double celebration of myself.
This year, the first place I see my special date is on my mobile phone. I keep it by my bed to wake me up each morning with a gentle tune. Beneath the date appears a message to remind me (as if I could forget): “My birthday”. I instantly feel a sense of history, as my mother must also feel when she sees this date written down. On this day, so many years ago, my arrival changed her world for ever- and mine began. (For my part, 23rd May will forever be one of the sweetest sounding dates in the calendar: it’s the day my only child was born.)
By contrast, seeing 19th January pop up on my phone the next morning is a gloomy reminder that normal service has now been resumed. All that lies ahead is dreary, indebted January and foggy, freezing February. It’s a very long haul until Christmas and my next birthday.
I’ve always felt hard done by that my birthday comes so soon after Christmas. It would have been even closer if I’d been born on my due date, instead of two weeks late. I knew my own mind even then. As a child I envied my brother for having the perfect birthday: 21st June, the summer solstice, half way between two Christmases.
Even so, a birthday is a birthday. Better seize the day. Happy birthday, dear me!