Posted in Family, Writing

The Only Certainties in Life: Birthdays and Taxes

My mum and my daughter together
My mum gets an 80th birthday hug from my daughter, who’s still wearing her Christmas onesie

Yes, I know the REAL saying is “there are no certainties in life but death and taxes,” but I’m an optimist, and without birthdays there would be no deaths, so take that, Benjamin Franklin!

There’s been an air of finality in  my study this week, because since my last post here I’ve despatched two things that I was glad to see the back of:

  1. January
  2. my tax return

The only redeeming feature of January is my birthday, which leaves the last two weeks of the month with nothing positive about them at all.

Actually, when you get to my age, even a birthday isn’t something to celebrate, other than to rejoice in the fact that you’ve made it through another year without necessitating an obituary – UNLESS of course it is a very special birthday, preferably with a 0 at the end.

Celebrating My Mum’s 80th Birthday

Such was the most recent birthday of my lovely mum, who celebrated her 80th birthday on 31st December. When your birthday falls on the last day of the year, you can’t avoid celebrations even if you want to, as most of the rest of the country will be marking the day in style.

Photo of Oil of Ulay before it was rebranded OlayLike my father who turned 80 in September 2012, my mum is an inspiration to anyone who is frightened of old age. While a lifetime Oil of Olay habit (branded Oil of Ulay when she started using it, before pan-European labels mattered) might account for her flawless, smooth complexion, I don’t think even that old beauty trick can take the credit for her lively mind and spirit, and her willingness to tackle new challenges.

Her special request for her 80th birthday present was her own laptop, so that she could computerise the stories she’s drafted over the years by hand. We bought her a small, feminine netbook in a smart shade of red. 

My mum learnt to type on what my 10-year-old daughter recently referred to as “one of those keyboards that goes ping” – a manual typewriter. The class learned to type to music, carefully chosen to match their target keystroke speed.

selfie of the author and her mum
Me & my mum celebrating her 80th birthday with a selfie

As anyone of the same vintage will know, typing on a  typewriter requires a much stronger fingerstroke than a computer keyboard. It took her a little while to adjust to her netbook’s sensitivity, but she’s taken to the technology enthusiastically.

Not one to shy away from other modern trends, she also joined me in a “selfie” on her special day, and admired her grandchidren’s Christmas onesies.

I wonder what new skills and interests I’ll be acquiring when I’m her age? It’ll be the year 2040 then. Wherever technology takes us, I think I’d better invest in some Oil of Olay before it’s too late…

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English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

9 thoughts on “The Only Certainties in Life: Birthdays and Taxes

  1. Aw, I love this post, Debbie! Happy belated 80th to your mum, and yes, she looks fabulous!! I love that she wanted a laptop, and Laura’s description of a typewriter. This piece really made me smile.

  2. At least, as two Capricorns, you and Mum will understand each other! Lovely to see your three generations together. My father is 84 and does Skype with my sister and me, and has a Blackberry!! He takes his laptop into the care home where Mum is – at almost 88 and with Alzheimer’s, though, she decided she didn’t like that ‘stupid television thing’ after the first go!

    I do know what you mean about birthdays and that URGH feeling! I have one of those ones this year that takes me nearer to the next decade that the previous one – you know, those ones that end in 5… !!!

    1. Hi Terry, how fab is your dad to be Skypeing, brilliant! I think 80 is probably the critical point at which people actually start ADDING years to their age – my dad, after turning 81, announced “I’m in my 82nd year”. I’m happy to stick where I am for as long as possible – not least because my next birthday will tip me into the next age group that you often see when filling in forms. Not looking forward to that!

      1. MY next one is too scary to contemplate!!! Suffice to say I’ve passed that next age group thing! MY parents do that adding a year thing, too – you’re right!

  3. Lovely post, as always, Debbie. You are the image of your mum, so Olay as its now called better be on your Valentine’s list? I’m a Nivea girl, myself. Started dipping my finger into my mum’s huge blue pot of cream (the old greasy type) when I was 12. Now, of course, I have to buy my own (less greasy type).

    Happy belated birthday wishes for January. Sorry I missed it. {Bit busy with
    packing/unpacking house move boxes, I’m afraid} and making endless cups of tea for the steady flow of workmen, here!

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