I think that my fortieth birthday was probably the nicest one I’ve ever had.

There’s an awful lot to be said for getting older and knowing just what you like. I didn’t want a party, or a big fuss, or a special present from John. But I did want to celebrate with my friends and family, and I did want to mark the occasion in some way. So in the end, John booked us into the sumptuous Pale Hall for the weekend, and we had such a fantastic time.

We don’t often have much time with just the two of us, and our holidays are self-catered apartments or back-to-basics bothies much of the time. So you can imagine my delight when we pulled up at the entrance to the hotel, handed over our car keys and were shown into the drawing room for a glass of fizz. Just the two of us (thanks, Mum and Dad), and a weekend of the most incredible food and drink and surroundings. We decided to just be decadent and had the six course tasting menu (something we only discovered in our thirties) and wine flight on the first night, and then dined in again on the second night, which was my actual birthday. Everything was done just beautifully, from the games in the library to the decanter and double ended bath in our room, and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more welcoming. I think the moment that summed up the juxtaposition of such luxury with such unstuffiness was when I realised that the harpist was playing Radiohead while we had our canapés on my birthday evening. Really, it was the nicest break we’ve had together since we got engaged, and the best present I could have received.

I saved my actual presents – from other people – for the Sunday night, because Ilse in particular likes to watch me open them. The children put them under the Christmas tree (it was still just up, it being 12th night) and opened a bottle of prosecco and the Christmas cake and had such a lovely last evening of the holidays. I have some great experiences to look forward to, as well as choosing the setting of some precious stones bought somewhere special to our family, back when I was little. There weren’t any Sunday night blues on my part. Besides, I was looking forward to seeing my colleagues again. Before the holidays, they had arranged things so nicely that I am the happy holder of some theatre vouchers which will be put to good use very soon. I am lucky to work with such an fun and thoughtful team.

Turning 40 prompts a lot of nostalgia amongst people who have been there. Some people have told me that they stayed at home and cried their eyes out. Others ignored it. But several had a great time. After all, what’s not to like? I feel (almost) grown up, but not old. I have more freedom than I’ve ever had, in all sorts of ways. I’ve started a new chapter at work this week, as well as carrying on with the things I was already doing. I have a wonderful family and group of friends, and I get to spend a lot of time doing things I love. Life is sweet. And it was so much fun celebrating 40 years of it.


I have to ask – if you’ve turned 40, what was your birthday like?

10 thoughts on “Forty”

  1. Bit late I know but Happy belated birthday. I was given a surprise 40th party, only I guessed but shhh don’t tell my husband, he tried very hard for him, and it was lovely to have family and friends with me to celebrate.

  2. What a lovely birthday weekend. I spent the day of my actual 40th birthday driving a field trip for my daughter’s class. All her classmates sang “Happy Birthday” to me. It was very sweet. My husband marked the occasion with beautiful earrings. I, too, felt that it was a very good time in my life. I’ve tried to be optimistic about all birthdays since then as I don’t want to wish my life away.

    1. That sounds like a good birthday – it can be fun to share them with unexpected groups of people. I’m all for enjoying birthdays – they’re a sign of having been given another year, after all.

  3. I’m going to turn 40 this summer, and I’m actually looking forward to it. There’s been a tremendous amount of churn in my personal life in the past couple of years, and it all feels like growth and expansion in a good way, if sometimes painful. I’m curious to see what my 40s will bring!

  4. Aah a very very happy birthday. As it is your 40th year I India we share a bottle of bubbly at some point during it.
    On my 40th birthday I was quite pregnant and so my plans for a massive party with band playing 50s/60s music didn’t sound that much fun. Those plans have been out on hold… perhaps 50th. We went away to a lovely hotel in the Cotswolds instead!

    1. Sorry about your party – the hotel in the Cotswolds sounds lovely though! I hope you get to have it for your 50th! And yes, we should definitely share a bottle of bubbly sooner rather than later! xx

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