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Big Birthdays

Author: Lisa Soeno

Isn’t it funny, how our perceptions of birthdays change as we get older?

When I was wee, I would be so excited in the run-up to September, my birthday month. (Lyra’s the same now and is counting down the days until March). As a teen I couldn’t wait to turn 16 (sweet sixteen), 17 (and be able to legally drive, which was just silly because I couldn’t afford a car), and 18 (no more getting turned away from pubs!). Talk about wishing my life away!

Similarly, I really looked forward to my 21st birthday. My friend Lucy and I were working in Cornwall at the time, during the university summer break. I can’t remember how I spent the actual day but I’m pretty sure the night ended on the sticky, smoky dance floor of the Newquay Walkabout, and I do remember a beautiful silver bracelet Lucy gave me, which probably cost her a couple of days’ wages from the tearoom she worked at.

However, fast forward nine years and my feelings on the run up to my next big birthday were dramatically different. I dreaded turning thirty. I think this was probably due to the ridiculous goal that I had set myself of being married by the time my thirtieth rolled around. And because Rich and I weren’t married, or even engaged, I couldn’t help feeling like a bit of a failure.

(I know it was a ridiculous goal because after all, your birthday is just another day, and age ain’t nothing but a number, and all that. Rich and I still aren’t married now and I am sure we are none the unhappier for it. Although I will be miffed if we’re still not wed by the time I’m forty.)

Even though I had failed to meet The Ridiculous Goal by the time I turned 30, I still managed to have a brilliant boozy time celebrating with my nearest and dearest.

Which brings me on to what was supposed to be the main subject of this post, my auntie’s 70th birthday. She’s faced a lot of sadness in her life so her son – my cousin – decided it was high time she was spoilt rotten. She’s an art lover, and had never visited Paris. So for the weekend following her birthday in early December he arranged a surprise trip for her. His itinerary was so well thought out that I’ve included it below. If you’re planning on surprising someone who has a big upcoming birthday in 2018 maybe it’ll give you a bit of inspiration.

Friday – Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris, champagne lunch no less. Check into an appartement in the 1ere arrondissement. Evening meal on the bank of the Seine.

Saturday – A day in the Musée d’Orsay, then dinner on the Eiffel Tower. (This is where we came in: Rich, my brother and I met them at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower. My auntie had no idea we were going to be there so her face was a picture!).

Sunday – The morning in the Musée de l’Orangerie which holds Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ paintings. Then to Montmartre in the evening to see the Sacré-Cœur lit up and the Eiffel Tower light show. A walk through Place du Tertre and to Renoir’s studio to see where all the Impressionists lived, met, drank and worked.

My auntie declared it the best birthday ever. Which is pretty good going considering she’s had seventy.

Have you or any of your loved ones got big birthdays coming up in 2018? I’d love to hear about your plans.

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Author: Lisa Soeno
Lisa is obsessed with all things interior design. And Cadbury buttons.
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47 thoughts on “Big Birthdays

  1. Wow what a birthday!

    My Dad was 77 in December and although it wasn’t a special birthday my sister and I decided to get him a hot air balloon ride with champagne of course! It’s something he has always wanted to do but would never have arranged it himself. We are going to do it will be lovely to spend time together just us.

    My 40th (gulp) is in March and I’m desperate for ideas so please RML community any ideas??


  2. That’s so lovely! I’ll be sending Lee the link as a subtle CLANG.

    I’m also 40 very soon (in April, so you’re up first Stacy!) 😭😭 I know that at some point I’ll be able to embrace it and own it, but I’m kind of still in denial.

    Rather than go away specifically for my birthday, I’ve decided I want to use it as a chance to be close to family and friends as we all seem to drift about nowadays and get bogged down with work, kids etc so Lee is throwing a drinks party for them as much as me!

    We have our favourite bar booked, rooftop cocktails, canapés and treats with a few friends playing the best tracks of the last 40 years.

    Of course I’m fully planning on marketing every occasion throughout 2018 as ‘for my 40th’ – every spa day, minibreak, holiday or gathering will have a birthday angle shoehorned into it. Besides… 40 is the new 21 right?

  3. Not a ‘big’ birthday at all but I turn 35 this year and I think I’m more bothered about that then the thought of turning 40 or 50. It just seems at 35 I’m moving over to the real world of adulthood or something. Hopefully I’ll have a better one than I did last year, which was really rubbish for various reasons!

    1. I turned 35 last year and it really wasn’t that bad, if that makes any difference Claire! (And I still don’t feel like an adult…)

      Hope you have a better one this year x

  4. I’ve just celebrated my 40th birthday and it was hard. Having a Christmas birthday (Dec 23rd) has always meant that guests are scarce and cancellations are many and this year was no different. I had planned a G&T – Gin and Tapas night and I had an amazing time with my friends but as with any party it was tainted by having to play hostess and trying to find time to speak with everyone, which I epically failed at.
    What made turning 40 really hard however is the fact that my two best friends were unable to attend. After almost 35 years of friendship we have all turned 40 but with me living in Scotland, one in London and one in Sydney we’ve not managed any time all together this year and it’s the first time we’ve not been together for our milestone birthdays.
    Hopefully we will manage a girly (40 years old can I still call it girly?) holiday together later this year, and it will be awesome!

    1. This really resonates with me Leona because one of my best mates lives in Singapore.

      You need to get the holiday planned so you can properly celebrate your 40th altogether! And I will still be calling girly holidays ‘girly holidays’ when I’m 70. x

  5. I just turned 30 (so technically within the last year ;)) and I wasnt half terrified of it! Though, I look back at my 20’s as one hell of 10 years. I travelled (getting back and forth to Australia 3 times in that 10 years), got a degree and worked my way through to find my current job that I’m so happy in, met my now husband, got married, bought a house and got pregnant. So many firsts within that 10 years that I’m so proud of all of it and finding out who I am. I look to my 30’s as working out who I am with my family – still getting lots of firsts, but with my child at the forefront of that. So whilst I was terrified of leaving an exciting 20’s where I couldn’t have said at the turn of it where I’d be, I was so excited to enter my 30’s and keep learning!! I even managed to celebrate with an 80’s inspired joint party with my best friend who I did the same thing with for our 18th – even if I was sober this time!

    1. This gave me goosebumps Jenny – what an amazing decade. Sounds like the next one will be pretty amazing too but for very different reasons 🙂

  6. I actually loved turning 30, I think I was in the minority though! It always felt a bit like my “spirit age” and in my late 20s I felt like a bit of a sham as I was so over going out, drinking etc – all those “young” things (ha!). I feel very at peace in my thirties!!

    No idea what I’ll feel about turning 40 however but I’ve got a while before that!

  7. This is my ‘year of the 40ths’, kicking off Janaury with 2 (trip to London for one and a party for the other – my poor blank balance, liver and neglected children ;)!) and the last one is Feburary 2019, phew! I’ve just booked 3 nights in Hvar, Croatia with my husband for mine in August and cannot WAIT! I think ‘ll also have a meal out and drinks with a few close friends a couple of days before.
    6 of my school friends and I have been saving up for 5 years and are going to have a girls holiday some time this year although its not booked yet. Any suggestions of location very welcome! Has to be short haul, not a city break, sunny…..sounds easy right?!?

    1. Nicola – Croatia and a meal with close friends sounds like my ideal way to celebrate a birthday.

      And I would love to pick your brains about your girls holiday as I’ve been discussing this with a couple of my friends…How do the technicalities of it all work? Have you all paid into a joint bank account every month?

      With suggestions of locations, when are you thinking of going? My initial reaction would be to suggest Dubai (7 hour so not really short haul but surely something to please everyone when you get there) but it can get super hot if you go during their summer. I went there this time last year and although we took Lyra I’d happily go back on a girly holiday/couples holiday:

      1. Yes we have all paid into a joint bank account which 2 of us are named owners of. I keep a spreadsheet of the cash. We do £25 a month so you don’t even notice it going out. Dubai would be lovely but some of the girls have young babies and are not at the stage yet of being comfortable going too far.,…..booooo!
        Another of my friends has had a rolling bank account with her friends for years and years. They do £50 a month but take money out for hen dos, nights away…..anything really. Harder to keep track of the balance though!

  8. I’ve never really been that bothered by birthdays. Both from the perspective of not caring about getting older nor about actually doing big celebrations. I don’t think I even did anything at all this year.

    My 30th was a meal at the local pub and I’m pretty sure my 40th will be similar. I liked turning 17 so I could drive and I had a big party for my 18th but that was only because I had joint one with friends as don’t think I would have bothered if they hadn’t been organising it. My actual 18th birthday wasn’t so great as got banned from drinking for a year by my doctor due to serious liver problems (not drink related I might add!!!!) so despite being able to legally drink I was the designated driver and still am most of the time!

    I do remember doing a surprise party for my mums 50th which was lots of fun. Only at home but my sister and I sneaked back from uni to get everything ready and it was lovely to have so many friends and family together.

    My step dad is brilliant at surprises and for mums 60th he whisked her off to Venice on her actual birthday. Not that she appreciated it. She thought we were all going for a family lunch and was most disappointed. I obviously get my underwhelming birthday ethos from her!!

    On the plus side I always have cake on birthdays 🙂


    1. Lottie I bet everyone really appreciated you being the designated driver!

      What a lovely thing to do for your mum x

  9. I turn 30 next week. It feels odd to be officially getting to that age, but I’m not particularly bothered by the number, more that I seem have to rapidly started ageing. I did everything the wrong way around, so I’m now married, have completed my family and we’re mortgage free. My 30s are going to be about beginning a career. Kind of feels like life is properly starting now. I have spent all of my adult life as a stay at home mom, so I am excited and terrified about going out into the world as myself.

    As far as celebrations go, I don’t really want to do anything. I’d rather spend the money on useful things. I’m having new Windows fitted 😄 My eldest is having a very hard time at the moment and thoughts of celebration are at the back of my mind. I also share my birthday with my mother in law, who died two years ago. She would have been turning 60, so my birthdays are tinged with sadness.

    1. Good on you Jade (especially on becoming mortgage free before 30!).

      Sorry to hear your eldest is having a rough time of it. And I know what you mean about big occasions being tinged with sadness…my gran died on 31 Dec a few years ago and every time New Years Eve rolls around I am always reminded of it.

      Hope you have a nice birthday nevertheless. x

  10. Birthdays have never bothered me that much. I think it’s because mine’s on NYE so it’s always been somewhat overshadowed! I would like to go away for my 40th in a couple of years though.

    Lisa, whilst I am 100% sure being married wouldn’t make any difference to your relationship, it would most definitely be a wedding I’d tune in to RMW for, so selfishly I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you! 😉

    1. Snap Tracy!! It’s not the best birthday date is it?! I used to get told “at least there’s always a party to go to” – but everyone I want to see is at different ones! The last few years we’ve ignored the NYE aspect and treated it only as my birthday which has been really refreshing! x

      1. Hope you both had a good one despite it being NYE Tracy M and Katie G.

        Tracy – the photos would have to get past editor Fern first 🙂 x

  11. Birthdays (and other celebrations too), can be so bittersweet. Without someone to celebrate with, they can be rather deflating. For my thirtieth I had a joint ceilidh with a male friend. We held it in a church hall, I only did cheese & biscuits plus crisps to avoid the dilema of spending the whole time catering for everyone (which as a foodie took some ‘letting go’ but was the best idea), we put on some fizz and a barrel of beer but people BYOB. It was really good!

    My fortieth is next, but not for seven years. That feels way more significant because it is the practical deadline for having had children. There’s a lot to cram in before 2024!

    1. You’ve summed it up perfectly Bunny. And I LOVE the sound of this cheese, crackers and fizz party! No stress but all the fun. X

  12. Our family is celebrating several big birthdays in 2018. I’ll be 30, my mum’s 50 and my mother in law is 60. Plus we’re expecting a baby next month!
    My twenties have been difficult to say the least so I feel that turning 30 will allow me to say goodbye to a hard decade and move onto better things as a family.

    1. Sounds like you need to have a big party at some point in 2018 Kirstie!

      Here’s to a better decade for you, I’m sure it will be a lovely one with your new arrival. Xx

  13. I turn 30 in June. I know what you mean about feeling like you should have achieved certain things as defined by society. A house, a husband, a baby.
    I’ve gone through some serious changes in the last six months which have made me happier, ultimately. Our 20s are very much our formative years that define what we want and how we go about it. With my new found freedom I’m finally discovering who I am and loving re-connecting with friends and finding my worth.
    I’m planning a trip away for my 30th birthday (a few days after as I have work commitments at a flower show). It will be lovely to do something memorable that I can look back on and just celebrate in style. But, where should I go?

      1. Somewhere in Europe. I was thinking either Italy which I adore (Puglia or Amalfi) or Croatia has been on my list but I’ve always struggled between wanting to explore or relax on a beach somewhere.

  14. I read a quote from Dawn French along the lines that she saw ageing as a privilege because plenty of people don’t make it to “old age” – that really resonated with me and I’m going to make sure I continue to celebrate rather than fear birthdays 😊

  15. Love that Dawn French quote – it’s so true! It was my 40th last year and so 7 of us went to Ibiza for a long weekend – it was fab and I can totally recommend it even as you start getting older. We last all went after our A levels so it was a different sort of holiday this time round! We did go to Pacha and managed a 5 am finish (pretty good for us!) but we also went to loads of lovely restaurants and beach bars and it was just generally great to get away and have some fun in the sunshine with friends! We went at the start of October so it was out of season and we defo did not feel too old to be there. Am just looking forward to my 50th now!!

    1. I love Ibiza! (Although randomly, I have ended up at the main police station both times I’ve been. Not for anything dodgy: the first time was because my handbag was stolen, and the second time someone bumped into our hire car).
      Also love your idea of going back to the same location. Lots of memories! The holiday I went on with my school friends at around the same time was to Kos…maybe I should suggest we go back to celebrate our fortieths. X

  16. Love the Dawn French quote above.

    I have a birthday coming up next week, but only 33 so not a big one… part of me wants to hold of and celebrate when I’m 33 and a 1/3rd but I realise that sounds a bit weird. (1/3rd of a way to 100 though? Just me?) No big plans, just inviting a few friends over for brunch, by which I mean a whole heap of tasty pastries. Last year I didn’t really want to celebrate at all, just had a nice lunch out in town, but this year I’m reminding myself that it’s nice to have an excuse to see friends (not that we really need one).

    I’ve generally not been one for making a big deal though, and my biggest birthday so far was my 30th. I had a Harry Potter themed house party, complete with making over the house into the Three Broomsticks, fancy dress and HP inspired food and drink – I even made butterbeer, which was pretty tasty. I was mostly overwhelmed by how much effort my friends made. I’d already decided then that it was most likely to be the last time I was going to make that kind of an effort to celebrate, at least for myself. (Looking forward to planning parties for my little girl when she gets a bit older though!)

    1. Happy birthday for next week! (Or for when you turn 33 and a 1/3rd :P)

      YES to just having an excuse to see friends. For the last couple of years it’s become a tradition for me and my uni friends that are local to just go for a nice meal when one of us has a birthday.

      This Harry Potter party sounds immense. Have you seen the theatre show? I’m dying to go! x

    2. Rebecca you may be my soul mate as I think celebrating at 33 and a third is brilliant! And your 30th sounded like my idea of heaven! I got tickets for the Cursed Child for my birthday last year but they were for March 10th this year and my second is due on Feb 3rd so we had to sell them 🙁 Hope you enjoy it. Lx

  17. For my Dad’s 70th my sister and I took him to the F1 at Silverstone. He’s a lifelong fan but had never been, and probably would never had gone had we not taken him. The husband’s dad is 80 this year in August and we’re trying to get something planned, but I don’t think he’s a great celebrations fan. I just don’t want it to drift by!

    My 40th is next year (just writing that down feels a little odd!) and I suspect we’ll end up going away for it, and eating somewhere special. My husband’s 40th was spent in a remote cottage in front of a roaring fire and a bottle of Dom Periodontal, which was delightful.

    1. I was lucky enough to go to Silverstone with Rich’s work a couple of years ago and I know nothing about racing but I had the best time. So I can imagine your Dad absolutely loved it!

      Your husband’s 40th sounds idyllic. x

  18. I’m celebrating my birthday in a couple of weeks – it isn’t a big birthday – but it is mid-40s (how did that happen?!?) – and after a tough couple of years I decided that this year on my birthday I wanted to wake up in New York – and so that is what I am doing with my best friend…SO excited!!!!

  19. I do like a good birthday celebration I must say. For my 30th I hired a private room for brunch, just something small (albeit overflowing champagne as I had no children then so why not?!!) but it felt special and fun. I always book a nice restaurant for my birthday, one of the ones on my “must go” list, when I’m not pregnant at least and able to indulge in my favourites, regardless of whether it is a “big” birthday or not. But I usually only have a handful of close friends for those so I try to do something a bit more inclusive, if not special, for big birthdays. My husband has just returned from a weekend in Europe for a friend’s birthday – he organises weekends away every 5 years for his friends. I declined to go as 28 weeks pregnant and the thought of traipsing around all the sights did not fill me with joy! Next time though… I know what you mean about setting ridiculous goals though!! The closer I got to my 30th the more I wanted to be settled down. I was actually married by the time I was 30 but I did start to panic (why?!) that it might not happen!! No idea what I want to have achieved by the time I’m 40 though, maybe just a better work life balance with the children and savouring more moments together? It all feels like it goes in a blur doesn’t it?

  20. I love my birthday, regardless of whether it’s a big one or not, as it’s the one day of the year that’s just mine and was always made a big deal of when we were kids. My husband however does not get this at all despite my best efforts so the last brilliant birthday I had was my 30th, almost 7 years ago and before I met him! I’m unfortunately not hopeful for a good one this year either as I’ll have a newborn of somewhere between 2 and 5 weeks old so will be in a sleep deprived haze! My friends and I have talked about going away for our fortieths in 3 years and the comment above has prompted me to restart the conversation and see if we can get a savings plan going! Lx

  21. I’m turning 30 in March, and if you’d asked me a year or so ago, I would have been fine with it, but things have been difficult this year and so the prospect of having to make some big changes and maybe starting afresh this year is only made more terrifying by turning 30. I wish everyone well for their big birthdays though x

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