Making No Plans - Birthday Time is Here Again!

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Sunday 20 September 2015

Making No Plans - Birthday Time is Here Again!

I was in two minds as to post up anything about my birthday as again it's far easier to write something concise with some cherry-picked highlight pictures about these celebration days even though there may be some other complex issues going on behind the scenes.  'Birthdays' had felt a little of a touchy subject and there was some nervous anticipation as mine approached since Dan's birthday celebrations in July didn't exactly go to plan and in the end we'd not really celebrated at all. And as life has been throwing up lots of unexpected surprises recently, both good and bad, we've been actively trying not to make any plans and just seeing what life throws up for us instead.  Being a birthday-day there was no reason to change this.  Making any fixed plans or having the thoughts that just because it was the day your were born it 'should' be different to other days, risks the possibility of becoming disappointed as some times plans might not go as your thoughts might have suggested they should. And actually a birthday isn't really that different from any other day (effectively you are one day older every day).  But this year I was reminded that it is the people around you that make it, or more accurately make you feel different from on other days.  Family and new friends touched me (overwhelmed me really) with their unexpected kindness and thoughtfulness in celebrating the occasion of my birth 32 years ago.  

Nothing was mentioned on the blog at the time about Dan's birthday.  The start of this year's journey things hadn't really gone as we'd expected (as we later reflected on) and many of the days in July were a bit turbulent for us whilst we started a period of much needed growing up and associated emotional clearing up.  As we'd started celebrating Dan's birthday in the morning, something sparked off some unresolved raw trigger points in both of us, leading into a big argument and us going our separate ways for the rest of the day to get some space. Later when we did come back to the motorhome, the argument hadn't resolved itself (we were still in a period of very bad communication) and so actually we'd ended up not really celebrating his birthday at all.  Other than a few phones call from family and texts from friends, there was nothing really to tell it apart.  Nothing of the day was latter mentioned and it was sort of 'forgotten' there'd been a birthday at all.  This had been a good lesson of why not to make plans or have any preconceived ideas about how a day 'should' go.

But a lot of things have changed since then.  However, the memories of that particular day did give me strong feelings of not really wanting to celebrate my birthday at all.  As my birthday approached, I asked Dan for no special 'fuss', no presents, banners or plans.  Recently we've not been making plans at all and I didn't want it to be different.  So here's how it turned out.......

The day started with something that couldn't have been planned for.  If there had been a plan, it might have affected it but as there was no plan it was ok.  I'd woken up at about 4am, not through excited anticipation of my birthday as I would have done as a child, but instead feeling very sea sick lying in bed.  For some unknown reason, I've been suffering again from a lot of stomach pains and gas recently and this night it was combined with feeling like the motorhome was rocking as I lay in bed trying to get some sleep.  Dan woke up to comfort me and cheered me up by giving me (even though I'd asked not to have anything) a lovely card and poem he'd written plus a pack of butter beans, two organic pomegrantes and a mango (which he'd picked up when we had visited Briancon last week as we've not seen either for a while).  The poem cheered me up and we talked as I tried to not be sick and get some rest.

The sun rose and by 8.30 a.m I was starting to feel a little better.  I opened up my emails to see messages from Dan's family and to find that my mum had very thoughtful emailed me pictures their and Oma's birthday cards to me!  Just as I was downloading them as my parents called and sung me a lovely version of 'happy birthday', with Sam their dog joining in as well.  I've not spoken to them for a little while and had been missing them a lot lately so it was lovely to have a 2 hour catch up to share news and just hear their voices! After I called Oma as well.  As I said I've been missing my family a lot recently and so it was lovely to start the day feeling so close to them.  Birthday mornings as a child had always been about spending time around the breakfast table with family and just chatting and so it was lovely that this time the day had also started with family interactions made possible by the technologies of the internet and mobiles.

But then? Afterwards Dan and I weren't sure what the day would hold or what we might want to do, it was already 11.30a.m. and the weather didn't look so good.....

As we'd not been active for 3 days and we'd made no other plans we decided to chance any rain and take a cycle down a road we'd not tried yet into a new valley.  About 24km to the end of the road near Dormillouse and around 800m of potential climbing.  We road once more the D38 to Champcella but instead of turning round, continued on the D38B to Freissinières and then the D238 to the car park on the boundary of the Ecrins National park (Dormillous isn't reachable by tarmac road).  We were treated to really lovely views along the Durance valley - back towards Mont Dauphin and Guillestre.  As we turned into the valley towards Dormillouse and followed the narrow road along La Biaysse river we were also treated to many waterfalls which because of the recent rainfall were very prominent as they cascaded down the steep valley sides.  And we even did see the sun poke through the clouds a couple times!  We're really grateful to once more have been able to borrow 'Thomas the Tank Engine' as otherwise this might have been another ride I wouldn't have managed and we'd have missed out on.  

Tired but a good tired, when we returned back to the farm, I did a 20 minute relaxation exercise whilst Dan made me a 'birthday green juice'!  We'd told people on the farm the day before it would be my birthday and that whilst we weren't planning on any particular celebration or any special meal, we'd said if they were around and not busy on the evening then they would be very welcome to join us for our dinner and maybe a drink together.

 So we decided to start making our dinner and also make some black bean brownie cake - it had been a while since this favourite recipe of ours had been made (back in Durham in April with friends there) and with 1 pack of black beans left in the motorhome supply store it seemed a good occasion to use them.  Plus it's also a vegan baking recipe which we know goes down well with non-vegans.  I was a little tired so Dan did the lionshare of the cake making as well as make dinner (butterbeans (my birthday surprise from earlier that morning), pumpkin, courgette, tomato stew with coriander - all things fresh from the farm garden).

Then a few people from the farm plus others they knew and we'd gotten to know during our stay here assembled after they'd finished working on the farm or come back from work (it was already getting a little dark due to the overcast day and also because shops here don't close until 7pm normally).

They presented me with a chopping board that they had made from the wood here and then all signed the underside as a souvenir. Dan had let them know we were looking to replace our plastic one with
wood and so they had decided to make one for us from the wood from the farm.  The farmer's mum had
also baked a surprise cake - she didn't know 100% what we did and didn't eat but had made it without butter (oil instead) and used 'happy' eggs from the farm chickens as well as decorate it with raspberries
(from the bushes we'd been cutting back when we first got here) instead of icing it.  It was very thoughtful  of her so we had a very small slice.  It was very touching as these were people we had only met 4 weeks ago and they came together spontaneously to join us in our dinner and mark the day with me.

Everyone tried the 3 black bean brownie cakes (before the 'normal' cake had been given to me - it was very kind of his mum to do it this way round because otherwise I think less people would have liked the brownies after tasting traditional baking with sugar and flour!).  Almost everyone liked the brownies and were impressed by their first experiences of vegan cake baking!  Well it was all gone by the end of the evening anyway!

We then shared our dinner with together and as the night air got colder people said there goodbyes and as Dan and I were really tired from an unexpectedly early start and also active day, we found ourselves asleep before 10.30pm!

No plans made but it developed into a really lovely day.  Family, cycling, baking and new friends.  People had come together to make this day just that bit different to others- comforting me when feeling sick, phoning, scanning in pictures of birthday cards and gathering around to be with me.  I'd felt close to family, enjoyed getting some fresh air and some endorphins on the bike, ate some very tasty healthy fresh foods and enjoyed laughter and good company with new friends.  And for both Dan and I it had eased and put to bed the feeling of nervous anticipation which had surrounded the idea of a 'birthday'.  The only thing I wish I had been able to do is to have been able to express myself and better communicate my feels of gratitude in French to those new friends who had gathered and overwhelmed me with their kindness.

The blog is a little behind and some other earlier activities are still to be written about- this is from the 15th September.

Ride from Guillestre to Dormillouse / Car Park at the entry to the Ecrins National Park

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