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.......
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.....
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!
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