Birthdays & quieter days...

So, my birthday dawned clear and sunny....a beautiful, blue-skied day. Very different to the weather when I was actually born...apparently, I entered the world in the middle of a thunderstorm (perhaps that's why I've always loved them?)
Paul brought me hot tea, a bundle of cards....and a scruffy little dog to curl up beside me while I opened them! I finished work mid-morning and caught the train to London. After a few stops, my parents plus youngest sister Lucy & her son William joined me and we had a lovely journey - so much more exciting seen through the eyes of a curious 3 year old boy! He 'helped' me to open the cards & presents they gave me...including one he'd made, completely covered in blue glitter!

A taxi took us to lunch at one of my very favourite restaurants, Nopi , and we had a fabulous meal. I can't quite believe how much we ate...even Dad, who usually has the appetite of a small bird! It was wonderful to all be together - William was beautifully behaved and especially loved it when I took him downstairs to watch the chefs busy at work in the open-plan kitchen...all the stirring, chopping, dressing plates...his eyes were like saucers!
he got a little bit tired towards the end and hugged his special blue bear - but soon perked up when the desserts arrived, including mine which had a lit candle so he could sing 'Happy Birthday dear Ray-Ray' loudly!

my Mum & Dad sang too...!
Afterwards, they all went back to catch the train home...and I mooched about, window shopping, until it was time to meet Paul at the London Coliseum, home of English National Opera. My present from my parents was a ticket to see my beloved's creation 'The Marriage of Figaro'. I first saw it live at the Vienna State Opera house on my 21st birthday...over half my life ago! And I've seen it many times since, in lots of different settings with a variety of amazing singers....but one thing, of course, remains the same. The sublime music never changes, and never fails to transport me to a level of perfect, perfect happiness. We had one of the arias at our wedding (as it was a civil ceremony, nothing religious was allowed) and at that point in the opera last week, Paul took my hand and squeezed it so hard! He is a romantic at heart (thank goodness!) It was utter bliss, and I couldn't have wished for a better present - perhaps Wolfie had a hand in the schedule too, as there are only 10 performances of this production...and one of them happened to be on the right night! We caught an earlier train than expected (I had the music in my head all evening...) and I finished the day by opening the rest of the cards and gifts that had arrived in that morning's post, after I'd left for the train. I was overwhelmed by the kind messages and presents I touching, it made me feel really special...and filled both front windowsills!

The rest of the week passed as normal. Paul went away for a few days on a 'boys trip' to Spain and France to watch the Rugby World Cup final (on a big screen at Bayonne Rugby Club!) and to eat & drink a lot! I had plenty to do...and it's quite lovely to have some selfish time alone now & then (I wouldn't like it too often, though!) My car broke down, so I was a little stranded (although I got round it with the help of Mum, who lent me hers for some urgent work I needed to do over the weekend at my kitchen unit) It meant that I couldn't take Alice on our usual walk to the hills - I had to find somewhere that was reachable on foot from home. This is quite hard in our town, if you want to avoid the roads...but I suddenly thought of the perfect place, so I clipped on her lead and we headed for...
the canal! This is the Grand Union Canal, and the towpath is a very quiet and peaceful place...

except for the ducks, moorhens and swans....Alice doesn't quite know what to make of them and gives them a wide berth!

The canal basin is home to many narrowboats - some visiting and some on fixed moorings. Lots of them are beautifully painted in the colourful old style...I love to see the smoke come through the little tin chimneys and wonder who lives behind the crocheted cotton lace at the windows (or are they portholes??)
The locks are wonderful must have been a sight when they still used horses to tow the boats. I saw one, once...long ago. Time was a different thing then...people thought nothing of spending half a day to get somewhere, because they had no choice. It may be easier, but I'm not sure we are always better off with our rushing haste to get there now! Standing in this peaceful place, hearing the swish of the willow leaves...I was happy to slow down for a while - it seemed like the only thing to do!
We walked for a long way....and when we got home...

Alice needed a good rest (alongside her new toy bunny - a lovely present sent by her schnauzer friends, Fanny & Betti!)
I just had a cup of tea!

I hope that you're having a wonderful you have plans for Hallowe'en?


  1. What a lovely post. And Happy Birthday!
    Love your "Gorgeous with a Capital G" card!

  2. Oh, what a lovely birthday you had, Rachel! And to see an opera that has such special meaning for you (and Paul, too!) plus having family there! That is the absolute best!!! Oh, the canal is so charming! I grew up south of the Erie Canal, which was not quite so charming then! Oh, and Alice and her bunny are precious beyond words!! They so need to be immortalized in some little paintings by a certain someone : ) Let that birthday glow remain!!! Love and hugs, Sherry xoxo

  3. Thank you for taking us along...loved the memories of your 21st in wonder you crush on Wolfie! Glad that you had such a special, memorable birthday! xoxo

  4. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you...I am so delighted that your day was perfect and capped off with a special treat from Wolfie.

    Sending love, love, love,


  5. Dearest Rachel,
    I LOVE this post---it's so full of joy!!!! How blessed you are to have mum and dad close and one of your sisters and her son, too. What a good boy William was to behave so properly for your wonderful birthday---and the cake....just AWESOME! Ahhhhh NOPI. I think it is a must to visit if I ever shall set foot upon London again.

    I was there once a few years ago, but just for an overnight. We had scrumptious Indian food, but I didn't see London proper at all.

    Your walk with Alice was wonderful, but I especially loved the EXHAUSTED Alice afterward, beside her new beloved toy. What a wonderful week you've had and so deserved!!!!

    May this year be a delight!!



  6. How wonderful to experience the blow by blow of your very exciting birthday. Of course it was very upsetting to hear that 21 is more than half your age when it's barely more than a third of mine. Luckily I had your nature musings and beautiful canal to extract me from contemplation of mortality. That looks like a wonderful walk for Alice--I never realized that your walks in that woods required a drive first, somehow thought it was around a corner. ♥

  7. Hello sweetie,

    It looks like you enjoyed a wonderful, relaxing birthday surrounded by your gorgeous family. I loved seeing photos of your parents, your sister, and little William! What a treat for him to see the chefs at work in the kitchen! I'm so glad your day was special. You truly deserve it! My favourite part, I must say, is when Paul squeezed your hand during the opera. How wonderful to have a romantic husband!

    All my love, Rosinda xoxo

  8. Happy Birthday!! It sounds as if you have had a perfect day.
    From the look of the willow in your picture things are still a little warmer than they have been here. It is beginning to be quite fresh but beautifully sunny during the so the colours are truly spectacular.
    Sorry not been in touch for a while things have been very hectic but are settling nicely now xx

  9. I can't think of a more perfect day and evening.
    And of someone who deserves it so well.

  10. Happy birthday! And what a lovely present!

  11. I'm so glad you had a wonderful birthday, Rachel! It sounded perfect from start to finish. And what a beautiful place for a walk with Alice -- who looks so very sweet with her bunny :-) xoxo

  12. How lovely to read all about your day. Great pictures especially of dear little squilly. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


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