Thursday, June 7, 2007

Birthday, beer cake and bow ties

It was my birthday yesterday. I had to supervise my own card making by the children, such is a mother's lot when it comes to birthdays. Supervise, spell, not to mention draw my own picture & write my own good wishes (if my daughter had had her way) whilst at the same time NOT looking at the drawings and feigning surprise on my birthday. My son decided all this needed to be done about 5 minutes before bath time the night before my birthday. I think there was a hidden agenda there.

He asked what number to write on his card to me. When I told him he said "Wow that IS old" Not a good start. I said "It sounds old, but it's not really that old is it?" He thought for a minute, then said "Actually it is really". I said "old means having grey hair and wrinkles". He said "what are wrinkles?" I explained. He said "Oh yes you have some of those, and your hair makes you look old" Right then, obviously long and blond (natural) is out, am I really the age where I have to get a sensible middle-aged bob?

I much prefer the exchange I had with a girl from Essex, I think, at someone else's birthday on Sunday. We had the dreaded "So how old are you?" conversation. Everyone admitted they were 32, 33 or 34. Then she asked me. When I reluctantly told her, she said, with disconcerting directness; "Cor blimey, I am so shocked. You've got no wrinkles' (I have, it was a candlelit meal. And besides, my son tells me I have) Then she said "So what cream do you use?" which I considered a real coup. No one has ever asked me that before. But then she made me feel ancient again by looking at me as if I was a still living survivor of the Titanic and said to me "Wow, so you were born in the sixties!!"

I could have said, yes but I don't remember them, but then isn't that what everyone from the sixties says??

I went to a mums' group on the morning of my birthday, which I go to every Thursday, and got kissed exactly 15 times. This is because there were five Dutch there. The Dutch really know how to kiss. They do it a lot, and always on your birthday. They also always kiss on both cheeks. And then once more on the 1st cheek. It took quite a long time as you can imagine. Being British I rather envied them their cultural confidence. They seem to know exactly when to kiss, who to kiss, which cheek to start with and how many to give. It must be written in a book somewhere.

I, however, never know who, when, where to kiss. Those moments always leave me slightly anxious. Weighing up how well you know soemone, how long since you last saw them, whether it will be misconstrued etc. I wish someone could enlighten me. But then a Dutch friend said to me that in church people she barely knew would come up and greet her with 3 kisses. Always non-Dutch. I think it was because people assumed that because she was Dutch it was the cultural norm to kiss her like that. It's not. The 2nd possibility is that she has a "come kiss me"air about her. Who knows? So I guess it has its advantages being British and reserved. Unless you like random strangers kissing you.

An English friend arrived bearing red, white and blue balloons. Unfortunately this being Sri Lanka, and an average of 34' all the time, the balloons expanded (already fully blown up) & burst one by one over the course of the morning, nearly sending one of the mums, 33 weeks pregnant, into premature labour.

My friend also brought along a chocolate beer cake. Not Nigella's, though a familiar concept for us Brits. The Dutch and Americans amonsgt us seemed strangely disconcerted. It was yummy, even if it wasn't stout, but whatever Sri Lanka ha sto hand. Usuallyonly lager. I must ask her what she used. We ate half the cake, and my family polished off the other half by 5 o clock that evening.

M treated me to a massage at "The Sanctuary" in Colombo for my birthday. Sadly not "The Sanctuary" of Covent Garden fame, but nevertheless, about as good as it gets in Sri Lanka. ie proper massage beds, trained staff, lotus flowers floating in granite bowels of water, air con, warm towels, soothing music. Green tea in a coconut bowl to drink afterwards. I was happy! The best service I have had anywhere in Sri Lanka.

To mix the metaphors further, I had a Swedish massage. This refers to the strength and style of the massage, rather than the nationality of the masseuse. Mine certainly wasn't tall and blonde... Shame.

It was blisfully relaxing and not at all painful, unlike a Thai massage when I have been walked on, elbowed, had all my joints yanked to 'click' them etc. This one I had to struggle to stay awake. I didn't want to fall asleep and miss it.....

I needed to unwind. It has been a stressful week.

On Mon someone knocked my wing mirror off YET again, whilst I was parked. The last time , I had been about to turn right into another rd. I was right up against the white line in the middle of the road, with my indicator on. I was certainly giving out plenty of clues. Or so I thought. I also, in a very un-Sri Lankan way waited for a gap in the traffic. Anyway as I turned across the traffci into the side rd, a motorcyclist rammed into the side of me, wrenching off my wing mirror. He had been bombing down the middle of the rd behind me, and obviously the fact that I was pulled over into the centre, stationary and indicating RIGHT were not clear enough signals for him. He overtook me , on my right side as I was turning right. I tend to concentrate on oncoming traffic when I turn right. I completely omitted to check for kamikaze Kawasaki riders behind me....

On Tues I trudged round 3 different service centres trying to find someone to mend the iron. It was always the wrong make, no parts etc. I said 'surely an iron is an iron and the parts are much the same?' (I admit I was going out on a limb here and had no idea) and it was broken anyway so DO YOUR WORST, I pleaded, but nothing doing. I know in the UK we are used now, unfortunately, to just binning our toaster, iron, blender whatever, when it breaks but this is ASIA, and a developing country. EVERYTHING gets mended, recycled, re-used. The reality seemed somewhat different. No one wanted the responsibility of my broken iron.

I had the same experience with tailors. You are told any design can be copied, anything can be made. I wanted to get a dress made (because my sewing machine had broken) I took the dress in to copy. I was told it was the wrong design of dress to use silk. I needed stretchy material . Ok I'll buy stretchy mataerial. But no, if I bought stretchy material it would be the wrong material for their machines so it couldn't be made. "What to do?" as they say in this country.

I tried to get my husband a bow tie made. Simple. I went to 3 tailors before giving up. One recommended I go to a Ladies tailor (?), one shook his head, tutted and frowned. The third was admittedly my fault. I climbed up a spiral metal staircase above the street following the "Majestic Tailor" sign. Sounded promising.

I went in, pulled out the silk material, then showed him the black bow tie I wanted him to copy. I demonstrated how you wore it round your neck. I even made an atempt at tying it. He looked quite interested, listened politely but said nothing. Finally he shook his head, and said 'Next door' in perfect English, before pointing to the tailor's shop I should have been, in next door....

In the end I went home, got out my sewing machine, and managed to mend the foot pedal with some parcel tape to stop it accelerating on its own. Then I made the bow tie myself. Well, I am certainly learning to be resourceful, if not relaxed, here.


Carol said...

Hey it was lovely going through your post...and seems like you had a nice time..well birthdays are always special days for us...thanks for this wonderful post!!!

Omega Mum said...

I feel exhausted just reading this. Just supervising my own birthday cards would almost kill me, let alone having a marathon kissathon afterwards. And you write about it so well, too. I'm going back to bed....

GM said...

So what cream do you use???