#7: It’s My Birthday

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In this episode we ‘discover’ Greenwich Park; eat home-made pizza; watch the Iso Song Contest (supporting The Trussell Trust, Crisis and Refuge); and stop to smell the wildflowers growing throughout London’s streets. The question is, how much Iso birthday fun can two people have?


I arrived four weeks early: induced, tiny, underfed. My ‘origin story’, according to my parents: when the doctors heard my heartbeat weakening, they induced; once born, they used tissue-sized nappies. Details are thin on the ground, but I’m the eldest, so I imagine my parents were really stressed and probably didn’t have all the information themselves. From what I can gather, the placenta wasn’t working so well (when this happens growth slows to maintain essential organs: brain, heart, kidneys). The placenta transfers nutrients and oxygen from mum to bub. Our friend Sally, a midwife, explained it to me this way: ‘Placenta is like an oxygen tank, and if it stops working it’s very hard to survive.’ If doctors see a placenta malfunctioning it’s often better to deal with the challenges of prematurity (immature organs that might not work perfectly) than a fully defective placenta. Sally again: ‘You’d rather be in a leaky boat than underwater with a faulty tank’. Having said that, being premature, even today, holds risks, but here I am 47 years on. And since I’ve been old enough to wag school I’ve taken my birthday off. I try to enjoy exactly where I am, but that’s not always easy.

We lost mum the year I turned 40. My family crammed into a hospital room with crappy blue curtains and catchpenny furniture, and sat around my tiny disappearing mum. What I remember, though, is when she ate half a piece of my birthday cake, the only solid food she’d eaten in weeks, and smiled. She did that for us. I found it difficult to find light in my birthday afterwards, although recently Shona and I created a tradition of going to Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island) each year. So maybe losing and then finding that light on that beautiful island helped us to reconfigure 2020’s birthday — not that any of us have a choice. It wasn’t without its problems, but we had a good day.

We all know the pandemic sucks, and I’m sure you have similar touch-and-go birth stories, but if you add up our childhood accidents, the stupid chances we take in our teens and 20s, and the random-ness that can strike any time, stopping one day a year to look about, even now — maybe especially now — feels right.

Opening & Closing Credits by Unregistered Master Builder
Background music, ‘Touching Moments’ by Ketsa (Free Music Archive)
Background music, Markus J Buehler Viral Counterpoint of the Coronavirus Spike Protein (2019-nCoV)

The History of Mary Prince
The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano and Olaudah Equiano
Narrative of the Enslavement of Ottobah Cugoano

If Lockdown is Getting You Down
How to Access Mental Health Services (NHS site)
Mental Health Australia
Pink Therapy
Only Human Radio Show

Websites & Articles
Resurrection Myths by Marcus Westbury
Coronet Inside Out by Ben Okri (Shona played me this poem on my birthday)
Isolation Song Contest After being randomly assigned a country, each comedy act had one week to compose an entry. The contest has so far raised almost £30,000 for The Trussell Trust, Crisis and Refuge.
The City of London’s Wild Heart
How Rebel Botanists are Using Graffiti to Name Forgotten Flora
Country Diary: preening avocets attract attention

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Contacts below