Birthday Memories

On the 4th June last year I was in Cape Town with my beloved family to toast to the beginning of my 33rd year of life. We were brought together not by this milestone, but to mourn and celebrate the death and life of my father’s mother, yet were deeply grateful for being together. One of my many thoughtful gifts was a dictaphone, bought by my father and his wife after hearing of my desire to record and transcribe life stories from my husband’s last remaining grandparent, his maternal grandmother, into a book. Tonight I stumbled across a recording we had made at a sumptuous family birthday breakfast feast, whilst testing out the dictaphone, which I had forgotten about entirely and never listened to. It’s lovely to hear the threads of conversation that flow around the table, coming together with one focus and then splintering into smaller conversations, and hearing the voices of so many of those I love suddenly so close and alive. Here is an extract:

Me: “One big wish? Ummm, I guess there are tangible – by which I mean measurable, I suppose – and intangible wishes. In relation to the former, it would be nice to have made good progress on writing this book in the next year, thought I won’t really dig my teeth into it until after our trip to France in September, so I don’t think it’s feasible to say I’ll have it done in the next year.

A couple of months ago I finally said to Clive, “I’m feeling settled at last.” It took nearly a year and a half after moving back to feel calmer, and settled, and start to feel happy again and start to see a future. Now I feel like that’s a little jumbled up and turned upside down, so I guess this year I’d like to consolidate on that and just settle down and start setting down roots where we are. That’s my intangible wish for the year.”

Dirk: “I’m not sure that’s intangible; I think you’ll show it. We can feel you quite strongly.”

Me: “Mmmm. It was just such a great sense of relief when I said, “Wow, I FINALLY feel settled.” It was such a good feeling. In my heart, home, work, family; in the country. Part of that is also putting energy into creating what I want in a home: something that we’ve made together that is beautiful and feels like it expresses us, and who we are, in a very comforting and comfortable way. I suppose that’s another tangible wish: to paint and finish putting up shelves in the kitchen; to make the cottage increasingly feel like our home.”


Tangible it has turned out to be indeed. Calmness and happiness suffuse me, and I feel deeply grounded, settled, content. The kitchen is painted; the shelves are cut, varnished and mounted; the book is well on its way and taking an increasingly clear form as I work. Yet the most tangible are not after all the external creations, but the deep shifts within my heart.


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