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)
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