The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

On birthdays


Photo: De Wit hand tools

Photo: De Wit hand tools

The first birthday that I can remember was when I was two. Sitting in my wooden high chair at the kitchen table of our Devon cottage. The sun glimpsing through the small windows – the table full of people.

There was suddenly a commotion at the door. A parcel had arrived for me. Someone unwrapped the parcel and placed the contents on the tray of my high chair. A baby doll lay in a cardboard box staring up at me through the cellophane window in the lid.

It was a present from my godmother, sent from America. I was overwhelmed as much by the box as the baby. She was wearing a thin cotton nappy and a feeding bottle was  attached to the cardboard near her head. She was Su-wee the drinking/peeing baby doll. She had a hole in her mouth and a hole in her bottom. Presumably it worked in reverse too – although I was never adventurous enough to try that.

She was named Susie and stayed with me for years. Generally half clothed she sat up well and provided an audience for the adventures of my toy animals that I always preferred to dolls.

But it’s that special moment – staring into the box, touching the cellophane, the corners of the box that still remains with me. It was a time when everything else dropped away – just me and the box and the small rubber doll.

Today, so many years later, it’s my birthday again. I still get excited by cards and presents but also enjoy waking up and looking back over the past years. All those awkward teenage birthdays, the thrill of being 25, the doom of turning 30 (averted momentarily by a 30 year old bottle of burgundy and a wonderful meal made by Seraphina which included her own handmade chocolates). The delight of still looking reasonable at 40, the big party that we threw when I was 50 (followed by an indulgent foodie week in Rome). The wrinkles and aches that appear a little stronger as the years fly by.

This morning in a similar cottage room with small bright windows and heavy shadows, I opened Danny’s present and marvelled at the De Wit tools that he had given me. They needed no cellophane to enhance them. I sat on the tapestry stool and tested them for weight, balance and ease of use. All apprehensions about the relentless ongoing years dissolved as I ran my fingers over these beautiful hand forged tools and dreamt of gardening with these new companions for many, many years to come.

A birthday is the start of a brand new year, after all.

  Leave a reply


  1. brightsprite

    Happy Birthday, today, Fiona.
    Hope you’re keeping well, and staying safe,
    Big virtual hugs, Val (brightspark) x

  2. Happy Birthday Fiona! Was your birthday really the 14th? That’s was my birthday too! I just turned 30, moved to a new city and am starting a new job. I love your site, it is always such a pleasure to read and this post was no exception. Hope you had a wonderful day.

  3. Slightly belated happy birthday, Fiona, and what a lovely post to mark it.

  4. Happy Birthday dear Fiona

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