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. Happy Birthday. I have ‘tool envy’! Have a lovely day. xx

  2. Happy birthday to you! Your site is inspirational and since discovering it a couple of weeks ago I’ve made apple and sage jelly, apple and blackberry jelly and will be starting my quince jelly and membrillo tonight. All produce foraged and many very happy recipients. Thank you.

  3. Asproulla

    Hope you have a wonderful day today… and many more!

  4. A very happy birthday to you!

    The accounts of your adventures give me so much pleasure and thank you for the De Wit link. There are some great ideas for Christmas presents.

  5. Magic Cochin

    Happy Birthday Fiona!

    Those hand tools look as if they’ll be great to use – bet you can’t wait to get out there in the garden!

    Wishing you a sunny day (it’s gorgeous just now hope it’s the same where you are).


  6. Many happy returns, Fiona. Hope you enjoy your special day. Be happy.

  7. Happy, Happy Birthday Fiona!!

    I hope you have a whole wonderful Birthday week! You deserve the very best, and it sounds like you’ve got a head start – Danny & the Min-Pins. (Also, they should totally start a band!)

    I can’t remember what my favorite birthday was – just knowing that my parents always made them really special. Sometimes it was with a big present (like my first 10 speed schwinn!) and sometimes it was just having a really awesome cake my mom made, they always made it a special day. Mom would wake me up with a glass of juice, breakfast would be something special, Dad would give me a big kiss before work. If it was a school day, there would be a special note in my lunch bag & maybe a special treat. Dinner would be whatever the Birthday Girl (or boy) wanted – even if it was mashed potatoes & pizza!

    Thanks for giving me a smile as I think about past birthdays.
    Happy Birthday from Denver, Colorado!


  8. Jean Damgaard

    I hope you had a wonderful birthday Fiona, those hand tools look great, and thank you for another wonderful year of blogging.

  9. amy manning

    Happy birthday and thanks for sharing information on your blog!

  10. Happy birthday Fiona, I do hope you’ve had a wonderful day.

    I always remember as a child thinking that the general lack of fuss my parents made about their own, and each others birthdays, was rather sad, that somehow it wasn’ t a proper birthday without parties and cake and presumably cellophane. I’ve come to enjoy the adult birthdays more; they don’t have the same make or break quality these days. Some years it’s presents galore, some years not so much, but rather lile my parents it’s who l spend the day with rather than what l get that matters.

    I think Danny’s stuck gold this year with the presents; clearly a good choice!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,253,643 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2012 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder