Thursday, 29 August 2013

Birthdays, happy or otherwise.

Birthdays may not yield the post office or Clintons quite as much money as they used to, but it seems everyone needs to know about when your birthday is. Most forms of social media not only ask for your date of birth, they seem obsessed with telling all your friends when your birthday is - purely so you can be wished happy birthday, of course. You can always thwart this tendency by putting in a false date of birth (as quite a number of under-teens do on Facebook, for example) though it must be hard for those few whose birthday really *is* January 1st.

Some people would rather not celebrate their birthdays. One significant birthday (you know, those that end in a zero), I got positively grumpy, despite being offered a party to celebrate it. The OH did then try to offer a party the week before to celebrate the fact that the first digit still hadn't changed, but I was too stuck in my grumpy rut by then.

The next significant birthday, I made up for it. Massive party. And it was really good fun. Somehow, the digit at the front no longer mattered. I have since taken to celebrating the fact that I generally don't look my age (just don't look too closely at giveaway areas like my hands or neck) and delight in surprising people who hadn't realised. Yes, I really am *that* old. And no, I'm not going to say here how old I am. It might be different by the time you read it... I have finally realised that age is relative and it's mostly in your head. Your chronological age is pretty unimportant.

Alternatively, you can follow the example of other cultures. A Polish friend, for example, tells me that birthdays are quite low key but your Name Day, on the other hand, is another matter completely.  Happy Name Day, all you Sabinas out there, today being St Sabina's Day, according to the Catholic calendar.

It also occurred to me, while writing 'happy birthday' in Spanish for a friend, that some of it is in the wording. Harking back each year to our birth when mentioning birth-day is guaranteed to make us feel old, whereas the Spanish 'feliz cumpleanos' would appear to my vague recollections of Latin, to be celebrating the number of years you have completed, a more satisfying approach. Yay, finished another one, pass the sangria!

One of my brothers-in-law has a theory that people who set themselves a (usually totally unrealistic) lifeplan that is not achieved by the time they are 30 find crossing that particular threshold awkward, as if they have somehow failed. There are two potential solutions to this: one is to set yourself realistic goals rather than attempting to be e.g. president of Uruguay or a multiple billionaire by the time you're thirty - very few people manage this, if any; the other is pack so much into your life that by the time you're thirty you have a lot to look back on. My brother-in-law, a busy chap in his quiet moments, enjoyed his thirtieth birthday.

I suspect this is an approach that can be applied throughout the years, whatever targets you set yourself and is quite well summed up by the popular current acronym YOLO - You Only Live Once. Happy whatever you're celebrating today, just make sure you don't let it slip by without doing something to remember!

Friday, 2 August 2013

In memory of Daniel Pelka

Sometimes I find it hard to take sides or make a decision because usually I can see the other person's point of view. I make excuses for people driving badly, for example, (for all I swear at them!) or forgetting to include someone in a group invitation, partly because I can understand all too easily how such things might happen.

But sometimes I cannot understand how someone can do something. The recent case of Daniel Pelka is one of those times. I haven't read all the stories in the news relating to it because it's just too sad and too distressing. The little I have seen projects Daniel's mother and her partner as being like the killers that I normally come across in TV shows like 'Criminal Minds', where it's all fiction and people like that don't really exist. Except apparently they do.

I can *almost* understand the stepfather's actions. I suppose it's the exercise of power by an extreme sadist. But what is so shocking to me is how the maternal instinct seems to have failed so completely in Daniel's mother. Clearly the boyfriend was a scary guy as Daniel's sibling tried to help but did so secretly, to protect both of them. So perhaps Daniel's mother was also scared of him. Perhaps. She didn't appear to show any remorse throughout the nine weeks of the trial, though. Ultimately, I can only agree with the judge who described their actions as 'incomprehensible'. Literally.

Thirty years doesn't seem much for what the two of them put a little boy through. But it will probably be thirty years in solitary for their own protection, because I'm pretty certain that their fellow jailbirds will find their actions incomprehensible too, and many of them will be parents.