Four days before the end of August, comes a day of consequence.
It was on August 28th 489AD that king of the Ostrogoths Theodoric finally made it into Italy after vanquishing his enemies.
This day in 1609, the contours of Delaware Bay were espied for the first time by an Englishman: Henry Hudson.
In 1833 on the 28th day of August royal assent was finally received, sounding the death knell for slavery across the British Empire.
Quite a day, this one. Leo Tolstoy and Robertson Davies, two of my great heroes were born on August 28th: as was kindred spirit John Betjeman.
And eleven years ago on this day, a baby girl made some pretty stringent complaints to a naval medical team who were delivering her from one world, into the next.
We had had enough warning that a baby would change our life. I had spent nine months becoming invisible, my identity slowly seeping away behind a great big stereotype. I had performed that most irritating of initiation rites, Wearing A Tent To A Glamorous Wedding. We had bought and planned and decorated and dreamed.
Latterly, as the days became sultry, I would spend nights on the sofa listening to the creatures on the moor outside my window and feeling someone else there with me.
My girl did not want to come out. A consultant pushed and prodded to hurry her but she wasn’t for turning. We spent a pleasant day talking to a succession of midwives and learning heaps. It was a social whirl, but still no action, and finally the all-knowing chief of all the midwives had a face off with the consultant who believed himself all-knowing, and told him I needed an op.
I was terrified. The green coats everyone kept putting on didn’t help; I cried.
The surgical team was a wisecracking MASH-style comedy store. I should have paid for my ticket: they made me laugh and kept me stable and finally, they said I would feel a tug and then my husband would tell me if it was a girl or a boy.
I think I have mentioned before that he shouted triumphantly:”It’s a boy!” and the team dissolved in delighted guffaws. No, they rejoined, it was a girl.
They cleaned her up and lay her down in my arms.
Eleven years have passed since that time.
This morning she woke bright and early and arrived, delighted, at our bedside to open her presents.
She has had many today. Quite a lot are owls of some shape or form. She has a new iPod on which to play her favourite stories. Tonight she will feast on the Diary of a Nobody, and War of the Worlds, and Jeeves and Wooster.
Her birthday cards were full of greetings from those who like to play with words, from Felix who, in line with Maddie’s owl obsession, wished her not lots of love, but lots of feathers, to Phil’s contribution on behalf of Kit Kat and Macaulay the dog. The picture is a cat wearing a hoodie and looking menacing. Phil wrote: “Have a Happy Birthday or I’ll bite yer ‘ed off.”
Her favourite item, it seems, is a very beautiful writing book. It is a facsimile of the one used by Charlotte Bronte to write Jane Eyre. On the front, though, the words of the fated wedding scene are embossed. She was delighted beyond words with a book modelled on one of her heroines. Gothic to the core, the Brontes appeal.
She has already begun her latest opus inside: a story set inside a foundlings hospital.
This evening we celebrated very quietly. We hung lanterns in the garden at Maddie’s request and with a few good friends we watched the darkness fall and the coloured paper, illuminated exquisitely by a small tea light in each one.
We ate cupcakes and munched hula hoops, and sipped fizzy juice from posh glasses decorated with little umbrellas.
I cannot imagine where the last eleven years have gone. I know the next eleven will fly with even fleeter wings, and this definite, graceful, grave, merry child will surprise us all more and more with each passing twelvemonth.
Happy Birthday, Maddie Shrewsday.
For Maddie, mostly, but incredibly this ties up with Side View’s weekend theme, an event I try never to miss because it’s unfailingly ingenious: you can find her challenge here