Last week, I turned 38 and just seeing that in black and white makes me feel really old. I could write a load of sentiment about being blessed to have lived this long but as the big 40 approaches, I’m not feeling anything but OLD! I’m sure I’ll get used to the idea and one day when I turn 48, I’ll look back and think I was a lot younger than I felt, but my first birthday since emigrating has had the same anti-climactic affects on me as Christmas and New Year.
January is never a great time to have your birthday (cheers mum, you could have timed my delivery a little better!) as back in the UK, it was always freezing cold and everyone was still feeling the pinch after the Christmas festivities. But I was always lucky enough to have someone making plans for a nice evening dinner or champagne afternoon-tea (usually both) and my door was always rattling with the sound of people calling by to drop in with cards and – more importantly – prosecco.
Bless Ste for all his efforts to make the occasion a special one in the absence of my family and friends this year. He booked the day off work (which was the best present he could have given to me!) and had researched a child-friendly winery to visit for lunch. We are so lucky living here on the Mornington Peninsula to be surrounded by beautiful olive groves and vineyards and I have been desperate to visit one since we arrived so I was really excited to finally get to call in rather than drive past!
We headed to Green Olive at Red Hill as Ste had heard there was a big trampoline that we thought would keep the kids entertained while we enjoyed lunch together – a win/win for the parent/child ratio (or so we thought!) Here’s some pictures if you’d like to see!
Despite the beautiful surroundings, neither Ste nor I got to sit and enjoy them much as the trampoline was situated down a hill beyond the restaurant seating area so we had to take it in turns to supervise the children as they bounced! Nevertheless, they had a good time for about half an hour before the inevitable bumps of body parts!
Kian’s favourite food is olives, which we find completely bizarre. I like them myself but nowhere near as much as our little man who asks for them morning, noon and night and if you ask him his favourite flavour anything, he will say “olive flavour!” So you can imagine how excited he was to try the farm grown ones here.
Ariana has started to show a real interest in photography and every time I get my SLR out, she is all over it, snapping away. She took this one of Ste and I and I think she did great!
Orders had to be placed at the counter, so I went inside to ask advice on the best olives that would be suitable for the kids to enjoy. Unfortunately the staff serving were unaware of the differences between the Manzilla and Kalamata on the menu, so I went for the former ‘with wild lime olive oil’ after having been assured that they would be pipped but when they arrived, Kian nearly choked on his first bite as the stones were still inside. The humous was the most bitter I have ever tasted, the ‘tomato, red onion and garden herbs bruschetta’ was so hard I couldn’t bite through it without it grazing the roof of my mouth and the roasted potatoes were under-cooked with only a sprinkling of raw rosemary to lift the bland flavour. Needless to say, the children didn’t eat any of it so after spending almost $100 on food and a couple of glasses of sparkly wine (we didn’t bother buying a bottle at $45), we left feeling pretty deflated indeed.
Around the corner, we spotted Foxey’s Hangout which is a local wine I’ve enjoyed getting to know since we arrived here, so we thought ‘why not!’ and stopped for another attempt at a little birthday over-indulgence. The beautiful vineyard was a stunning backdrop to the restaurant and the kids ran in the open space while we enjoyed the view and a little sparkling rose to accompany it. The little ones were still hungry, so we ordered the closest thing we could find on the menu to chicken – barbecued quail and (in the absence of anything else that sounded appealing) some sourdough bread, which arrived as a plate of meat with a wedge of lemon at the side of it and a full loaf of bread with a bowl of olive oil. I had explained that the food was for the kids and I don’t know about your children but ours don’t particularly enjoy dipping bread into oil so I asked for butter and was told there was none in the kitchen. Dry bread with tasteless quail for lunch it was and a harsh lesson learned that winery’s are for wine – we’ll eat before we go next time!
Ste dropped me off in Mornington on the way home and I enjoyed a few hours wandering around the shops and making a video call to my mum to celebrate the day together from opposite ends of the earth. I had aimed to treat myself to a new bag and shoes but the options on Main Street were either really overpriced basics that I used to pick up in TK Maxx for a fraction of the price or cheap plastic tat that could make Primark look high-end (oh how I miss shopping in Manchester!) so I went home with new pyjamas for the kids who had baked me a lovely birthday cake that turned out to be the best thing I’d eaten all day!
I had some wonderful messages from you guys that made me feel super lucky and the parcels that arrived in the post had me welling up with mixed emotions – wondering what the hell I’m doing so far from everything and everyone I’ve ever known but oh so lucky to be loved and remembered now and every single day. The gorgeous new girlfriends I’ve met here surprised me with gifts too and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Moving to another country has been an exciting adventure at best and an isolating experience at worst and only time will tell what the next 12 months will bring.
Thank you for being there!
Love from Leyla