Last week it was Zed’s birthday. “What would you like to do?” I asked. Visit the Buddha Eden gardens? Go to Lisbon? The gorgeous beach at Foz do Arelho? The Montejunto hills with the fabulous views of windmills and take a picnic? It was Sunday, baking hot, a cloudless blue sky. Perfect day for a birthday.
“Maybe we should get some bin bags and make a start on clearing the attic of all that rubbish the previous owners left” said Zed.
My daughter came in, clutching an ink pen and exercise book. “…and I need to get my physics homework done first” she said, such is the pressure of school at fourteen. “Can you explain this?” she asked holding out a page of an IGCSE physics book. I quickly waltzed towards the door. “It’s easy”, said Zed, looking through the chapter she needed. “aah, the old density over volume thing.….” They were in a different world to mine and I left them talking about what ‘m’ equals to go and fetch the presents. Helping with physics on your birthday?
The night before we – that is me with the children – had been up late drawing and pasting to make birthday cards. Home-made cards I always think are more interesting and get kept. Which is lucky because I’d forgotten to pick any up at Torres Vedres Arena shopping centre where we’d driven, round hill sides and winding roads, to get some presents at six o’ clock the previous evening. Whereas in England there are card shops on every high street corner, in Portugal there is usually a little rack tucked away somewhere in the supermarket.
My finished card looked like something a Year 1 child might pull off, complete with bits of carpet fluff stuck to it, which Zed pointed out as he lovingly pulled dog hair off the back. My daughter as usual had done a splendid drawing of a lion and my son had put in a lot of effort in gold pen and spelled everything correctly. Mummy nil, children one. Although to be fair I would’ve had a spare card in if Zed hadn’t found it and given it me for my birthday two weeks before.
Next came the presents. All from our favourite Portuguese chainstore shop, Gato. They sell kitchenware, lights, soft furnishings, a few small items of furniture and stylish gifty knick knacks. Designed in Portugal but manufactured in China, or somewhere a long way away. Oh I know, I should have gone the ‘hand crafted by local artisans’ route. Music and film are Zed’s thing but as he hadn’t made a list this year, no watch, cashmere jumper, no favourite album or book, I figured I could go freestyle. I opted for gifts that were attractive but useful. We had scores of unopened boxes already containing items that were attractive but not useful, bought over at great expense by our removal firm from the UK.
Zed was of course overwhelmed by getting a cafetiere for his birthday. I even wrapped up a packet of fresh coffee for an additional surprise. It was indeed. My daughter bought him some attractive but useful mugs. Having terracotta tiled floors most of our mugs now lack handles. I figure the cafetiere was probably a desperate bid on my part to get order and a sense of homeliness into an as yet uninstalled kitchen.
Birthday breakfast was spent drinking fresh coffee outdoors with a view of the Montejunto hills. The porcelain mugs were left in the posh box and may remain so, because who dare use them with stone floors?
In the end the bin bag party was dropped and we went to Buddha Eden. We strolled around the enormous statues in a well manicured garden with a lake, and stopped in the café afterwards for luscious cakes, which was the closest Zed came to a birthday cake that day.