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I’m sitting in my lounge, looking at long stemmed dark red roses, the blooms opening up already in that particular way that roses do, in a glass vase on my coffee table, and over the way, at another bunch filling an even taller vase on the wooden floor, the beautiful blooms on their hothouse stems reaching beyond the height of my hips. The flowers were a gift from my future mother-in-law, from Toronto, sent via her son. I decided that in stead of a bouquet, I would choose flowers for my house for last night’s birthday party, my much anticipated 50th.

I am pleased to firstly, report that It Did Not Rain!! Not for the first three or four hours, which meant that the pretty outdoors arrangement of ottomans and kelims and Moroccan lamps and candles and bunches and bunches of red roses on tables laden with food and sparkling wine and tall glimmering glasses could be enjoyed to the full: a visual feast as well as a culinary one. When it started raining later, most guests had already started meandering into the house and the lounge and were listening to my future husband and a fellow saxophonist play soulful jazzy tunes to backing tracks. My singing teacher who is also my fiancee’s good friend had left earlier, but she had brought her keyboard, and in a brave moment, I decided to sing him two songs which I had rehearsed somewhat the week before, to her gorgeous accompaniment, and in front of an appreciative audience of all my very best friends, and some of his.

I had spent the entire day making all the food: with help from a son and a fiancée: it was a veritable production line in this little kitchen! At one point my son was stringing the lamb onto sosatie sticks while me and my lover were rolling falafel dough between sticky palms: all in all I cooked about 150 of those! The babaganoush was great: I charred the skins of the aubergines on the gas flame first a la Nigel Slater, but then reverted to the recipe sent to me, as a scanned document by my almost mother-in-law, which her son scrawled into her recipe book more than 35 years ago after a visit to Israel. You can imagine the fragrances filling the air: cumin, sweet smoky aubergine, orange rind…. My one concession was to buy hummus: I had been over my ears in processing soaked chickpeas, so I decided to run out to my favourite veggie shop which stocks a really good one, and bought several tubs. Drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and a touch of sumac it was a great time saver.

My first guests, my best friend from Durban and her husband found me, at their early arrival, still in an apron. I have learnt through the years that whatever I am doing at around an hour before, I should interrupt that, and go and get showered and perfumed and dressed and lipsticked up… the apron was slung on over my pretty black dress, and I felt pretty(and witty and gay!!)

When all the guests finally arrived, we gathered for the congratulations and speeches: I had asked my longest standing women friend and male friend to each say something, and then my fiancée spoke too. I stood there, feeling so loved, but more than that, really seen for who I have been these last 50 years and who I am still becoming. I felt utterly blessed with the beauty of the evening and a feeling of connectedness to a small circle of people who have been in my life for years and years: my oldest male friend has been in my life for 45 years: we were little playmates as neighbours..

I had a magical night… and tonight for my actual birthday I am being taken out to a favourite restaurant, the one we got engaged in a couple of months ago: a wonderful finale to a beautiful birthday weekend.