One of the things that I love and loathe about my iPhone is the capacity of it. Each upgrade has given me more storage to play with, which means more space for music, my laziness (and sentimentality) is indulged as I don’t have to wade through and delete text messages, and I can capture precious moments via the camera on a daily basis without worrying about my phone filling up. But perhaps the best part of this is the fact that it’s become a portable digital memory box. Sickeningly, I’ve been wedded to iPhones for over four years, and it means there’s an impressive image catalogue to behold.
Whilst many of the pictures mark moments which, through the mists of time have come to mean relatively little, there are two days which I seem to capture annually: Christmas day and my birthday. With the passing of another year recently, I scrolled through the photos to reminisce. I didn’t need photographic reminders of where I was – I can easily recall where I spent my previous eight birthdays, contrary to popular belief – but some of them definitely warranted photos to capture the moment.
Having graduated from university the previous summer, I was working in London. A week before my birthday, my friend and I signed the contract to rent our first flat together, but we weren’t moving in for another fortnight. My best friend had continued living in Leeds post-graduation and, as we were both busy working at different ends of the country, we weren’t seeing each other as frequently as we’d have liked. Fortunately, we managed to get together to celebrate my birthday: as I hadn’t moved yet, we split the cost of a cheap hotel room and spent the weekend enjoying ourselves.
On my birthday itself, we met up with my Mum and Auntie and I spent hours in fragrance heaven at Les Senteurs, choosing myself a birthday present. After lunch at a cafe in Belgravia, we posed for a quick picture outside Buckingham Palace at my friend’s request, then the pair of us indulged ourselves further at the Parlour in Fortnum and Mason. Because what would a birthday be without cake?
The day was completed by a bit more eating and a reasonable amount of drinking and dancing. We returned to our hotel via rickshaw, something I hadn’t done before which rounded off a day I’ll never forget.
This time, there were no long-term friends and no family members. But there were horses, beaches, sunshine and some new friends: I was on the holiday of a lifetime in South Africa. It’s another one I’ll never forget, and although my highlight of seeing giraffe from horseback came later in the trip, waking up to a view of the Indian Ocean and riding along the cliffs made me incredibly happy.
When the hosts found out it was my birthday, they surprised me at dinner with a cake, a bottle of bubbly and some enthusiastic singing from the hotel staff. I felt utterly spoiled, very special and like I was the luckiest girl in the world.
I remember feeling that this was a terrifying beginning: my birthday was a Tuesday, and technically I was on annual leave from my job – my final day at work had been the previous Friday, but I wasn’t going back. Two years after I’d moved to London, I was returning to the family home the weekend after my birthday. Two months later, I’d fly to the US for the summer. But on my birthday, I was again in London.
As it was a school night for most of my friends – and a Tuesday is the worst, if it’s a Thursday, or even a Wednesday, most people can be persuaded into at least a few drinks – my options for people to hang out with were limited. Fortunately, I drummed up the support of my hardiest friends: my Auntie and my former-flatmate. I, of course, had a panic about having nothing to wear (I blame the weather: it was cold and drizzly, a horrible contrast to the previous year being 25 degrees and sunny on the Wild Coast!) and made a last minute mad dash to Oxford Street, hunted down a dress and hurtled home to get ready.
Two hours later, I was at the bar at ME London, gazing down at the city in a highly contemplative mood. I went all-out, because I knew it would be a while before I got a similar opportunity: I wielded my most ridiculous glittering handbag, sipped a perfect cocktail, took lots of pictures and then dragged my friend and my aunt to one of the cheesiest restaurants in the country on Leicester Square… only to be mildly affronted that they’d redecorated (I have a not-so-secret passion for restaurants which consider hats to be appropriate interior design features – the more ridiculous headgear there is on the walls, the more I love it – I’m a slave to a chain restaurant with a theme). It didn’t matter in the end: I had a great time, stuffed myself with Mexican food and rolled home happy.
As I reported last week, I once again viewed London from high above on my birthday. This time, I was east of central London at The Shard. It’s dizzying, especially when I considered what has happened in the last few years.
When I returned to earth, my family and I had lunch at a restaurant I’d chosen: as is now sort of customary on my birthday, there was a cocktail and what looked like an entire joint of meat in front of me.
As we walked across the Millennium Bridge to head home, the weather went from grey and threatening to drizzle to… sleet. It was the first time in about 21 birthdays that I’d seen snow (or a variant of) on that day. I don’t know where I’ll be next year, what the weather will be like or what I’ll see. Hopefully I’ll consider it worth capturing, so that I can add another view to my collection.