Most years at Easter I take the children away for a few days to allow my husband some time to concentrate on work – working from home with 4 children in the next room going bat shit crazy does little for your concentration levels. I park my work for a bit and concentrate on them, we do day trips, meet friends and it’s all generally wonderful and a great time to unwind from the normal everyday routine of school, homework, bed, repeat. This Easter however was a little different. The holidays coincided with me turning 40 which is no great feat..a lot of people will do it, tons of my friends have done it and are doing it over the next few years..no biggie right? Wrong. Turning 40 has been significant for me in many ways. My older sister summed it up when she texted me the morning of my birthday saying (and I’m paraphrasing here), ‘There are lots benefits…remember you are embarking on a taking no nonsense part of your life. Watch as you become less tolerant of idiots and people who want to take advantage of you’
She’s so right. Just recently I have felt a shift in my attitude a little, for years my main aim has been to please others, I dreaded making mistakes, making anyone else feel bad, I offered people favours before they asked and wondered why my plate was so constantly full, I became the person everyone can rely on and I liked it. I liked how people would come to me for help and advice, I willingly offered my services not because I required some kind of validation or for thanks and gratitude and never because I wanted to feel like I was superior or has a hold over anyone. I did it because I love to help and I still do. The difference is that now I am starting to realise that I wasn’t pleasing myself much, I was running myself too thinly, I was agreeing to do things I didn’t really need or want to do because I would rather that than say NO and let people down. My eagerness to agree and please was being taken advantage of, probably not deliberately but it wearing me down and on the way my priorities seemed to have got a little mixed up and lost in my perpetual struggle to be everything to everyone, least of all my children and my husband.
As my 40th loomed I was continuously asked ‘what are you going to do to celebrate your birthday’? My answer was simple, ‘I don’t know, my husband has decided I can not be involved in any way and I am to leave it up to him’ Now those who know me and my crazy organisation skills will completely appreciate how hard this was for me. Believe me it was beyond difficult but at the same time so totally liberating. I was free to enjoy the run up to my celebrations completely stress free – well that’s an exaggeration I’m never totally stress free but you know what I mean – I honestly didn’t have a clue what to expect which terrified me a little I’m willing to admit but it was so worth it.
I have known Adam half my life. He knows me better than anyone. He knows what I like and what I don’t like and throughout our relationship has often surprised me with the most overwhelmingly romantic gestures and my 40th was no different. The celebrations started with afternoon tea with a few of my sisters followed by a surprise party back at our house, balloons and bunting had been frantically hung from every inch of the house in the 2 hours I was out of the house, crazy quantities of party food, champagne and cake covered every inch of kitchen work top and the noise as I arrived at the house was equal to a One Direction concert at wembley as excited children greeted me at the door. My actual birthday was a simple day spent with the children – it was all I asked for and all I wanted. Breakfast prepared and I was told to sit down whilst they each handed me a gift. Each gift was either a spice or a herb from Morocco, Adams was the final gift – An envelope with flight details for a mini break in Marrakech a place I have been desperate to visit for as long as I can remember. He had arranged childcare for the children and was whisking me away to Morocco for 4 days. Well I was one happy lady. The End.
Not the end though, after a quick trip to Wales to see my adorable new baby niece – see next blog post – I was told to be home by Friday evening at the latest. On Saturday after a photoshoot I was told I had 2 hours to shop and find an outfit for the evening. No indication of what I was doing, it’s hard to shop like that believe me.. I had a major wardrobe crisis and resorted to whatsapping my sisters all manor of dodgy photos of me in various changing rooms in all manor of different outfits. I settled on a rather spangly pair of gold sequin leggings – I know, I’m 40 and that’s inappropriate right? Call it denial, call it what you like, I was in a hurry and that was all I could come up with so it had to do. I raced home and got changed as I was told the taxi leaves at 4pm sharp. Adam is notorious for being late so his strict time keeping was a little disturbing. I got in the taxi that was waiting patiently outside to be greeted by my 2 oldest (you know what I mean) and very best friends. Delighted, surprised and confused as Adam got in the front we drove off. Excited that we had not met up for a bit we quickly got stuck into chatting about what had been happening lately and I wasn’t concentrating on the route we were taking until we ended up on the motorway.. really confused at this point my friends smiled, clearly enjoying my confusion and said nothing. We arrived about 30 minutes later at an airfield. I started to panic internally…was Adam going to make me jump out of an aeroplane as his surprise?!.. How was I going to politely tell him to ‘f’ off and that in NO way was that EVER going to happen especially given I was wearing gold spangly trousers and if I was to hurl myself out of a plane I would most likely be shot down by NASA as I would show up on a radar like some enormous reflective UFO hurtling towards the ground. I was going to die wearing gold sequin pants. Reading the panic on my face Adam reassured me that wasn’t going to happen as we were escorted into a hangar.
“That’ he said pointing to a big orange helicopter ‘is your transport to your party’! Relieved, excited, overwhelmed I got in. After the obligatory photo outside and the ridiculous selfies inside we took off for an amazing sight seeing tour over London before landing in the field of a fabulous local pub, The Black Swan in Ockham, to be greeted by my 4 bemused and over excited children who came running out to see us land.
Needless to say it was amazing and once again Adam had managed to surprise and delight me. Inside the pub a few close friends were waiting for me to have a meal together, it was so special. Just as we went to leave (to I wasn’t sure where as I was preoccupied about getting my enormous ’40’ balloons in a car) Adam diverted me through some curtains to which I was greeted by more gorgeous friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for an absolute age. It was without doubt one of the best nights. Not leaving it at that Adam had arranged for our house to be transformed into the after party party. Mini buses arrived to escort all my party guests back to our house to continue the celebrations well into the night.. and continue we did. It was awesome.
Exhausted not just from the party but from the relief of now knowing what had been going on behind my back for what I am reliably told was months in advance I could begin to relax and prepare for the last part. Marrakech.
We flew off on Thursday leaving the children again in the capable hands of Nana and arrived in the evening. The large front doors to the Riad we were staying with were unassuming but behind which held an oasis of style and decadence like I had never seen before. Beautifully tiled inner courtyards with a gentle water features, an amazing aroma from the Hamman Spa and the subtle piped music took away the last of my stresses and I exhaled.
The following morning after an amazing breakfast Adam had arranged for a guide to take us into the Suuqs. Typical paranoid tourists we were under the impression we would be mugged the minute we stepped outside of our riad and needed a protective guide to help us navigate these dangerous streets..in reality what we got was the gentlest and humblest of men called Abdul who gave us an incredible tour of his city. He took us to places that were beyond stunning, he recalled the most amazing amount of facts about the rich history of his country, he proudly showed off the incredible feats of architecture and design and reassured us that Marrakech was a safe city. He explained that historically his people had been suspicious of visitors but they now greet one another with peace.
We asked if it was safe to walk the streets on our own? He answered ‘Yes, of course’
We asked him what happens if we get lost?
‘No one ever gets lost, they just get disoriented for a while’
We took his words and went off on an adventure to see more of this breathtaking place.
So as you see, no ordinary Easter holiday for me, but a rather Extraordinary one instead. One I will remember for a long time and one I will be forever grateful to my awesome husband for not letting me organise. When I reflect back, I think about what Abdul our guide said. It’s not so much that I have been lost recently but disoriented and that’s ok. But now I am 40, I’m ready to find my own way, I’m ready to walk in the direction I want and to take those passageways I have up to now been a little afraid of taking in case I lose my way and let someone down. I’m ready to embark on the taking no nonsense part of my life and focus on what works for me and I have an amazing husband and family and truly wonderful friends to support me along the way and for that I am enormously grateful.
‘Marrakech taught me colour’
Yves Saint Lauren