Birthdays are nature’s way of telling us to eat more cake

By Shepparton News

In her weekly column Sandy Lloyd is hoping she's getting better with age.

Whoosh. There goes another birthday and another year.

I thought they might be slowing down a bit by now (for the record, I have just turned 55) but they don’t appear to be.

As Basil Fawlty (aka John Cleese) said in the marvellous Fawlty Towers: “Zoom! — what was that? That was your life, mate. That was quick, do I get another one? Sorry mate, that’s your lot.”

Basil was, of course, cynical and angry as he contemplated his miserable existence and yet another disappointment in a life full of disappointments.

I’d rather see his words as a call to action. That life is short and you don’t know what’s around the corner, so you’d better make the most of what you’ve got. Live life to the fullest. Seize the day. All that sort of stuff.

In reality, I fall somewhere between Basil’s fear that life is passing him by and throwing caution to the winds and living as if there’s no tomorrow. I suspect that’s where most of us exist.

Am I bothered about turning 55?

Nope. I feel just the same as I always have — a bit physically slower, but nothing else is different.

I’d like to think I’m a bit wiser, but that’s not always obvious. (I won’t be stopping dancing at concerts any time soon.)

Mostly I’m just surprised that I have children aged 23 and 19, and that I’m old enough to be the mother of way too many of the young reporters in the office.

That’s a sobering thought.

So how did I spend my 55th milestone? By running away from home.

I have a standing holiday booking at work to coincide with my birthday every year. Because that’s the best birthday present I can give myself — a break from my everyday life and a chance to recharge the batteries for another year ahead.

It doesn’t save me from afternoon tea and my colleagues singing Happy Birthday to me at work. I wish it did, but they still manage to trap me either before or after my holiday. They’ve twigged to my cunning plan now.

When possible I not only escape from work, I also escape from Shepparton.

This year I ran away to one of my favourite places in the whole world — Barwon Heads.

I’ll share more about my nostalgic return to the place of so many wonderful childhood memories in next week’s column.

This week is about birthdays, and I spent my ‘big day’ with two of my favourite women in the whole world — my daughter and my cousin-who-is-more-like-a-sister.

I didn’t cook a thing — which is always my birthday goal — eating breakfast and lunch out, and topping it all off with fish and chips from the same takeaway shop we have bought fish and chips from for my entire life.

It was a far cry from the massive 21st birthday party so many years ago or the 40th party that was as much a celebration of surviving divorce as it was of reaching a birthday milestone.

Or even my 50th — I didn’t want a party, just a lovely extended family birthday dinner. Mum had other plans, and conspired to throw a surprise dinner party by secretly inviting my friends.

The surprise was turned on my guests as I had figured out what was going on and I greeted my friends as they arrived.

Woe betide anyone who tries to hide something from a journalist who has a nose for something fishy. Let that be a lesson to you all, I told them.

But it turns out you can still surprise me.

A happy coincidence for my birthday this year was that on the night before, my children and I had tickets to be in the audience for the recording of Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell at the ABC studios in Southbank.

We would then have dinner together and that would be a perfect birthday eve. I was content.

I didn’t know that a ‘but wait, there’s more’ moment was coming.

My daughter had bought me Shaun Micallef’s new book for my birthday, and had secretly arranged for him to sign it for me during the show’s taping (no, you won’t see it on your TV screens — there is lots of down time when you’re filming a show like this).

To top it off, the entire audience (including Shaun — I have mentioned my deep love for him in this column before, haven't I?) sang Happy Birthday to me.

So roll on 56 — let’s see what life holds for me this year.

I am reading...

An article called The Hollywood Hot At 50 Club in the Age Sunday Life magazine. That’s a soul-destroying exercise when you’re turning 55 — these women look better than any mere mortal has ever looked at any age.

Jennifer Lopez, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger were the ‘hotties’.

I’m glad women can be celebrated as being attractive at any age, but all I can think is — how exhausting. How exhausting to have to work so hard to maintain those figures and looks all the time. Just relax — put on some tracky-dacks and eat some chocolate.

I am travelling...

On the train from Geelong to Melbourne. It’s a V/Line service, looking a little shabby around the edges, but it’s a million light years away from the ageing Shepparton V/Line trains.

It’s a proper commuter service — fast, on time, warm on a bitterly cold night and with doors that open at the touch of a button. I can use my Myki card and there are modern carriages that don’t shake and clank and rattle like the old Shepp noisy clunkers. This is what Shepparton train travellers deserve.

I’m paying the same taxes as the people of Geelong, so shouldn’t I get the same public transport?

I am swooning...

At the feet of Hugh Jackman. Along with thousands of other women at one of his sold-out Rod Laver Arena concerts in August. Is this man perfect? He can sing, dance, act, tell a great story, loves his wife — just an all-round great guy. The Man. The Music. The Show. was an amazing showcase of his talents.

He made jokes about his signature movie character Wolverine, tap-danced up a storm, shared the stage with some extraordinary indigenous performers and sang songs from his hit shows: Les Miserables, The Greatest Showman and The Boy from Oz (among others). Fabulous.

I am watching...

The new season of Utopia on ABC TV. Coming straight after Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell on a Wednesday night, it’s my favourite hour of television all year. Utopia is everything you fear about bureaucracy, captured by pitch-perfect writing and acting.

No detail is left to chance, as government systems are excoriated for our (often uncomfortable) viewing pleasure. I am a huge Working Dog fan, never missing current shows Utopia and Have You Been Paying Attention? and loving past efforts with Frontline, The Hollowmen, Thank God You’re Here, The Castle and The Dish.