I'm Putting on My Birthday Suit

It's okay, relax, not that kind of birthday suit! Heaven help us, I even made myself shudder then!

No, the emphasis is on 'birthday' here. Because this week marks my birthday. "Another one?" you might think, and yes, of course I think that sometimes too. But I've always refused point blank to be downhearted about it. Of course, by the time you're approaching 40 (or on the 'wrong side' of it, as I am) it's all too easy to feel sorry for yourself. But while I know plenty of people who get down about not being 25 anymore, I can honestly say it's never bothered me. And, to be honest, I didn't really enjoy either my teens or my twenties that much. I was never confident, never comfortable and didn't even understand what contentment was. I suppose I'm not always ultra confident even now, but that's the thing about getting older – you learn to fake it more convincingly.

To me the entire point of a person's birthday is that it is their day. The day when they don't have to worry about what they eat, drink, wear, say or think. It's the one day of the year, Christmas excepted, when everyone is allowed utter self-indulgence. 

I don't use a birthday as a measure of anything. Not of years. Not of achievements. I don't think about what have I not managed to do/change/mend this year There are 364 other days (or 365 days this year) when I can bang myself over the head about something I didn't do, so I'm darned if I'm going to spend my birthday doing it. Childhood birthdays are so magical, aren't they? Why do we need to change that as we grow older? Okay, we might want something a bit fancier than Pass the Parcel and Murder in the Dark, but I see no reason to make birthdays sophisticated occasions.

Nothing like a birthday tea with your best friends

With my parents at my 18th 

If we want jelly and ice cream and birthday cake, then why not?  I was very fortunate that, while I was at school, half-term generally fell around my birthday, so I rarely had to attend classes that day and could usually do just as I pleased. I was probably spoiled, but so what? It was my birthday! When I was little it used to annoy me that other children might have the same birthday as me. It was supposed to be 'my' day, not 'our' day, after all. But then I became fascinated by people whose birthday I shared. The diarist Samuel Pepys, the composer Handel, the television character Dana Scully and, as it now transpires, footballer Gareth Barry and supposed spy, Anna Chapman.

There have been famous departures too. Joshua Reynolds and John Keats died on that day. And as for events? Lots of them. The Battle of the Alamo began. And the ground invasion of Iraq. And this year my birthday marks International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day and National Banana Bread Day in the USA,  - I'm not making this up! And in general, I've always found that people whose birthdays are in February tend to get quite excited when they meet someone else born in the same month. Now, I know all you May, July & October birthday boys and girls are wondering what that's all about. But remember. There are less days in February, and take into consideration that we were born 9 months after the longest day, it's no wonder there are fewer of us! Compare that with those born 9 months from now … and you'll see what I mean.

I like having my birthday in February, but last year, just for a change, I decided to celebrate in a slightly different way. My Dad's birthday had been somewhat swamped by my Mum deciding to break her ankle as we'd headed towards the pub for a celebratory drink and so I wanted to shake things up a bit. I'd already abandoned the idea of adopting the Swedish name-day alternative. Not quite so much fun, or different, when your saint's day is in early December … So I thought I'd look around for a bit of a theme. None of the world events, or birthdays I shared really fitted the bill. Until, that was, I discovered that February 23rd once marked the Roman festival of Terminalia.  This sounded promising. After all, if the Romans knew about anything (central heating and road-building aside), it was how to throw a party.

I had been hoping to learn that Terminus (after whom the festival was named) was some sort of party-animal god, or at least one who knew how to have a good time. But no, Terminus, was the Roman god of boundaries. Hence the modern word terminal meaning the end of something. So on 23 February Roman households would join with their neighbours and gather around the marker post between their properties. They would decorate it with flowers, grains, cakes and so on and then sacrifice a lamb or young pig and drench the marker in its blood. Now call me a party-pooper, but that wasn't quite the themed celebration I was aiming for! Even the most hedonistic among you would surely baulk at animal sacrifice?

And then I remembered that I don't need a huge party with dozens of guests to celebrate, with or without the slaughtering of a cute furry thing. This year I've chosen a trip to see the new Muppet film and a Scandinavian themed buffet before watching my beloved Derby County playing local rivals Leicester City. Whether or not the latter will live up to the celebration remains to be seen. But when it comes down to it, I'm perfectly happy spending the day with my favourite people and raising a glass to happy times. Because as someone once said: 'A birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun'. And I'm certainly going to do my best to enjoy the ride!