reflections on the eve of middle age

I am told middle age starts in your mid-forties, and your mid-forties start at the age of 44. So I sit here before you less than twelve hours away from leaving my youth behind and becoming a middle-aged woman.

It is not how I feel – although, I’ll be honest, I am not sure how middle-aged people feel in general. My mother, who just turned eighty-something last week, tells me she still feels somewhere around thirty – and quite frequently acts it. It seems one’s internal age-clock slows down or simply switches off after three or so decades, whilst one’s body continues to age.

I had some difficult teenage years, and graduated university a serious, earnest, slightly (not so slightly?) geeky twenty-year-old who had found some kindred spirits to play with and finally felt accepted and loved by her peers. My twenties were spent getting used to living in a foreign country, moving around a lot, having to make new friends over and over again… and slowly becoming the extrovert you see before you.

My thirtieth birthday was spent in the exclusive company of women, at a ladies-only ball in the Cafe Royal in the West End of London. Surrounded by many of my closest friends, ball-gowned up and wearing a rather fabulous pair of designer shoes, I looked as good as it got in those days. But I still felt slightly fraudulent, as if some grown-ups were going to tap my shoulder at any moment and tell me to go home to bed.

The following decade was the best fun of all. Living in India, then Australia, then India again, I discovered spangly flip-flops and myself. Twenty-first century London life was the icing on the cake, and I had it all: I lived in a big vibrant city with a man who loved me, I had a great job, a brilliant circle of friends, and a supportive family, and I had enough money to enjoy it all.

Life in Australia has more or less continued all of that on the other side of the world. Although I miss the northern hemisphere contingent of family and friends, I have been reunited with others here and made some new friends for life.

So, with a glass of wine at my feet (a Heathcote shiraz, since you ask), pizza cooking in the oven and a quiet evening of reflection ahead, I look forward to another year, another decade, another phase of my life. For myself I wish a happy continuation of the usual three things: something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. For the world I wish a small step or two closer to the Monty Python philosophy of life:

Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.

forty amazing things

My sister Annette wrote on her birthday card to me that I should do forty amazing things this year.

I have taken her advice, and this year, before I turn 41, I plan to fulfill that dream.

I have gotten off to a great start too. In the three weeks since my birthday I have managed to experience four amazing things, so I am well on the way to success.

Follow this link for the chronicles of my adventures.

40 amazing things

My sister Annette wrote on her birthday card to me that I should do forty amazing things this year. 

I have taken her advice, and this year, before I turn 41, I plan to fulfill that dream.

I have gotten off to a great start too. In the three weeks since my birthday I have managed to experience four amazing things, so I am well on the way to success. These pages will chronicle my adventures.

your favourite lies

Aren’t you a scurrilous bunch? Again, some of you insisted that you never lie, but here are the highlights of the untruths you routinely trot out.


Pat Scullion: It’s your round again Poppy

Katharine Haines: A big boy did it and ran away

Nick Lawrance: pouring water on cats make them multiply

Annette Doyle: I didn’t hear the phone ringing

Bernard Doyle: I’m not looking forward to turning the big 4-0 next year

Ashling Doyle: One second…

Connor Doyle: It wasn’t me

Paul Curran: pretending I know what I am talking about

Joe Dalton: You’ve lost weight

Mena Doyle: I’ll still love you in the morning

Carmel Bennett: Paul, I really didn’t spend that much!

Sam Evans: Yeah, well thanks (every morning at work to those who ask)

Orlando Gibson: I never lie

naughtiest things you’ve ever done

Well don’t I know a freaky bunch of people (and I seem to be related to quite a few too). Many of you were too chicken to reveal the maughtiest thing you’ve ever done, and one or two insisted you had never done anything remotely naughty. Here is what the honest people said.


Aly Sharpe: breaking into the public swimming pool at 2am in tremendous heat to try and cool down

Nick Lawrance: errr, came home from school and drew all over the walls. My girlfriend was livid I’d only been teaching there a couple of weeks

Annette Doyle: obviously not going to tell you – but how about making custard on the cooker when Mammy was out…

Suzanne Parsons: now that would be telling. Mairead will know – she was there.

Bernard Doyle: ………… nude in the Phoenix Park

Ashling Doyle: punched my classmate Mary in the face

Connor Doyle: peeing outside in the front garden!

Fiona Jordan: shoplifting as a teenager

Kelvin Kershaw: thrown pair of shoes over a power line

Paul Curran: given a disgracefully ill-considered talk during a debate for Eng. Day which initially amused but ultimately offended and/or shocked all attending

Kris Ward: danced on a bar with a male stripper

Mena Doyle: run away from home with Eddie Grey

Carmel Bennett: went out with my first cousin for four years

Sam Evans: Master of my Domain (answers on a postcard please)

one thing I wish I’d done yesterday

My, there were some weird answers to this question:

Katharine Haines: not eaten so many Minstrels in the car

Nick Lawrance: put less cornflour in the gravy

Eileen Kershaw: checked the size of the green shiny Bollywood bangles before I bought them – they’re too small

Fiona Jordan: been less grumpy (hangover from hell and not enough sleep)

Paul Curran: proved the  45 degree conjecture

Orlando Gibson: I achieved all my goals yesterday (New Year’s Eve 2006)

winning entry

Nick Lawrance wins the prize for Best Answer to Any Question in Mairead’s Birthday Book with this:

My Happiest Memory

Sunday, Big Chill 2005 – 4 hours after friends and I had listened to England beat Aus by two runs, 3 hours after listening to Norman Jay play a two hour set in blazing sunshine, 1 hour after deciding that yes, a sixth jug of rum cocktail would be a splendid idea thanks very much and about 2 seconds after the first chords of “Mr Blue Sky” blasted the Herefordshire countryside. And about 4½ mins before it all started to fall apart.

Dream Come True

Runner-up for the most creative and imaginative answer to the dream you’d most like to have come true was Mena Doyle, for wishing that Ireland could swap places with Tasmania.