x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Thirtieth birthday stress

The stress of trying to arrange the perfect birthday party is worth it in the end.

Thirtieth birthdays are, I have recently come to realise, stressful affairs. And not just for the person peering into the mirror, smoothing out invisible wrinkles and pondering what it means to reach this milestone age. Oh no.

They are, I would argue, even more fraught with worry for the birthday boy or girl's nearest and dearest. The weight of responsibility for orchestrating the perfect day is a heavy one, particularly if you're living a few thousand miles away from close family and childhood friends, who could normally be called upon to shoulder some of the burden.

I started to fret about my fiancé's 30th birthday well over six months ago. My first move was to organise for a group of us to go away on a (surprise) short break to Oman for the actual event. I sent out a flurry of e-mails, made travel arrangements and repeatedly instructed people that on no account must they mention anything about it to Scott. All was going swimmingly, until the day he gallantly offered to collect my mobile from the hotel lobby where I'd abandoned it, answered the phone when it rang and was informed by the hotel's reservation team that they were happy to confirm the booking for March 21-23. Needless to say, I was furious and had no one to blame but myself.

So, with one surprise ruined, I became feverishly concerned with ensuring that his present remained a secret until the very last minute. I ordered it online weeks in advance, even paying the deposit early, only to arrive at a little gallery in London's Mayfair to be told that the picture wasn't quite finished.

Thankfully it was ready by the time I was due to fly back to the UAE, so all that was left was to cover it in layers of wrapping paper, pay heftily for excess baggage and narrowly escape having to unwrap the parcel in the middle of the airport in order to get it through security.

I'm not proud to admit it, but I think that it was the threat of tears that swung things for me.

In the days before his birthday, I took on the manner of an industrious 11-year-old Blue Peter fan; making a cake and a card (both elaborately decorated) and attempting to blow up a roomful of balloons. And then, the day arrived, we all had a fantastic time, and all too quickly, it was over. So now the onus is on him, although he's got a good four years before he needs to start to worry.