It’s my thirty-ninth birthday today. I only have one year left of the extraordinary decade that is my thirties. I intend to make the most of it and be as ready as I can be for my forties, which I hope will be an even better decade for me.

I didn’t think I’d still be learning about myself at this age, but every year brings more wisdom, experience and confidence. This year I intend to say ‘no’ a lot more and focus on identifying the things that are right for me.

I celebrated my birthday with family, cake and presents under the Christmas tree in Edinburgh this morning, and am now back home in Newcastle for a quiet evening with pizza and TV.

Birthday cake
With my birthday cake, made with care as ever by Dad. (c) John Cooke 2024.


I feel like I’ve barrelled through most of my thirties at a rate of knots – forty is definitely very much visible on the horizon – but so far it’s been a much better decade than my twenties and I’m feeling really positive about this age. As I get older I realise more and more that what is expected of me should not be the focus, and that life should be lived in the way that I feel is most right for me.

A lovely quiet birthday today with the usual cards and presents under the tree, birthday cheesecake made by Dad, and time to myself to relax.

Birthday cheesecake


I think, from today onwards, I may be slipping over the border towards ‘late thirties’ rather than ‘mid-thirties’. I am much more okay about this kind of border crossing than I used to be in my younger days. Life is getting better in most ways as I progress through it.

I had a nice normal birthday today (in contrast to last year) because I was able to spend the morning celebrating with family in Edinburgh before travelling back to Newcastle for the evening. I’ve got a few final days of Christmas to enjoy at home before the decorations disappear for another year.

Birthday cake
Dad made me his usual delicious New York style cheesecake. Photo (c) John Cooke 2022.

The golden week

The week in between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is my favourite week of the year. Quiet days with lots of videogaming and Christmas food. (This year I’m going to try and make the following week special too… I never really get the chance to have a ‘birthday week’ as there’s always too much going on with New Year followed by the dreaded ‘back to school’ feeling, but I’m going to try. Focusing on this week first though!)

It’s been so long since my last stretch of free time that I’m a little overwhelmed by all the options, so I’m going to spend this afternoon planning them out so that I’m not dithering during the rest of the week and can just curl up with my chosen books/games/podcasts!

Christmas presents
As a family we were very lucky with our haul again this year. Lots of things to enjoy later this week.


An unusual birthday today, like everybody else’s birthday during this strange year. I did the usual opening of birthday cards and presents under the Christmas tree, and the usual eating of birthday cake and drinking of (alcohol-free these days) fizz, but because I couldn’t be in Edinburgh this year it was in my own house under my own tree, with Mum and Dad on video call rather than in person. The birthday cake I made yesterday tasted just as it was supposed to, and I got some amazing presents, so it’s been a good birthday so far – it’s just felt a bit strange being at home in Newcastle. Like everything else over the past couple of weeks!

Birthday cards under the Christmas tree
As usual, my birthday cards will be living under the tree until Christmas gets put away on 6th January.

Today’s earworm playlist: and Cody Wise – ‘It’s My Birthday’
Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan – ‘Especially For You’

Post on 2nd January!

I feel in between today, as usual.

However, a Christmas gift came in the post today to cheer me up. I’ve always been in Scotland (where 2nd January is a public holiday) for New Year in the past, so have never known post to arrive on the 2nd of January before.

The gift was a tree decoration from our family friend Chris. We always see her at New Year but obviously couldn’t this time round.

Tree decoration

I also made my own birthday cake for the first time ever, with instruction from Dad over video call. I’ll be able to tell you tomorrow if it turned out okay!

Today’s earworm playlist:

The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’
Coldplay – ‘Christmas Lights’
Heaven 17 – ‘Let Me Go’

Stepping out

I had a good weather window for my run this morning – no ice, no rain – so the only annoyance en route were the endless roadworks at the nearby roundabout, which have circled back round to the point where they get in the way of my mile route again! It got stormy again this afternoon, so I’m glad I got some fresh air while it was still dry.

Have spent the rest of the day editing for clients and catching up with admin. Another quiet evening in tonight before my midweek run and ukulele class tomorrow.

Birthday gifts
Not an OOTD: also nice to receive a belated birthday present in the post today. No note to say whom it’s from but I have my suspicions!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Lady Gaga – ‘Always Remember Us This Way’
Cast of Mary Poppins – ‘Chim Chim Cheree’
B*Witched – ‘Blame It On The Weatherman’


Have had a nice calm birthday. I went for a quick run first thing, and then spent the morning opening presents and cards and having alcohol-free fizzy and birthday cake with the family. After a dozy afternoon, I went to the pub with friends for a quiet evening.

Another parkrun tomorrow! I’ve loved doing so many over the Christmas period, but it will also be nice to get back into the once-per-Saturday routine.

Birthday gifts under the tree
Not quite an OOTD: birthday cards and gifts freshly opened underneath the Christmas tree. Love this tradition!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Unflinchable Courage’
Coldplay – ‘Christmas Lights’
Olly Murs – ‘Dear Darlin”
Bowling For Soup – ‘1985’
Duran Duran – ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ and Cody Wise – ‘It’s My Birthday’

Inbetween days

I like to have a quiet day on the 2nd of January, in between the madness of New Year’s Day and my birthday. It’s nice to have the downtime, but I do always end up feeling a bit maudlin. The first half of my thirties has just flown by, and I imagine that if anything the second half will go quicker.

I went out for a quick gentle run this morning, something that will be a daily habit for the next while. It was nice to turn my legs over after yesterday’s exertions, and I feel a lot less sore of calf than I have been on days after parkruns recently.

I don’t really feel ready for my birthday, and I don’t really want midnight to come. It will, of course. It always does.

Out for a run
Sort of an OOTD: giving my new Lonely Goat top a run out.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Ludwig van Beethoven – ‘Ode To Joy’
Hans Zimmer – ‘This Land’
Rihanna – ‘Diamonds’


It’s my birthday today, but I didn’t go out tonight. I’m thirty-four years old now – I have far better things to do. Things I did do today:

  • Got up early and went to Slimming World, because it’s important to keep an eye on things over Christmas even when it is your birthday.
  • Opened presents and cards under Mum and Dad’s Christmas tree, just as I do every year. It’s the tenth day of Christmas and that Christmas tree is still important! Nobody’s ever got me any lords a-leaping for my birthday though.
  • Listened to my birthday number one – Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? – more than once. Was inordinately pleased that the current chart rules mean that it is currently yet again sitting in the Top Ten a whole thirty-four years later.
  • Drank prosecco and blew out candles on my birthday cake – it was a New York style cheesecake as usual, made by the world’s best dad as usual!
  • Packed up and left Edinburgh to go back to Newcastle after ten lovely days spent at Mum and Dad’s for Christmas.
  • Got on a train. Geth was worried about travel stress spoiling my birthday, but it was actually a really relaxed journey.
  • Got home and put on the heating and both fires to warm up our ice block of a house!
  • Ordered takeaway pizza and drank more prosecco. It’s my last non-sober birthday, and it’s been a double-prosecco day. I am okay with this.
  • Spent a perfect birthday evening watching ’80s episodes of Top of the Pops recorded off BBC4. I’m very nearly at the point in the marathon where I’ll get to watch the episode from Thursday 3rd January 1985! So glad I was born on a Thursday. That one’s going to be staying on the digibox and constituting my birthday viewing for many years to come.

It’s been a good day.

OOTD 3rd January 2019
OOTD: favourite day, favourite jumper. Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), jumper Carlo Colucci (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2017), leggings Primark (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Alison Moyet – This House
Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf

And a bonus track that Geth was humming earlier:

Kraftwerk – The Model

Plus my awesome birthday playlist that I made on Spotify earlier: and Cody Wise – It’s My Birthday
50 Cent – In Da Club
Lesley Gore – It’s My Party
Bowling For Soup – 1985
The Birthday Massacre – The Birthday Massacre
The Crüxshadows – Winter Born (This Sacrifice)
Altered Images – Happy Birthday
Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?