For April 2024


Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy day of your birth!

Your Birth Day.

When the walls of your world tightened.

When your mother’s heart contracted tight too, feeling it,

Feeling you coming.

That day.

Which to you, to me, will always be mythical.

How did it happen, again?

Tell me the true, unbelievable, inconceivable, story of my start.

They watched a Tarzan film that evening.

A black and white one, with Johnny Weissmuller, crying out through the jungle,

Calling me to the world.

And then, apparently, I waited –

Something I would struggle to do ever again –

Until my brothers and sister had gone to sleep.

Then arrived – 10.30pm.

My mother had done it three times before, knew what she was doing.

So, it was in the bedroom. At home.

On that bed. That mattress.

The one stuffed with horsehair, from Heal’s.

The one on which I later slept, between my parents, kicking my father whenever he snored.

The one on which later still, my father sat down, and told my mother:

“I think I’m having a stroke.”

The one on which I was conceived.


Because it is

Hard to believe that I was, that you were,

That we were once that small.

Could hide inside another’s,

Our mother’s



So Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday to me!

Because it stops being the day of your birth, right after its happened.

Becomes instead the day of your aging.

So I could not understand why my Jewish grandmother

Used to congratulate my mother on my birthday.

What did it have to do with her? I thought,

In that way that children do, before they are separate enough to know anything

Outside the circle of themselves,

Before I could imagine that day as belonging to anyone but me,

And being about anything but presents, cake, candles and a whole new shiny, shining number.

A new age.

New sound. Meaning. Status.

Six. Seven. Eight.

And all those other promised numbers up ahead

As mythical as my beginning

Fifteen Eighteen Twenty!

One day, I will be those figures too.

They will be me.


So Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday to me!

It can’t be true that each day you grow a single day older.

Surely something strange, special, different

Happens overnight

On your birthday,

A whole new number

Ready to unwrap in the morning.

A new ‘I am…’

I am six

I am sixteen

I am twenty five

Thirty two

Forty seven

And now, in a few days, I will wake to:

‘I am fifty.’

Like a baton handed me for the year,

A relay race

With only yourself on the team.

I tag myself in,

Make the cake

Light the candles

Huff puff

Blow them out

Make a wish

And I’m off

Into the new age

New year

Running alongside the sun, who takes 225 million years to complete her orbit,

On the earth, 4.5 billion years old,

I run on, my little number clutched to my chest, for another 365 days, until….


Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to me!

Fifty. Five Zero.

Halfway to a hundred

Not midway in a life, mostly.

But because we count in tens

It has an extra sing out in the count,

Ring out in the rhyme:






It sounds like a number of note,

And for some years now,

Ever since forty

Ever since ‘mid life’ began

Ever since ‘the second half’ started

I have wondered when midway actually is,

Or was,

As if I am on a see-saw

Walking up it

But I can’t feel the fulcrum,

The tip

The flip

The point past which there is less ahead,

Than behind.

I began doing the maths

Every birthday, doubling my age.

41 plus 41 – 82 – possible- my mother’s age now.

48 plus 48 – my Jewish grandmother reached that – 96 when she died.

But then my other grandmother-

Only 47 when she went.

And this number- 50?

Fifty plus fifty – few make it that far.

But who knows?

Does it matter? Does it even make sense to ask?

No, it does not, yet I like to think of the numbers,

Not stacking up till they stop

As if building a tower,

But tipping, as on a see-saw –

Marjorie Door,

It’s downhill from here.

But once someone dies –

My father for instance – at three score years and ten,

Their birthday becomes again what it was, in the beginning:

The day of their birth,

The day they entered the earth,

A day empty of age,

A date only – a calendar number.

24th of October 1920 – my father

27th of April 1974 – me


So, Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday to Me!

On that date

Printed on a thousand forms

Over a lifetime

A means to track you. Trace you.

By when you began

My D.O.B.

Day of Blood

Dawn of Breath

Date of Birth.

That date

That I entered only this morning

On the iPad to buy my daughter a game about

 Building a town,

And which I have to scroll further and further back to reach now,

Through to another century

And then a few more decades of digits,

Back to an age when ages were noted on paper, not screens,

And this – the distance scrolled on a device that didn’t exist at the date on

Which I alight – the bright figures- 27.04.74-

This – makes me feel much older


I do

When I say

The word: fifty.


My number

In the great grand count up

Count down

Keeping track of

Running out of



So Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to me!

You’re never too old to learn

And I learnt this last year – while 49-

That time, on the tiniest scale, inside an atom, does not exist.

That it only comes into being because we cannot look closely enough.

And even then, only because of a wild disequilibrium

A vast balancing game,

So that when the universe finally finds its fulcrum again

It will be as if we never were

Or always were

Or both

At once

All the candles blown out,

All evidence of different days,

All photos of cakes, carried into rooms,

Of lighted faces,



In the great state of balance,

Every minuscule element


But for now,

As long as we are in this

Grand disarray

State of play

This see-sawing

Of having been

Of seeing what comes

Of come what may

Then I have this to say….

Happy sad day

Awful Glad day

Hope it comes round again day

Can’t wait till it comes day

It’s ages away day

It’s coming too quick day

I can’t be that old day

Pretend it’s not there day

Have a fun party day

Cry in a corner day

Many big presents day

Ice cream and hats day

Candle and cake day

Happy happy birthday

To you

To me

Happy birthday, to us all.

Artwork by Xavier Singer-Kingsmith @xotuski


  1. Kate Mohideen

    Bloody lovely 😍 Happy Birthday! Xxxx

    • matildaleyser

      Thank you my lovely. And happy birthday to your young man on the same day 🙂


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