I was six when Gwendoline entered my life. Before then I didn’t know any Gwens or Gwendolyns or Dolly. I did have an Aunt Wyn, but I still don’t know if her given name had the root of Gwen.

That year of being six was tough for me and for the rest of my family but it wasn’t until I reached my seventh birthday that I realised my life was tougher. I shared a birthday with her. I was told she was a witch. I was told I was a witch. I never wanted another birthday.

On my eighth birthday I was sick. Physically vomitting like a fountain. Birthdays were overrated.

In the next year I wished Gwendoline dead, I used all my witchy powers to kill her and I pretended she didn’t exist when I visited her house. At some point Gwendoline was paralysed this year from the waist down. Witchy power?

My ninth birthday, I really wanted a party. All my friends had parties, my brother and sister had parties but I didn’t. So I really wanted one. But no one could help so I didn’t have one.

I had a birthday party on my tenth birthday, there was no parent present, or grandparent, or siblings. But I had four friends there: Vanessa, Rebecca, Rosemary and Tracy. We didn’t play games. We just sat. We ate. They went home. Not sure party was the word.

I never wanted another birthday.

This took on a more realistic tone as I almost died before my next birthday. I then spent a number of years in that reality.

I stopped celebrating my birthday, I arranged to be doing something else so I couldn’t dwell on other children’s birthdays. I stopped going to parties that had any connotation towards birthdays.

As a parent I struggled with them having parties, I think each of them had one or maybe two. Ross had one on his first birthday and my two siblings came with their children, Sean’s siblings came with their children and no one spoke. Ross had one in Galway and kids, parents and grandparents descended. They had a great time but they really wanted to know about Ross’ “illness” – they thought he had leukemia – don’t ask!

Gwendoline died. You know the song – it’s in the Wizard of Oz. Consider it sung. I think it was in 2003 but not sure. That was the year Blue died so maybe I have the two deaths mixed up. I am not going to dwell. Auntie Barbara Midleton died as well.

Sean thought I would be able to celebrate again. Forty years of not doing something, it makes you part of something and difficult to separate.

However I started doing something – just for me each year, just not around that date. So I went to Nice and painted, I was a member of the Irish contingent in the G4 challenge


Crazy things, but never on my birthday. Two good friends gave me a surprise birthday lunch in June one year because they were fed up of my lack of a birthday.

I know I am not a witch, took me a long time to work that out.

I know I am loved and that people like to show their love by celebrating birthdays.

I have a birthday.

Just still not sure about the whole birthday thing. I like Jesus’ birthday, I love that he came to us. I love that he is coming again. The rest, my blink of an eye are just distractions.

To Charlene with love.