I know some of you, the Scots in particular, have been wondering whether I was ever going to publish this. It’s two weeks since we went away for Mr MC’s birthday and already it feels like a lifetime ago – not just in terms of time but also in lifestyle because now our freedoms are far fewer again. We were so lucky to snatch a weekend of fun when we did and looking through the photos it reminds me that times like this will come again so hopefully it might inspire you to plan ahead to spring. Until then, join us here celebrating a 50th birthday in Edinburgh between lockdowns.
Celebrating a 50th birthday in Edinburgh – Thursday
Mr MC had no idea what we were going to do for his birthday – in fact neither did I until a couple of weeks beforehand. As you know he was keen for us to go back to Kalkan on our own for a few days… or anywhere warm really but as the virus started on an upward trajectory again it was clear that it would be better not to fly anywhere. So I spent hours looking for somewhere in the UK that would feel special and of course because it’s been such a staycation summer, almost everything that I could find was booked – except for shepherd’s huts – there are suddenly hundreds of those wherever you look.
Over the years we’ve realised that when we go away we like to slip into the everyday life of a locality so rather than staying in a hotel we prefer AirBnB. I was looking for somewhere that wouldn’t involve a long drive and yet would suit the birthday boy and his urban tastes. After a lot of searching I found it, somewhere that would appeal to his graphic designer roots and, happily, that we could reach by train. So here we are early in the morning at the station as he tried to work out where we were going. He was further confounded by the fact that I’d followed my own travel capsule advice and packed light – I usually take all of my outfits ready on hangers but of course you can’t do that when you don’t have the car.
I’d indulged him by booking first class seats and as so often happens now, we had the whole carriage – in fact almost the whole train – to ourselves. I’d had to run back into the house to grab some masks when the taxi arrived. We have a bag of them hanging by the front door and I’d randomly picked up one that I’d bought for the boys – I quite like it though.
In just a couple of hours we’d arrived in Edinburgh (not Glasgow as he’d suspected) and as there was a wait before we could check in to our place, we kicked off his celebrations with a lunchtime tipple.
Now this is the part that I was most excited about – the AirBnB that I’d found. It was right in the middle of the city, in fact just five minutes from John Lewis, and yet it was a little oasis. There was a hidden gate in a wall…
… that led up some steps to this, the original studio of some of Edinburgh’s leading Victorian photographers – hence the appeal to my design loving husband.
It was like a little chocolate box inside, the front door led into the cosy bedroom…
…which had a tiny but well appointed bathroom leading off it…
… and then up a spiral staircase was this hexagonal room. As you can see with the shutters open it has everything you need including a TV and fireplace…
… and a kitchen with full appliances. And yet if you close the shutters over each of the openings it turns into a cosy, wood panelled, octagonal room with views from every angle. Lots of people asked me for the booking link when I showed it on Stories, you can find it here.
So we relaxed for a while and that brings me on to outfits. Again when I did my Instagram Story I had lots of requests for a close up of the jumper I was wearing and here it is. It’s from tiny British brand Hope and they always do knitwear better than anyone else, I have to say it’s one of the nicest jumpers I’ve ever worn. A non-itchy wool blend, it’s a charcoal grey colour with flecks of white and cobalt in the knit which along with the texture really lift it. I know I keep banging on about the importance of texture but it really does have a softening effect on a midlife face.
Here’s the full outfit – as you can see it has a matching scarf which always elevates an outfit to luxe. It’s quite a short style so unless you’re petite, it’s going to work best with a skirt or wide leg crops as I’m wearing here (remember there’s another picture at the top of the post where the scarf isn’t obscuring the length). These trousers are one of the first things I ever bought from Finery in the original days, it’s a brand I loved but it’s been taken over a few times since then and it seems to have lost its way now sadly. I’m also wearing my beloved suede boots that we discussed a couple of weeks ago. They’ve almost completely sold out already but they have 25% off this weekend and if you’re very lucky there might be a pair left in your size.
Bouclé charcoal jumper with white and cobalt flecks; matching scarf; Finery wide leg crops (AW16); Navy suede boots
Anyway back to the weekend, we relaxed in the house for a while and then went out for a quick drink. When I said we were going away I asked Mr MC what he’d most like to do. He’s never been a big celebrator of birthdays so it takes a bit of prodding to get any response but in the end he said that he’d just like to go to some proper pubs. You see when we first got together in our Selfridges days we were even more different to each other than we are now. I’ve told you before that when he heard we were an item our marketing director nearly choked with the shock of it, saying, “It can’t be. It’s like Lady Penelope meets Captain Caveman!”
Despite that, our romance blossomed and we often went out after work. With London on our doorstep it was like having the world at our feet but the one thing we could never agree on was where to go. You see I was drawn like a moth to the flame of the snazzy wine bars whereas the Newcastle boy just wanted to go to a pub. In the end we compromised by alternating – wine bar, pub, wine bar, pub… and we’ve done that ever since. On his 50th birthday however he declared that wine bars were off the agenda and here we are in a very beautiful Scottish pub that we happened upon, The Guildford Arms.
Did you know that between 1880 and 1910 there was a golden age of pub design in Edinburgh where they were built as temples in response to the growing temperance movement? Apparently the Guildford Arms is one of the finest examples so we were lucky just to stumble across it (not literally – it was still early!). And I pretended to take this photo of Mr MC but I actually wanted to catch the couple behind who were having such a good time together, laughing away although you can’t quite tell that from the photo. They were tucking into haggis, neeps and tatties (yes honestly) and regaling each other with stories of their week. They both had deeply embedded wedding rings on their fingers so I assume they were married – talk about couple goals – they seemed so happy. Anyway, it’s a lovely pub and it’s been owned by the same family since it was built – if you go to Edinburgh do visit it.
So with two pubs now under his belt, we went back to get changed for an evening out. The 10pm curfew was on so I’d pre-booked a restaurant because I knew we wouldn’t have time to wander and find one as we usually do. Thinking about his favourite food types I’d gone for Mexican and so I wore this blouse from the summer with its tropical parakeets to fit the mood. As most restaurants are at the moment, it was quiet so I didn’t take any photos but again it was good – Mariachi if you’re planning a trip.
We walked back, stopping at tavern number three on the way – and I’ll just say to Edinburgh pubs that you really need to sort your wine offering out because it’s truly awful (I imagine it’s good in the wine bars though!). When we arrived back at the studio I was determined that we should stay awake to see his birthday chime in. Mr MC was less enthusiastic but I made a pot of tea… and apparently fell asleep at 11.55 which I feel a bit bad about…
Whistles camel coat AW19; Hush jeans AW19; Boden shirt (gifted SS20); Trainers
Celebrating a 50th birthday in Edinburgh – Friday
However we were up bright and early the next morning and I had only planned one thing at 2pm so the rest of the schedule was free for the birthday boy to dictate. He decided that he wanted to ‘map’ the city so that he really knew it. We’ve been a few times before but we’ve always had small boys with us so our trips have always revolved around things like the dungeons. As we headed out of the gate we noticed that there was a busker performing outside and lots of people were heading up a path that led away from us. So we followed them and in a couple of minutes we were on Calton Hill – a place we never knew existed and yet it’s a World Heritage site. We spent a couple of hours up there and I still find it hard to describe what it is – you have 360 degree views of the city which is quite breathtaking – so much so that we forgot to take any photos other than this one of me doing an Instagram Story.
However it’s also a bit of a curiosity shop of monuments, there are quite a few up there all dedicated to different things, along with a gallery and a lovely restaurant. If you stay at the AirBnB do book a table in advance, I wish we’d known about it.
I’ve had to borrow this picture from the World Heritage site but it gives you an idea of the views over the city, right across to the castle. Really Calton Hill is just such a stunning spot.
We had a breakfast picnic in the sunshine under the brightest blue skies – cappuccino and freshly baked croissants from a very chic takeaway van. And then we had to pop into John Lewis because I’d forgotten to pack a mascara so I quickly bought one, not my everyday Clinique but my favourite evening one for lash augmentation because I feel like my eyes need a bit more pop when I’m wearing a mask. I had to slip away to the furniture department to apply it covertly because all shop staff were on high Covid alert.
Mr MC had a little wander round the menswear department and wondered if he should embrace his new status as a 50 year old with a flat cap.
And then we went off for our 2pm appointment. The eldest had recommended Panda and Sons which is a speakeasy disguised as a barber’s shop. I usually love the undercover atmosphere of a speakeasy but now that we’re living in such restricted times, the illicit nature of it didn’t have quite the appeal that it would normally.
However we stayed for a couple of cocktails – is it a bad sign that I can’t remember what was in them other than that they were very unusual? And then because we knew the sun was still shining brightly outside we decided to go back into the fresh air and continue exploring the city.
Fred Perry X Bella Freud jumper (bought because it makes me think of my music-loving dad, Fred, SS20); Claudia Bradby jewellery (gifted AW15)
With almost 20,000 steps clocked up on my watch, Mr MC finally decided that he understood how the land lay so we were permitted to return to our nest for a cup of tea and I got changed for the evening. I deliberately hadn’t booked anything so he spent a happy hour going through restaurant reviews on his phone until he settled on a curry house that he fancied. It certainly wasn’t quite what I’d imagined even though I’d known that he wouldn’t choose anything snazzy as you can tell by the fact that I only packed jeans!
Boden blouse (SS19); Hush jeans (AW19); Hush boots (AW18)
And here he is, happy in the restaurant of his choice which was quite dazzling as you can see. It had glitter walls and floor to ceiling pictures of Bollywood stars but… what it perhaps lacked in terms of interior design was easily balanced out by its food which was, I think, the best curry I’ve ever eaten. And they charged the same for champagne as a decent bottle of wine so I ordered some – for the birthday boy – ignore the fact that he has beer in front of him. You can take Lady Penelope out of the wine bar but…
Celebrating a 50th birthday in Edinburgh – Saturday
And of course it was an early end to the evening again because the curfew meant that we were tucked up in bed by 10.30pm. But that was a good thing because I’d planned a surprise for the following day. You’ve already seen from last week’s interiors post that we spent the morning in John Lewis & Partners (no that wasn’t the surprise, he knew about that). At lunchtime we headed over to the Old Town…
… to meet our Scottish friends Gillian and Stephen who we met last year when they won the reader competition to spend a weekend in France with us. Sadly Covid meant that the other couple Anne and Brian couldn’t possibly join us because they’re over on the west coast of Ireland but hopefully we’ll have a full reunion next year. We all got on so well in France that I knew Mr MC would be really pleased to see them again and he was.
And I know it would be the same with all of us here because I’ve never met a Midlifechic reader that I didn’t feel an immediate connection with. Gillian had booked us in for a lovely Scottish lunch at Angels With Bagpipes and then we went on to The Voodoo Rooms which is where we are in this picture. We spent the afternoon and evening chatting and laughing and it felt like such a tonic to just forget about everything and enjoy the flow of time (and wine… good wine… ).
We didn’t worry too much about distancing for once because Gillian and Stephen had the virus back in March (but before somebody rushes to tell me, I have since read of the person that has caught it twice). It was really good to have a tiny birthday party for four. Although it was sad that we couldn’t celebrate Mr MC’s birthday with our much loved old friends or family, I’m really glad that at least we managed to mark it with some new ones. And it’s perhaps symbolic too because what is midlife if not a chance to have new adventures and open doors onto the next chapter of your life?
Celebrating a 50th birthday in Edinburgh – Sunday
The following morning we had to check out by 11am and I was fine but Mr MC wasn’t feeling very perky at all. There was only one thing for it – a big Scottish fry-up which we found in a little Turkish cafe nearby (sounds like a strange mix but it worked). It had some of our favourite Kalkan wines which made us smile – not that we drank any I should add, it was just nice to see the familiar bottles. Look at this plate – haggis, lorne sausage, black pudding – actually all of that made its way from my plate to his but he wasn’t complaining.
The weather had taken a turn for the worse and so it felt like the right time to pick up some treats for the boys and then head to the station to make our way home.
And so with that I must, one more time, wish happy birthday to my beloved husband – not just from me but from Midlifechic. He is the man behind this blog, the puppet master if you like. He takes the photos, always making me smile while he does it and he fixes things when they go wrong. He knows lots of you by name and learns your stories as I chat about what you’ve told me in your comments. Like me, he really cares about this community we’ve built, even if it is from his position behind the scenes.
This was just one of many, many birthdays that we’ve celebrated together but it does feel like a big one as we stand on the threshold of a new stage of our life together. And strangely as I look at him I don’t see him growing older, if anything we’re both getting younger as some of the responsibilities of the child rearing years drop off and we move forward with a lighter load. Who knows what’s ahead? We’d never have predicted this year and the impact it’s had on our family and the businesses we run but (and I’m keeping everything crossed for the months ahead) it could have been worse. All I hope is that we have many more birthdays together. You see we made a plan while we were away and yes, it may have been after a few glasses of wine/beer but our goal is to live until he’s at least a hundred and a day – which means I’ll be a hundred and three. He’s going to do his much lauded tailfeather dance at his birthday party… and I’m still deciding on mine. Something to look forward to my friends – let’s hope I’ll be here blogging about it and that you’re all in the photos because you came along too and joined in.
2nd October 2070 – save the date!
Disclosure: ‘Celebrating a 50th birthday in Edinburgh between lockdowns’ is not a sponsored post
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