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I'M WRITING this on my birthday. It is half past nine in the evening and my husband is upstairs in bed, groaning gently to himself. He got up this morning, let out a shriek, and collapsed to the floor. It's his back: he can't walk, and now he's got a temperature. Our two children are also in bed, which is a relief, because it has been a long day (the baby woke me up at dawn needing his nappy changed).

Anyway, I've just eaten my dinner - five left-over sausages and some stale cake - and I've done the washing-up, hung clothes to dry, tidied up Jamie's Lego, fed the fish and mopped the bathroom floor. I am 33 years old, but frankly I feel like 93.

Yesterday, luckily, I felt a mere stripling (most of the time, anyway). The sun was shining and we picnicked in the park. Lots of friends came, and we ate sausages and crisps and chocolate biscuits and three kinds of cake. Everyone was very nice to me, and I thought: 'It won't be so bad being 33 . . . in fact, I'll feel almost exactly the same as when I was 23, except a bit wiser.'

I was jolted out of this illusion when an ex-boyfriend arrived, rather late in the afternoon, with his new girlfriend. She really is in her twenties, and she looked quite different from me. You know how glossy magazines have been saying 'Silver Is In This Summer', but you think: 'No, I might look slightly stupid wearing clothes like that . . .' This girl wore silver, and she didn't look stupid at all. She had on a slinky silver skirt and some trendy silver shoes and a skinny little black T-shirt. Jamie lurched towards her with sticky chocolatey hands, and I thought 'Oh no] The Silver Skirt]' But I grabbed him in time and told him to go and play cricket with his dad.

Understandably, the Silver Vision looked relieved when Jamie was removed. And then she offered to hold the baby, which was nerve-racking because he was grunting and I was worried he would be sick on her black top. Fortunately she handed him back and he was sick on me instead.

When I was her age - although it is hard to remember that far back - I thought

that children should be seen and not heard, and not seen at all if they had sticky hands and dirty faces. I also thought that anyone over 30 was ancient. Now, 40 seems close and not very old at all. And by the time I'm 50 perhaps I'll be feeling much younger, because my children will be older - and therefore less tiring. But sadly, this may

be wishful thinking. Jamie asked me how old I was this morning, and after I'd told him I was 33, he said 'When I'm 33 I still want to live with my Mummy and Daddy.' I said that was OK, but we might be so exhausted by then that he would have to push us round in a double buggy. 'Don't be silly,' he replied, and went off to build a spaceship with his Lego.-

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