A lockdown birthday

My husband had a big birthday in June. Although we were hopeful things would have a semblance of normality by the time it came around, it soon became clear it would be a lockdown birthday.

Not one to let circumstance get in the way of plans, I still wanted to make it into a celebration.

I had a think about the kind of thing we might have done for his birthday had we been able to, and the kind of things he enjoys, and a plan started to form.

Had the tourism industry not ground to a halt we’d no doubt have been out of the country. We’d talked about various destinations, always coming back to our favourite place in Greece, but luckily we hadn’t booked anything so didn’t have to go through the arduous process of getting refunds on flights and accommodation. So my first thought was to recreate some kind of holiday vibe in our holiday, with a paddling pool, some sand, sunloungers, etc.

The long term forecast suggested that the UK weather would rain on my parade, so I needed an alternative.

That alternative was an indoor festival!

Husband loves music; he’s forever watching Youtube videos, playing records and listening to Spotify. We’ve been to many festivals together over the years so I decided to try to recreate it at home, but inside, so it didn’t matter if it rained.

First things first, I needed a venue. We’d already been talking about, and looking at, pop up tents to use alongside our campervan for storage when we stay overnight, so I bought that. Then I got decorations – bunting, balloons, etc from Poundland, and a custom banner from an eBay seller.

I also bought blow up guitars and microphones so we could sing along with the festival bands!

We already had camping chairs from our daytrip to the Cosford Air Show a couple of years back, and the Christmas fairy lights were perfect for a bit of sparkle.

Keeping it secret was a bit of a challenge. Husband was furloughed at this point, so he was at home all the time when all of the deliveries came. Luckily for me he doesn’t really pay much attention to what’s going on around him, especially if he’s engrossed in a film, so I was able to sneak things in and store them in my wardrobe.

In the lead up to his birthday he was pretty grouchy, and made me promise not to do anything stupid like organise a Zoom party or video messages from our friends. So I was starting to think maybe I’d made a mistake. But you can’t let a birthday go uncelebrated, can you?

The night before his birthday I went upstairs to colour my hair, and simultaneously blew up all the balloons ready for the morning, strung up the banner and untangled the bunting. I woke early on the Friday and told him I needed to do a few birthday things downstairs, which obviously made him suspicious, especially when I had to go into the garage for the chairs and fairy lights!

I’m happy to say that, after the initial shock and surprise (it’s not every day you come downstairs to your lounge to find a ruddy great tent in the middle of it!) he loved it. A combination of the effort I’d made, and the experience, meant it was a good one.

I’d wrapped his presents and put them all on the dining table as a merch stand, written out an itinerary (I’d found loads of gig footage online from places we’ve been like Download Festival, and Call of the Wild), gave him pizza and whiskey for breakfast (festival staples) and then we settled in and watched some “live” music.

In the evening, in a nod to our favourite place in Greece, I recreated a Greek experience. I’d found a local restaurant who agreed that I could send a taxi to collect the food, and ordered our favourite kleftiko, plus stifado and souvlaki. I set the table with all the little Greek touches – oil and vinegar, toothpicks in a little pot, a carafe of wine and bread in a basket. I even ordered an inflatable palm tree, and a parrot (there’s one we see every day when we visit Stoupa).

After that it was back to the festival tent, which we loved so much we decided to sleep in! No slumming it for us though, we got mattresses down from upstairs and slept in absolute comfort until Timfest was over the next day.

Top tips for a Covid birthday celebration

Although the official lockdown is now over (apart from in some localised areas) things are far from back to normal. If you can’t have the celebration you would usually have with friends and family, I wholly recommend thinking outside the box like I did and doing something alternative.

Think of something the birthday boy/girl really loves. Maybe it’s going to the cinema, or a football match, or on a bar crawl.

Recreate elements of that at home or in your garden – choose some films, or a replay of a great football game, or pub background noise.

Pay attention to the small things and the details – cinema tickets, half time pies, or their favourite drinks. Create different areas for the different parts of the experience – waiting in the foyer at the cinema, the coach on the way to the game, or different pub settings.

It may all sound a bit cheesy, but you’d be surprised how much fun it is to plan, and hopefully how grateful the birthday recipient is.