Elizabeth Day: I’m an attention-seeking control freak… and proud!

Styling: Emily J Dawes. Make-up: Nicky Weir using Vieve. Hair: Sven Bayerbach at Carol Hayes using T3. Top, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini. Trousers, The Outnet. Jewellery: Tilly Sveaas

Emily J Dawes is the stylist. Nicky Weir used Vieve to do her make-up. Sven Bayerbach, Carol Hayes uses T3. Top, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini. Trousers from The Outnet Jewellery by Tilly Sveaas 

 It was my birthday recently. It’s unfashionable for me to admit, but I adore my birthday. As a recently minted 43-year-old I am probably old enough to know better, but my feeling is that if there’s an opportunity to celebrate, one should always take it.

In order to get a piece of chocolate cake, I go to restaurants on my birthday. I don’t trust anyone else to do it for me, in the same way that I organise all my own parties for fear that no one will ever take the hint and throw me a surprise bash. What I’m trying to say is: every 10 November, I turn into an attention-seeking, birthday-obsessed control freak.

Amazingly, my nearest and dearest don’t seek to disown me around this time of year. People who love and know me best will choose to celebrate the occasion. My husband gifted me thoughtful presents, including two pairs of Bluetooth AirPods with noise cancelling Bluetooth AirPods, which were discreetly placed in my ears. They fit perfectly in my ears and I felt them as I walked along the main street to get the tube. Instantly, the sound of traffic vanished. It was almost as if my head had been submerged and I was enveloped by a sea of muffled softness.

After leaving a note for my friend, while I was out walking, I became alarmed at the sight of a pedestrian suddenly leaping from nowhere to pass me. I was certain he was even more concerned when a pedestrian appeared to be following me around, causing me to speak loudly to my friend. It seemed that he had heard about threesomes and wondered why they were not appealing to him. In truth, the poor pedestrian had been there all along, but I hadn’t heard his footfall.

 The only way to fully experience life is to share it

After a while, I found myself feeling slightly untethered, like a traveller on a long-haul flight who isn’t sure where the sky ends and the ground begins. Although I was aware that this sound quality should have been better, I found it a bit strange. Instead of being relieved by the lack of background noise, it was actually missing walking in life and feeling connected. I missed the birdsong and the murmur of other people’s snatched conversations and the occasional police siren. It was strange to feel like I was in another world, but not experiencing it.

Writing is a time I often spend in my head. It is the connections that allow me to look outside of myself, which I enjoy when I am not at my desk. AirPods made it more challenging because I was in my head and at a distance from everyone and everything else.

The reason I write is actually to find that connection. The best writing involves a hand reaching out from the page and holding on to your hand, despite any divisions. It’s the reason I like to write in cafés, surrounded by the noise of other people, of frothing coffee machines and the tinkle of teacups against saucers. It’s why I have E M Forster’s famous maxim ‘Only Connect’ tattooed on my left wrist.

It’s to remind me that this is what counts; that the only way to fully experience and understand life is to share its uniqueness with others. A smile that reaches across the street to a dog-walker. An eye-roll at the child riding on the bus. A nod, as we pass each other in the road, to say, ‘Yes, I’m here too. Isn’t it mad? Isn’t it wonderful? Aren’t we all just doing our best?’ It’s probably why I like my birthday – because celebrating life with others is so much more joyful than doing it on your own.


This week I’m…

Sleeping in Tabitha Webb’s Safari Print duvet set: perfect for a wild bedtime. From £85, tabithawebb.co.uk 

LEARNING Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido. A friend recommended this 1982 novel, which is both funny and wise.

STYLINGMy winter wardrobe includes these Dr Martens Boots. With age, leather becomes more luxurious. £169, drmartens.com/uk