Coronavirus: Celebrating landmark birthdays in lockdown

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland News

  • Published

The gatherings and celebrations planned for milestone birthdays have been cancelled across the country as people follow the guidance to stop the spread of coronavirus. But some have been finding other ways to make their landmark days special despite the lockdown.

'Celebrate we will'

Image source, Jen Hardy
Image caption,
Jen Hardy and her husband Roddy celebrated daughter Carys' 21st birthday at home

When Jen Hardy was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer three years ago, she didn't know if she would see her daughter Carys turn 21 or celebrate her own 25th wedding anniversary.

Now those landmark dates have come around - only for her plans to be scuppered by coronavirus.

But the 52-year-old, from Edinburgh, says she is happy that she is still around to celebrate.

Jen said their original plans had been to hold a small family party for her Carys' 21st birthday. Then she and husband Roddy were due to take their daughter to Bergamo in Italy as a special celebration.

"Instead, we had a Zoom family party for her," explained Jen.

"We all dressed up, had glass of fizz and birthday cake, and sang happy birthday to her. It was lovely."

Image source, Jen Hardy
Image caption,
The family took part in a Zoom party for Carys

Jen and Roddy's plans to mark their silver wedding anniversary next month by hiring a house for a celebration with their extended family have had to be cancelled.

"It's such a shame that our plans could not take place, but I am so happy that I am still here to celebrate both of these events as in 2017 I was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer," said Jen.

"At the time I didn't know if I would ever see my daughter turn 21, or to reach our special wedding anniversary.

"So for me, and my family, still being here and celebrating these events is just the best. Yes, we've had to alter how we celebrate - but celebrate we will."

'Surprised at all the fuss'

Media caption,
Alfred Walters was serenaded by a piper for his 100th birthday celebration outside his Perthshire home.

Black Watch veteran Alfred Walters had a 100th birthday party with a difference.

The Bridge of Earn resident was a private in World War Two, serving in Burma, Africa and the Middle East.

Alfred's intended 100th birthday party was cancelled on Thursday because of the coronavirus outbreak, but he was still honoured by his old regiment.

Alistair Duthie, who was pipe major in the Black Watch for 20 years, played the pipes for Alfred outside his home.

He was joined by dozens of members of the community who gathered to wish him well, while keeping a safe distance.

Alfred, whose family was with him, said: "I'm surprised at all the fuss but thank you all very much. I was never a hero, you know."

'I didn't feel sad at all'

Image source, Heather Potten

Heather Potten, who lives in Joppa in Edinburgh, said she was very touched by the efforts everyone made to celebrate her 60th birthday on Monday.

She said: "I came out of my house and the neighbours were there behind the gate singing happy birthday, and their children had presents and pictures of rainbows for me.

"Then I went to the supermarket and when I got back I found a brilliant present of binoculars on my doorstep from my friend.

"More neighbours shouted happy birthday to me and left carrot cake for me in my garden, then I had a Zoom party at night.

"So I didn't feel sad at all."

Ms Potten had to cancel plans to visit her partner in Yorkshire for her birthday. She has also postponed a birthday meal with friends and a holiday in France with her best friend, who is also turning 60.

She said: "I was miserable about turning 60, but now I'm thinking how lucky I am to have such great neighbours and friends."

'My emotions were all over the place'

Image source, Lynne Coats
Image caption,
Lynne in the outfit she had planned to wear for her birthday meal

Lynne Coats, who lives in Bonnyrigg in Midlothian, said her 40th birthday felt "surreal" under the lockdown.

"I had been planning a meal with 15 friends and had booked for my sister and me to have our hair and make-up done," she said.

"The day itself was a bit different and felt surreal.

"My children made me breakfast in bed and my husband opened a bottle of champagne."

Lynne said it had been hard not to be able to see her friends on her birthday.

"My emotions were all over the place, but my husband told me there were people much worse off.

"I will hold the meal once the lockdown is over and will go on the city break my husband gave me as my gift and the night at Gleneagles Hotel that my sister bought me."

'We are all going through this together'

Image source, Bruce MacGregor
Image caption,
Bruce MacGregor planned a joint party with his wife Jo de Sylva

Bruce MacGregor, who plays in the band Blazin' Fiddles, has resigned himself to cancelling the joint 50th birthday bash with his wife Jo de Sylva in June.

He said: "We were going to have it on our Bogbain Farm in Inverness with lots of bands and about 300 guests, as it was where we had our wedding.

"I think the moment has been lost, so we won't be rearranging another date for it in the future.

"Instead my wife said she will bake a cake and we will have a very quiet day."

Bruce said he initially thought he would have a nervous breakdown because of the effect that coronavirus was having on his business, but that he had changed his outlook.

"We are all going through this together, so it's not the end of the world," he said.