Happiness at 80: birthday report

Celebrating my birthday was a perfect excuse for six sisters to get together.*  Here are a few highlights from a perfect mystery sisterly long weekend. This is a story of happiness at 80.

First to the Banks Peninsula Spring Fair. Fun, fruit salad, fiddles and family at the Orton Bradley Park in Charteris Bay. It’s such a gorgeous location that even the toilet block has charm.

Next day, to Hinewai Reserve for a happy and significant event, the 75th birthday of the renowned botanist Hugh Wilson and his twin sister Hilary. This was my first visit to Hinewai, and it was a joy to walk in the atmospheric forest that has regenerated from gorse-covered paddocks over 30 years.

There we witnessed a personal best by our youngest sister. She swears she finds the very idea of walking in a forest ridiculous and pointless. But look, here she is, captured on film, doing the dreaded deed and—smiling. (She’s physically fit, by the way, playing fierce tennis four days a week.)

Smiling woman walking in native New Zealand forest

City gal enjoying a walk in Hinewai forest

Next two nights were in a perfect 6-bedroom house in Akaroa (through BachCare): our final destination a mystery no more. As children we had lived in the Akaroa vicarage and it set a benchmark for all future homes. Close to a safe beach, a beautiful harbour, a big-enough vicarage and kind people. Where better for a nostalgia trip now that we’re all aged between 75 and 83?

sepia photo, woman and four girls aged 3–8, in front of old bungalow

Celia Taylor with her four oldest girls in front of the Akaroa vicarage about 1944

We revisited the vicarage, walked (again!), swam, ate and drank extremely well, and this splendid reunion culminated in a re-enactment of a Brownie meeting in a fairy dell (or close to one). Here we are listening to a fairy tale, the Twelve Dancing Princesses, read by Tawny Owl. Afterwards, Brown Owl asked us very sweetly what we learned from the story. Imagine the answers…

6 older women sitting on grass in a circle. One is reading aloud from a picture book.

Six sisters re-live the happy Brownie meetings of their youth

Now here is the mandatory update on our favourite old photos of sisters in a row. This one has real steps and stairs, and sun too bright for flattery—and all is well. We may be all in blue but nobody’s blue: this too is happiness at 80.

Happiness at 80: 6 sisters line up on steps of Akaroa memorial

The six “Taylor girls” line up for a nostalgic Akaroa photo. Youngest on the left.

At one point we were walking down a hill slope that I found irresistible, sheep poo notwithstanding.

These precious few days celebrated far more than one woman’s mere birthday. They were all about the blessing and sheer happiness of being sisters, having sisters. My heart nearly burst.


* Plus our dear indispensible Richard. Other partners couldn’t make it. We toasted the men in our lives, past and present.

PS Why is this video repeated? I will investigate. Twice viewed is overkill. Three times is … vanity?

36 thoughts on “Happiness at 80: birthday report

  1. Happiest of happy birthdays dear Rachel! What a perfect day with your five sisters.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Kay, thank you. I feel so much love coming at me.

  2. Prue Densem says:

    What a wonderful, nostalgic and celebratory event! You have been well and truly launched into your eighties with such love and sisterly deliciousness dear Rachel. Congratulations and happy birthday 🥳🥂❤️

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Sisterly deliciousness? You said it!

  3. Wow… such a gene pool… six fabulous vibrant women. Such joy and an amazing celebration in the beautiful Banks Peninsula. Thank you for sharing. Well done to your parents I say.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Weren’t they smart? Mostly be just letting us be us.

  4. cedar51 says:

    Happy Birthday Rachel – so nice that the sisters could make the date/time/place celebration…

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, especially for our Brisbane little sister

  5. bone&silver says:

    Wow, what a gathering! Something to celebrate for sure, never mind such a big birthday too. Many happy returns from Australia, where your blogging continues to inspire me, best wishes G 🌈🎉🌈

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you so much

  6. Gallivanta says:

    Happy Birthday, and how wonderful to share it with your sisters.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Maybe you could emulate some elements of it? Theyre a creative bunch.

  7. What a totally delightful account of your marvelous birthday celebration! I loved it.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m glad about that. That means I’m spreading the joy:)

      1. Yes, indeed! You spread lots of joy!

  8. All so wonderful; happy birthday, Rachel!!!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks, Becky. I think the story made you happy too.

  9. Love the picture of all of your in a row! Wish I had a photo like that of my mom and her sisters.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I am glad you had such a terrific birthday. I chuckled over the six different ways you all accommodated sitting on the ground!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Pretty good that we can all sit on the ground and get up again unaided I reckon.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        One seemed to use the tree! I would have for sure.

  11. What a superb celebration. You all look so well and happy. Congratulations for the birthday. xx

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And yes, we are– talk about lucky. Thank you Peter

      1. Good genes, good living, and good people!

  12. I love this so much! I always wanted a sister (I do have two wonderful older brothers) and you hit the jackpot! You all look fantastic!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      We did hit the jackpot, true

  13. Ann Coleman says:

    Happy Birthday! What a wonderful way to celebrate!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I was impressed with their planning, and their ability to keep it a secret.

  14. Suzanne says:

    Happy Birthday Rachel and just “wow” that you are still all together. Those older photos are brilliant! You are certainly celebrating in style.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you, Suzanne. Yes, double wow!

  15. alison41 says:

    Happy Birthday – what a wonderful celebration! Those Taylor genes are doing you proud, all of you. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you Alison. My pleasure to share. It may have given others their own idea for celebration…

  16. puppy1952 says:

    What absolute fun! How wonderful to still be in touch of your inner child. You and your sisters must have had an amazing childhood. You are all absolutley gorgeous. Congratulations on your 80th. May you have many more healthy, happy years.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment and yes, our childhood was perfect in everything that mattered.

  17. Mia Winhertt says:

    A very happy belated birthday, Rachel! 🙂

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you Mia and everyone else for your delightful comments on this post. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed this birthday report, and possible been inspired to do something similar. No excuse needed 🙂 Today I’m shutting down comments on this particular post because otherwise I will just seem greedy. The best compliment you can give me is to go forth and do something similar—your version.

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