Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Deck the halls... sorry, wrong date

It’s 07.07 am,raining heavily and I’m 75. Given the toping, the motorbiking, the rock-climbing and racketiness of journalism I’m lucky to see that figure. But I don’t warm to what is, in effect, decimal three-quarters. At fifty you are still aspirant Sapient Man, at a hundred you're forgiven toothlessness and witlessness. In between you're a wart on the arse of progress, neither wholly functional nor nobly grizzled.

Dinner is booked at the Hardwick Inn where chips take 24 hours according to the Heston Blumenthal method. But alas, atheists propose and God disposes. Elder daughter and partner trekked heroically by bus across the country and are here. Younger daughter, a powerhouse of organisation and encouragement on such occasions, entered hospital last weekend and saw the knife. Afterwards she agreed her hospital bed would be worth a technological post but the long and short of it is (allowing a cliché is in keeping with the mood) the feasting must be split in two.

I was five when WW2 broke out and my parents sensibly held back on the fatted calf. The tenth-year celebrations - when Gordon Terrace, Idle, Bradford, was freed for democracy - were communal and I saw my first bonfire. Aged twenty I nursed athlete’s foot in a military hospital in the Cameron Highlands in what is now Malaysia. Thirty? Who knows?

I like numbers but they should be allowed to roam freely, not have non-numerical qualities forced upon them. I once reviewed a book that contained a million dots. Certain dots were picked out for significance, but these I ignored. There was more fun in flicking the pages and watching a million accumulate. A hideous song of my youth celebrated A Very Merry Unbirthday to Me. That’s about it.

16.11, same day. Things got better. First via songs. Nina Simone's "I wish I knew", Edith Piaf's "La Marseillaise", and then Ewan McColl's "Wull ye nae come back again?" with the simplest. most direct expression of affection ever set to music: "Better luved ye cannae be."
Plus more antique emotion. From elder daughter: the DVD of "Babette's Feast" and a packet of rum truffles. Seventeen years ago, brought to my knees by defective lungs and almost alone in the house, I watched that movie (again) and visibly cried (again). Granddaughter Bella, then two or three, disturbed by the weeping ancient, brought me a rum truffle. Ten minutes later, another. Et seq.

16 comments:

Sir Hugh said...

Glad to be the first to respond . Many happy returns.

marja-leena said...

Congratulatory wishes on the three-quarter century mark, flying over the ether all the way from the west coast of Canada! Have a grand party and an extra toast from us both.

Occasional speeder said...

I raise a cup of warm water and eat a grape - and some how I feel I am partly there. I will also share tales regarding bed making and medical tape on my return

Rouchswalwe said...

Well, I'm glad to see that you're not too old for Hamster Karaoke! Otanjyoubi Omedetou! Herzliche Glückwünsche zum Geburtstag! Hoch! Hoch! Hoch! The carefully chosen pint I shall raise to you tonight is named "Summer Teeth" and described on the bottle as a crisp unfiltered Kellerbier that tastes like sunshine. There's a picture of a wildly smiling sun, missing an eyetooth, hovering over farmland. Could be a Pennsylvanian landscape. Now I'm looking up what the Heston Blumenthal method of chip cooking is ...

Relucent Reader said...

Happy birthday, BB, best wishes. Hope your daughter is healing well and no complications.

The Crow said...

Hope you have a very joyful day, BB. Many happy returns!

Barrett Bonden said...

Sir Hugh/M-L: Thanks for the wishes. However...

O/S: Warm water and a grape for now. Something red from just off the Autoroute du Sud at a later date. You are sadly missed in our proceedings.

RW (zS): Summer Teeth bites back, then it's autumn, winter follows almost immediately, and then the Buick won't start. Welcome to the perfect antidote for the beer that tastes like sunshine. You know the song: You only bite the one you love. Just joking, for goodness sake.

RR: I had to break off from replying to these comments to take a call from her. I sought to make her laugh, succeeded and her last words were: "It hurts, it hurts but it's a good kind of pain."

The Crow: Mixed feelings but nothing booze won't fix.

herhimnbryn said...

Happy, happy Birthday BB.

If 50 is the new 40, 75 must be the new 65.

Your 'update' bought tears to my eyes! Babette's Feast is a favourite here too.

Hattie said...

Congratulations.
Do you ever wonder what will happen to the world after we're gone? Those of us who remember WW II? A friend said that to me tonight, and it gave me pause.

Lucy said...

A day late I know, but many happy returns, from both of us.

I find this a wonderful meditation, and its coda uplifting. Seems to me it'll be a while before you're too gaga to turn out a fine and thoughtful bit of writing like this, long may you continue!

(BTW, I would love some of the marmalade of which you spoke, since this is the one kind of jam we do eat, and would happily swap it for a bottle of sloe gin or similar. Alas, sending it by post would probably not be a good idea, so such homespun exchanges must wait for a face-to-face meeting, one day...)

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: Kind of you to juggle those numbers on my behalf. I recall you had a Significant Zero recently but do you honestly feel any different from the giddy teenager (or whichever age your mind has fixed on). For me the talent for foolishness never wanes.

Hattie: Remember Dulles and the Domino Theory? Reckon you're too young. I see mankind as a long, long line of dominoes, standing on end. Neanderthal Man, getting stamped on by a mammoth, started the process and shortly I will succumb. Knowledge and experience have a habit of surviving better than Office-Dwelling Man and in our case we finally have someone (Granddaughter Bella, in fact) who has gone to uni and who will raise the bar on behalf of the Bondens.

Lucy: As the body decays there's always writing. It was all I ever wanted to do and I was lucky that at the crucial moment my father (whom I subsequently vilified for the next sixty years) was able to use his local influence and insert me into the pipeline. Eventually this desire will disappear but by then I won't care. As to the marmalade/sloe gin exchange that is a wonderfully pragmatic target. The BBs will come to Brittany, hire a helicopter and the four of us will dangle wonderfully over that sensational ragged coast while these symbolic gifts are handed over.

herhimnbryn said...

In my head I remain between 24-28, so that's fine with me. May our talents for foolishness flourish forever!

Plutarch said...

dineysi is word verification and it almost says like an Aeolian harp playing in the wind what I was about to say by way of belated birthday wishes. Dine easy.

Hattie said...

Barrett: I am 71. I remember all that stuff.

Julia said...

Just back on the internet after a week away and discovered I'm late to the party! Happy Birthday and very much looking forward to celebrating again in Prague.

Avus said...

Belated good wishes, BB. I am just catching up with blogs after a period of abstinence.
Just catching up with you too, at 71 and counting, but,as HHnB has remarked, about 28ish inside.