“Are you doing anything special for your birthday ?”
From my mother, I inherited the idea that it’s my day and I can do anything I like with it. To have a day off was special for her, freighted with things to do. She let me be (not a party animal), undisturbed by what other families did but I remember cards and cake and a wonderful sense of build up to the day.
My 40th birthday was worth waiting for, everything my 21st was supposed to be. I felt better, looked better, had work I loved. There was a man and a child, a dog and a home. I’ve always enjoyed the rattle of the letterbox
and the thump of the mail. Forget the cake. I once bought mortadella for my birthday. But between advancing tech, declining mail and busy lives, my birthday seems to have become less of a date and more of an area.
Bet (NHN) sent me an email to say thank you. She said she grew up with me
(I can’t tell you what a compliment that is) and she had seen me (recognised by voice), hesitated and the moment was lost. The enchantment of this kind of communication does not fade – indeed you could say it gets more precious. Her timing was apt, enabling me to do my bits of washing and what not, wreathed in smiles. It’s 12 years since I was in the public eye and people are very generous.
Then I heard from Mark (NHN) whom I met when he was a tv researcher, now working on some sociological project in which he thought I might be interested/of interest. He remembered the programme he involved me in, the restaurant he took me to – this was a long time ago. I asked for a telephone number and rang him, we were both pleased at the exchange and will be meeting later this month.
You may not think of these as cards but I do. Goodwill
is in short supply and to be offered it warmly and willingly seems like a big deal to me.
When Ginny (NHN) rang after a few days R&R in Ireland, it was hard to know which of us was more pleased. She has had a year she will never forget, stretched to the limit by her mother’s cancer (so far, so good),her own health issues of which Covid was the least, working from home to hang on to a job, driving the considerable distance between her mother’s home and her own, her job and various hospitals. No better present than good news.
Nella (NHN) moved across town from the upstairs flat (my loss and the landlady’s, the best cleaner ever) but was in the neighbourhood and came in for a glass of wine. She is her first job, training as an architect after a formidable academic beginning, and we talk easily and well, she as much as me ! I never fail to be touched – she is 25 to my nearly 78. But when she left 3 hours later I realised I hadn’t eaten so I scoffed an avocado
and made a small bowl of pasta to avoid waking ravenous at 4.00 am. It must be very clear by now that exchange is very high on my list of pleasures. Even after all these years, a human voice is a good start to the day.
And Alex came in last night to tell me he had enjoyed Ralph Fiennes in David Hare’s play Straight Line Crazy, about Robert Moses who designed the wonders of modern New York by rolling over whoever or whatever got in the way unquestioned, an exercise in power. Alex is young too, works and plays hard regarding an expressed concern for his tiredness as a slur on his masculinity: just about to drive home to dogsit and breathe for a few days.
And in conversation I showed him the picture of my parents, from 1932 on the front at Deal in Kent, with my sister as a toddler because, forget the faces, it captures more of the spirit of my parents than any other picture – and that spirit comes closer as I get older. And he understood. That’s a present.
NHN – not his/her name