Thursday, 12 May 2016
A modest dream come true
Yes, it really was my birthday yesterday, and due to a clerical error on behalf of my step-daughter, the date is the same as her wedding anniversary. When she got back from the matrimonial booking-office, I complimented her for eclipsing my one day of undivided attention, and she said, "I thought that date was familiar."
This year we decided to share the glory, so the four of us went to a restaurant on the outskirts of town to have a moderate celebration with a moderate amount of alcohol - we all had to work today. 2 pints must be a record for me.
The waitress at this joint is one of my young friends from the pub, and also a good friend of step-daughter's daughter, so the whole thing was very informal. The card above was given to me by Step-Daughter, and you will see from it that our close relationship is founded upon a highly informal framework of mutual respect.
During the meal, I received a text greeting from step-grand daughter (Green-Eyes), and it read, "Happy birthday you old prick." Our affectionate family traditions are handed down from generation to generation.
The waitress came over with three, large, silver, helium-filled balloons and tied them to the backs of our chairs. One of them broke loose (she is lousy at knots) and bobbed against the low ceiling in an attempt to break free into the big, wide world. Then I remembered my childhood of 60+ years ago.
Helium-filled balloons were quite expensive in those days (or so my father told me) so when I saw some for sale and said that all I wanted to do was let go of it and watch it float away, my father refused to buy one. This, to him, would have been a shocking waste of money.
These days, the balloons are pennies in cost or - in my case last night - free, but come with a different sort of parental, restrictive advice on how they should be wasted or not wasted. Balloons, they tell us, will get tangled in the guts of animals which are foolish enough to eat them when they deflate and land as skins in a field. Bollocks. Goats eat anything, and I know one Collie dog which eats like a goat with no apparent ill effects. On my 65th birthday, I was going to fulfil a childhood ambition.
I cut the cord from the balloon and took it outside into the street, where I let it go.
It bobbed and reeled in the breeze, gaining height rapidly and travelling in a Southerly direction, right over Bath. I watched it until it turned into a dark speck, and when it had disappeared completely, I stood there a little longer and looked at the clouds it had joined, wishing it well on its journey. That night, my last thought before going to sleep was to wonder how far it had got, unobserved, in the dark.
If it does have to deflate and land in a field, I hope it is a foreign one. I had high ambitions for it when I let it go.
Posted by Tom Stephenson at 02:40