I only started to celebrate my birthday last year, with a small gathering of people - each one a very special writing friend. That was so enjoyable that we had a few more enjoyable un-birthday gatherings during the year. But yesterday my actual birthday came round again and the same small gathering joined me at a round table at the historic Pump House, Durham to celebrate not just my birthday but ourselves, our own survival in the constraints of sometimes challenging lives. We missed our friend Fadia who was away publicising her book.
So we ate well, drank wine, laughed and talked. (I think we might have been quite a loud table.) We talked of everything – from Hilary Mantel to Will Self, from Michael Foot to Nye Bevan to Barbara Castle, from the Emperor’s New Clothes to surprisingly winning books and films, from misery literature and film to the dangers of voyeurism, to the delights or otherwise of younger men, to jealousy and rivalry in the field of writing, to the challenged state of publishing nowadays, to inheritance of traits and the possibly suspect fascination with one’s own genealogy, to the need to look forward rather than back.
In all the talk I discovered that I had only started to know how to be happy – to laugh and see and be spontaneous - when I went to my small rural college when I was eighteen. Then on to the possibility that life might be a series of self –reinventions.
There was a great deal of laughter. I am a bit of a sober-sides myself but my friends are very witty. I noticed the delicacy, strength and expressiveness of their writers’ hands.
Then I went home to find I had missed a birthday call from my dear friend Judith Gates in Florida and thought how much she would have enjoyed the party. (She joined us in one or our un-birthday lunches last year…)
And there was a card from my friends Judy who is just now in New Zealand.
I had a little breather then, and watched a saved episode of House, my favourite TV drama. I looked through my lovely cards which told me so much about myself and how my friends and family see me. Then I started to read a birthday present – a beautiful book about how to draw - and decided that this was the way I would teach myself to relax this year. I would teach myself to draw.
Then my son and his wonderful family surged in. A big kiss and a hug from my Grahame. Then greetings from Angus and Calum disguised by bunches of flowers, Then a kiss from Kate who was carrying the mandatory bottle of bubbly. The a hug from her lovely mother who handed over two beautifully wrapped square glass vases. And chocolates. And great, great chat.
Then later, just after B and I had settled down to a lovely quiet house, an hour long call from my dear girl Debora, known on this blog as love and a licked spoon. The interesting thing was that our long meandering conversation was a wide-ranging, intensely interesting, one to one version of the round table conversation with my friends this lunch time.
On my birthday this year everything connected, It was the best birthday. Ever. WX