Saturday, 8 August 2015

One Born Every Minute

Memories are made of this

What do I remember from my own childhood birthdays? The above pics are of my brother’s birthday in about 1962 or 1963 when I was 2 or 3.  I can’t remember the occasion in the photographs but I remember the kinds of things that used to happen at parties when I was a kid. Pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey, musical statues, sleeping logs, balloons, potted meat sandwiches, crisps, pop, sausage rolls, a cake with candles, jelly and ice cream…. For the record, the people in the first pic are: brother Chris, Nelly Macarthy, Alan Kirby, Mum, brother Mick with me on his knee, Gilian Hughes, Linda Thackeray and Gary Corcoran. The second pic features brother Mick with his hand on my shoulder, cousin “Little Mary,” Mick Batty and sheriff brother Chris. Happy times!
Joseph, Michael, Christopher and baby me

Are birthdays over-rated?

Is a birthday celebration an over-rated and self-indulgent activity? Are birthdays “made up”, like Yorkshire Day, Secretary’s day and all the rest of the commercially-dubious days? Why make a fuss over the day when, by chance, you were squeezed out of (or surgically helped out from) your mother’s uterus? Shouldn’t every child’s birthday be, in fact, a tribute day to the painful labours of their mother? Or their fainting father? Is a day that focuses on celebrating one person a bit selfish?
Locked-In in Leeds

I love birthdays (for the record)

Birthdays, in my experience, are wonderful. Life’s too short to worry about whether or not a day is selfish or commercial. One day a year is not too extravagant to give all your love and best wishes to someone (or to get it back from loved ones when it is your own birthday.) As for paying tribute to mothers and fathers…. We should probably do that every day we can. What I wouldn’t give now to have an adult conversation with my Mum or my Dad. And ask things I never thought to ask when they were alive.
Memories around 19th June 2015

 “It is my birth-day….”

is a poignant quotation from one of the world's great plays. At a critical moment in the battles over one of the biggest empires in the world, an Egyptian queen suddenly remembers a personal detail:
It is my birth-day:
I had thought to have held it poor: but, since my lord
Is Antony again, I will be Cleopatra.
Even a great queen like Cleopatra can stop in her tracks and decide to “mock the midnight bell” with her beloved Antony on her birthday.
Memories around 24th July 2015

Modern Birthdays

Today there is enormous pressure on parents to give children incredibly elaborate birthdays. But I think I’m a bit (happily) old-fashioned in the kinds of birthday my family usually celebrates:

  • cards (and messages) from loved ones
  • a few presents that matter
  • a special meal picked by the Birthday person
  • a special trip picked by the Birthday Person. 
  • And, naturally, a cake with candles! 

On my next birthday I’ll be 55; one of my very weird regular flights of fantasy is to think about time in relative terms – 55 years before I was born it was 1905, pre-Titanic, pre-First World War, pre-talking movies, Edward VII had been on the throne almost 5 years, my Mum and Dad had yet to be born…. Sixteen years before I was born, Hitler was still alive and there was no end in sight for the Second World War…. Time flies!  We should celebrate every birthday we can.
Here's to the next year's round of birthdays....