Authie et Mi

90th Birthday

17-19th January 2020

The surprise party

The question was posed at the end of 2019 : what were we thinking of doing for dad’s 90th birthday ? You can’t just have a wee get together with jelly and trifle for a 90th and planning would be needed to make sure that the entire family could attend.

It also had to be kept secret from dad. Early on I made excuses that I would not be over for Christmas 2019 so that my parents could accept the invite to Nigel’s for the holiday. That left me clear to organise my January travel arrangements with Anton.

The organisation slowly came together. Anton booked the necessary rooms at the John Lewis Country Club at Cookham not far from Slough. The initial proposal was that he and Debs would invite the folks for a meal on the Saturday ; this was then expanded into staying a night and having lunch before being taken back to Slough.

I booked the train for late on the Friday night giving me time to go for my usual Friday swim on the way. Phoned dad in the afternoon before leaving for Boulogne — still no suspicions and he was looking forward to his trip out.

Arriving in England I found Debs still in the process of finishing off the two cakes. The chocolate cake (made from chocolate, and then more chocolate) needed its chocolate icing added so more hours spent in the kitchen. It never ceases to amaze me that chocolate gets everywhere. In a month’s time you are still finding traces of it on the backs of spoons that were never near it.


By Saturday lunchtime everything was packed into the cars and I set off at about the same time as Hannah and Paul. Anton and Debs were heading directly to Slough to pick mum and dad up giving us, others, time to get to the club and booked into our rooms. The motorways were reasonable except for the M4 being closed at the junction we wanted. I had a long meandering trip through Langley which had the knock on effect of passing the Lithuanian shop where I get beers and Vytautas water (earth juice according to the adverts). I can also get caraway seeds for next to nothing and I use a lot in bread and cakes.

Arriving at the Club Paul and I parked right up the back so that the cars wouldn’t be spotted — especially as mine has give away French plates. We got our rooms sorted out with mine being next to mum and dad’s. Out came balloons and decorations and we got those up just in time for the text messages announcing that Anton was only a few minutes away. Having explained to Eleanor that we had to be very quiet, because it was going to be a surprise, we huddled into my room and awaited the footsteps along the corridor.

The surprise was suitably complete.


An indulgent breakfast started Sunday. Sausages ; bacon ; eggs ; toast and marmalade ; the works. We even started with croissants !

Birthday speech

As you know my father is really old, I mean prehistoric old. He went to see the latest Star Wars film recently and that put the idea into my head that I should commence with a witty quote from something he would have seen as a boy.

The search didn’t go well, as you can tell from this line…

[………..]

… from one of the great silent movies of the period.

Now, it’s a well known fact that some men were born two drinks below par.

So reaching a great age requires a lot of luck. You wake up and you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky ?”

You take it slow and live, a quarter mile at a time. Life, you realise is to be enjoyed and sometimes you ask people : “Why so serious ?” and then remind them to : “Just keep swimming”.

Life poses questions. Sometimes they are simple :

What… is your name ?
What… is your quest ?
What… is your favourite colour ?

Other times they are trickier :

Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.

You have learned that : The greatest teacher, failure is.

Nobody will ride eternal, shiny and chrome into old age without looking after themselves. Moderate daily exercise ; wax on, wax off, and you are ready for infinity and beyond. Medication is fine but boiling the cotton wool for the extra is out.

You have to keep active and enjoy hobbies. Gaining a very particular set of skills, skills you have acquired over a very long career, skills that make you a nightmare for people because they are constantly astounded : “It was just like you said”. “I always know”.

A long life doesn’t come without inconveniences, people who insist that : “You shall not pass” ; remind you to phone home or worse, point out the bleeding obvious : “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”.

A long life also requires looking St Peter right in the eye and saying : “Nah !”
“I’ll be back”.

In trying to find something suitable to say I looked over hills of beans, visited numerous gin joints and journeyed far and wide.

Most of it fruitless, though I will still have Paris.

In the end I think I have found a quote that says everything that needs saying :

I am Groot.

The inspiration

Now, it’s a well known fact that some men were born two drinks below par. [Whisky galore !]

So reaching a great age requires a lot of luck. You wake up and you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky ?” [Dirty Harry]

You take it slow and live, a quarter mile at a time. [The fast and the furious] Life, you realise is to be enjoyed and sometimes you ask people : “Why so serious ?” [The Dark Knight] and then remind them to : “Just keep swimming”. [Finding Nemo]

Life poses questions. Sometimes they are simple :

What… is your name ?
What… is your quest ?
What… is your favourite colour ?
[Monty Python and the Holy Grail]

Other times they are trickier :

Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.
[The Hobbit]

You have learned that : The greatest teacher, failure is. [The Last Jedi]

Nobody will ride eternal, shiny and chrome [Mad Max Fury Road] into old age without looking after themselves. Moderate daily exercise ; wax on, wax off, [The Karate Kid] and you are ready for infinity and beyond [Toy Story]. Medication is fine but boiling the cotton wool for the extra is out [Play it again Sam].

You have to keep active and enjoy hobbies. Gaining a very particular set of skills, skills you have acquired over a very long career, skills that make you a nightmare for people [Taken] because they are constantly astounded : “It was just like you said”. “I always know” [Scrooge].

A long life doesn’t come without inconveniences, people who insist that : “You shall not pass ; [LOTR Fellowship of the Ring] remind you to phone home [E.T.] or worse, point out the bleeding obvious : “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” [Jaws].

A long life also requires looking St Peter right in the eye and saying : “Nah !”
“I’ll be back”. [Terminator 2]

In trying to find something suitable to say I looked over hills of beans, visited numerous gin joints [Casablanca] and journeyed far and wide.

Most of it fruitless, though I will still have Paris. [Casablanca]

In the end I think I have found a quote that says everything that needs saying :

I am Groot. [Guardians of the Galaxy]


Posted : 22 August 2021

England, Family