Sunday, 10 January 2010

Sue is 70!

To The Old Fire Engine House at Ely for Sue's birthday lunch. It was an 'oldies' do and her three siblings and my sister, all with spouses, attended. It was a surprise party and the secret was kept right up to the last minute. The restaurant served us superbly and we could not be more grateful to the management and staff. They even produced a splendid birthday cake and we all sang 'Happy Birthday.'

I made a short speech, as follows:

"Sue is 70!

I start with something quite disturbing. If she's honest, I don't think that Sue ever thought that she would make 70.

She was born in Newmarket on the 10th of January, 1940, to a dear mum who was seriously ill herself - she had osteomyelitis - and who had just had a leg amputated. This was before the widespread use of penicillin and it was by no means certain that either mother or baby would survive.

Peggy and Sue did survive, though, and dear Peggy went on to have three more lusty youngsters. But Sue was often ill in her childhood and youth and, not to put too fine a point on it, she was a bit weedy - as was I at the same period.

Sue also became conscious that the female relatives whom she knew were not to live long lives. Both her grannies died at around the age of 60 and, of course, her dear mother was only 60 when we lost her.

But Sue should have been more confident of her own prospects for I have found through studying her family history that she comes from a long line of long-lived ladies.

Her paternal great grandmother, Fanny Davis (née Cartwright), her maternal great grandmother, Kate Catchpole (née Pearle), and her maternal great great grandmother, Caroline Catchpole (née Denny), all lived to great ages.

It seems that Sue can look forward to her 80s, her 90s, and maybe to her 100s - thanks to her illustrious lineage and thanks, of course, to the National 'Elf Service!

I said earlier that she, like me, was a bit weedy. Well, she has had lots of health problems, but neither of us are weedy now. I would even go so far as to say that Sue made a man of me.

But her non-weediness now worries me. She's so strong!

She digs the garden whereas I get bad backs.

She volunteers to mount ladders to prune our Virginia creepers whereas I'm afraid of heights.

And she's so fierce when behind the wheel that I'm afraid she might smack some idiot in what's called 'road rage.' I cringe in fear at the tales she comes home with after, say, a visit to her aunt in Norfolk. Just think what it would do for my image if she found herself in court for walloping another driver!

Notwithstanding formerly weedy me and thanks to her mother and father and the NHS, she's here today in fine health and full strength and, to mark the occasion, I have here a little memento of the 10th of January, 1940 [The Times of that date], when Mr Chamberlain, the hero of Munich, was still Prime Minister, when we were at war but Hitler's armies had not yet fallen upon Western Europe, and when, it appears, a 'country kitchen maid, good references, early riser, some cooking, strong, good scrubber,' could be hired for £34 - a year!

Those were the days, as they say, but these are better ones!

Here's to my dear old gal: happy birthday - and many more of 'em!"

Here is the cake with the 'old gal.' (Of course, 'old' is a relative term, but Sue is my dearest relative!).

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