It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to … Well, if I did the maths, I would! Ridiculous. I plead the Fifth. Most definitely not the Sixth. I mean, one of my presents was The Vamps latest CD!
Anyway, little time to write today; one of recovery. Not that I over-imbibed at all. Somehow the excitement wasn’t there. Totally spoiled – as always – but, let’s face it, ‘fun’ is a swear word in the present times. We are being drained of all individuality, enthusiasm and, in the end, emotion. Welcome to the dark side!
Each of us, however, has a library of memories; memories of fun times and I have some amazing birthdays upon which to draw. My 36th was spent in Hout Bay, Cape Town. Still the best meal I have ever had, it was a vegetarian Crepe, of some sort, in Mariner’s Wharf (may have had something to do with the location). Unspoilt in those days, I was surprised to learn – on our return home – that it had also played host to my friend, Charles Spencer and Sting, to name but two. They didn’t join us!
One birthday I shall cherish for the rest of my days was my 41st. I was in Samburu – at Larsens Camp, to be precise – with Virginia McKenna and ten others; a select, very privileged group on safari in Kenya, in memory of George and Joy Adamson. I had lived and breathed the story of Elsa from childhood and this was my dream! Every moment stored in my memory, as I wrote in my postcards, I was no longer looking at the photographs, I was in them … Larsens Camp was exquisite. In the heart of the bush, on the edge of the Uaso Nyiro River, we stayed in luxury tents on stilts, each named after a bird (ours was Shrike). It was like stepping onto the set of Mogambo, the 1953 classic film starring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly! Each tent boasted an ensuite bathroom, shower and wonderful mahogany furniture worthy of RMS Titanic. I had stepped back in time to an era much more inviting and my actual birthday was spent watching elephant grazing – in the wild, as they should be. The greatest privilege.
It was a ten-day safari commencing at Lake Naivasha and Joy Adamson’s former home. From there we drove in a three-land rover convoy north to Samburu and I remember, as night was beginning to fall, being held up at a checkpoint and, for the remainder of the journey, each vehicle was joined by an armed guard. The contrast, then, on arriving at Larsens Camp! We were greeted by the friendliest of staff, immaculately dressed offering each of us a warm cloth and refreshment served in a crystal glass from a sliver tray, no less. Here we were in the heart of the African bush enjoying the five-star luxury of a distant past; comparable to none. Out of Africa? We were to visit Karen Blixen’s house – now a museum, restored to the way it was as her home and, also, displaying costumes and memorabilia from the film – on our return to Nairobi. The view over to the Ngong Hills is as glorious as described – and exactly as portrayed on screen, so much so, that one almost expects Denys Finch Hatton to fly over in his plane. Now, that was a trip of a lifetime and a birthday I shall never forget …
Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti. The Spanish Steps. I think that is the location, for me, which is synonymous with the 25th October. Becca travelled to Rome in August 2015 to teach at St Stephen’s International School and, since then, the Eternal City has been a favourite destination – and a familiar one. The things we have done, the places we have seen, the fun we have had and the special memories we have made, all courtesy of our very own tour guide. Meantime, Sandro, who has a shop on the Via Margutta specialising in bespoke marble signs, knows us well and made one for me entitled Scalinato de Trinità dei Monti with, listed below, my four Birthdays – so far – spent at the top with a bottle of champagne and a view to die for! The perfect setting and, naïvely, I hoped to return every year. There is a large expanse of marble just waiting to be filled with future dates and I have every intention of filling every inch of it!
In October 2016, we spent my birthday eve in the Roman Forum, transported back to its heyday by the most incredible light show. In 2017, Becca organised tickets for Tosca in the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma on 24th October, a night to remember; then, in 2018, the pièce de résistance, riding down the Via Appia – just us, three – followed by lunch and sensational wine. How lucky am I?!
Who would believe me if I was to say that I have never been a great one for birthdays? Well, certainly not my own but, somehow, I have had the most memorable ever in some of the most amazing locations … I missed Rome last year but never as much as we, all, did on Sunday. Sitting outside, in the freezing cold, drinking wine out of plastic cups, eating burgers from plastic plates with plastic cutlery, not even the iconic view over the 18th to the R&A and Hamilton Grand was enough to appease. It’s a blessing that one cannot see into the future; what lies ahead. Who could ever have predicted a year such as this? Thank God for memories or is it, perhaps, worse to be reminded of all the good times, serving only to highlight everything we are, now, denied? Denied. That’s exactly how it feels and yet, increasingly, none of us really knows why. Those who question, refusing merely to accept, are unsatisfied with the answers. Something doesn’t add up and the incessant scaremongering, facilitating control, is becoming positively unnerving, if not sinister. The thing is, in order to understand or make sense of anything of that nature, one must have a mind attuned to do so – and I still love The Waltons!
I wonder what Tom Cruise thinks? He has been in Rome, waiting for me to show up in Monti or at the top of the Spanish Steps, all the while filling his time filming Mission: Impossible 7. I didn’t call, I didn’t write but circumstances prevented me from joining him in Hassler Roma for my birthday drinks. Why? What timing? The fun we could have had … The disappointment is, understandably, immense but he’ll live. He is one of A Few Good Men, after all, and one can but hope that there will be further opportunities – in the not-too-distant future – to ‘show me the money’. When that time comes, of course, it is highly probable that I shall be compelled to utter the words, ‘You had me at “Hello”‘! Oh, well. Such fun! Becca? Manny? Might just be a little too late to change me now …
‘Someday. That’s a dangerous word. It’s really just a code for ‘never’.’
Tom Cruise (Roy Miller), Knight and Day.
This is Trish, signing off.