My birthdays are the best!’.  Well, there’s no denying.  However, I’m beginning to realise just how cold October can be!  One day, we shall be at the top of the Spanish Steps, once more, large glass of Cervaro to hand …

My birthdays are the best!’.  Standing joke in our family but, then, I have been lucky enough to celebrate the passing years in some spectacular locations and in spectacular style: Hout Bay, Cape Town; Samburu, Kenya; Spanish Steps, Rome; London …  This year has been no different.  We broke free!  We tore off the shackles and sprinted – well, not quite.  We travelled to London, courtesy of LNER, and shut the lid on COVID, for a few days at least.  Not an easy task, I might add, shutting the lid on COVID.  The mantle of fear is heavy and omnipresent but escapism is compulsory if one is to maintain any kind of mental stability – and, yes, I do include mine!  Ditching the everyday mundane enables one to re-programme and the prospect of a change of scene, some excitement, variety, some much-needed stimuli?  Well, it’s a re-awakening; the elixir of life.  Without it, there is only existing; going through the motions, ever more susceptible to programming and fear, sufficiently brain-numbed to comply.  Pulling out of Waverley, I could feel the tension lift as perspective returned.

‘My birthdays are the best!’.  There is a video of me – in Rome, I think – resembling something in the realms of Princess Fiona from Shrek (courtesy of some app!) and my voice is like that of a chipmunk.  Brought out, repeatedly, to great laughter, still, the sentiment holds fast.  Does lead one to surmise that which is the key to a great birthday?  Hang on a minute, where would one ever read a sentence like that today?!  Punctuation is dead, apparently, and grammar?  Long buried.  No need.  IT rules the world and robots adhere to nothing more than a microchip.  The Greeks?  The Romans?  The alphabet?  The very foundations of language?  Have we learned nothing?   My old school friend – subjected to the rigours of the same English teacher – told me, yesterday, of a book whose content is ‘written’ devoid of any punctuation!  Paragraphs, yes, but that’s it.   Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.  We differ in opinion.  Such is life.  However, suffice to say, it will not be appearing in my ‘library’ any time soon.  To quote Taylor Swift, ‘Like ever!’.

My birthdays are the best!’.  The key to a great birthday?  Family and friends.  Location?  A bonus but – in the great scheme of things – irrelevant.  The truth is, thoughtfulness is the key.  Time and effort, not money …  For as long as I can remember, I have always loved tailoring presents to the recipient.  My sister, in particular, not so much.  Golf balls were a staple when it came to presents for Pop.  Socks and hankies, too – taboo for the discerning – were never far from her radar.  Oh, the joy she missed!  I was known, in our family, for the thoughtful gift – little competition, quite frankly – and was proud to wear that mantle.  Something I, obviously, instilled in my own children.  One reaps what one sows.

‘My birthdays are the best!’.   The day after my birthday, I am oh, so grateful!  Grateful for the old friends who never forget and who always go that extra mile.  A wealth of shared memories, distance is no foe.  The bonds of friendship span the miles, regardless, whether by phone or card.  If I’m honest, though, it is the cards which are really special and, here, my old uni friend, Caroline, is in a league of her own.  Two years ago, I opened her latest to find a digital me on the front!  Perfect.  I, now, photocopy it and inflict it on the favoured few – repeatedly!  So … I should have been prepared, this year, but, as I laughed at the words on the front before setting it down, for some reason, I missed the real joke.  Only when Manny walked into the room and, immediately, pulled up, exclaiming, ‘Oh, my God!’ – or words to that effect – did I realise that the two women reclining on tyres, modelling swimming attire and Elton John glasses, were us!  Classic.  So thoughtful, so sweet and so Caroline.

‘My birthdays are the best!’.  We ate in Delphino, Mayfair; we had Afternoon Tea at The Ritz; we went to Kensington Palace and saw Diana’s wedding dress and her statue in the Sunken Garden – slightly better in real life; we stopped off at the Hard Rock Cafe for burgers and good music and, finally, we dined at Faulty Towers courtesy of Basil, Sybil and some little Spanish guy!  Now, that experience should be on prescription.  How we laughed.  It was outrageous and, although the small print stated that they could not utilise much of the original material due to its sensitivity – read bloody ‘woke’, the whimpering lefty minority of pathetic ignoramuses (Whoops! Still in Basil mode, obviously) – nonetheless, Basil ended up Goose-stepping round the tables, underpants on head, to rapturous applause and laughter from a delighted audience, loving every minute!  Just goes to show that humour is irrepressible.  It transcends time, regardless.  All that is required is an intellect affording an understanding of perspective!

‘My birthdays are the best!’.  If only LNER acknowledged the same.  To be fair, we missed our train having left half our luggage in the hotel – no names – and, then, were forced to endure a seven- hour journey back to Edinburgh.  All I will say is that the/those persons responsible for the invention of the mobile phone are, also, single-handedly responsible for the demise of human beings with a functioning brain!  Who sits on the phone for the entire journey, even going to the loo and changing one’s clothes with said device still to one’s ear?  Worse!  Who sits at home for seven hours on the other end?!  Probably better that I refrain from describing the image I have in my head …  Suffice to say, the complimentary cheap wine on offer became strangely palatable!

‘My birthdays are the best!’.  Thanks to my children who break the mould.  On Monday – the actual day – Becca was back at school but Manny appeared, complete with picnic and fizz, determined that we go to the West Sands?  Windy, freezing, it began to lash it down as we stepped out of the car.  No matter, apparently, we would drive back down and get out nearer the town.  Why?  I don’t like that end!  There are people …  Still muttering, we walked over towards the wall where Ogleing had, obviously, been, earlier, creating his sand art.  Admiring his work were two ladies and a little boy who, timeously, began to read out the words, ‘Happy Birthday, Trish-Trash!  Love, Becca and Manny. xxx’.  Oh, my God!  Finally, the penny dropped.  This was a message for ME – for all to see – on my beloved West Sands, arranged by the two most thoughtful beings on the planet …  Note to self: take a bow.  I’ve played a blinder!

‘You were born an original.  Don’t die a copy.’

John Mason

This is Trish, signing off.