28th December 2006.
My Dear Eleanor,
Recognising that we have been invited to your 50th birthday bash cum memorial for Jim I decided to put some thought into a present that would be suitable for the occasion. This being in reality two occasions of such diverse purposes occurring on the same day has given me some reasons to ponder on what to do.
Firstly, the Jim remembrance. Although I did not really know Jim other than through a casual acquaintance with both of you together at the occasional social event I could see that he was a man of character and integrity and worthy of your love and attention. After Mervyn passed away Anne and I were naturally happy that you had found someone else to spend your life with and we were happy to come to the wedding celebration (even though we didn’t make the A list which of course we both understand and accept J – we were grateful to be on any list J). Honest.
When we heard the news of Jim’s death our hearts went out to you and I was sorry not to be able to make it to his funeral although I was pleased that Anne was able to represent the Davies family.
I can only say that we know that you are a naturally strong person and you will pull through. This might not be much consolation to you but I can add that if there is anything was can ever do to help you I hope that you will feel able to call on us as friends to pitch in.
There are a few caveats to this generous offer. I’m not actually prepared to come and do any gardening or housework or any other menial type manual labour unless it is an emergency situation. What I am saying here is that it has to be important. We will have to make a call at the time as to whether the situation fits this definition. Clearly you might be emotionally unstable at the time and unable to make a good call in this respect so I hope that downstream you will have recovered your faculties sufficiently enough to recognise and accept our decision with hindsight.
Hopefully you might in any case have had the good sense to retain the services of a gardener or other such handyman upon who you should be able to call under such (again hopefully extremely unlikely) circumstances. If you haven’t already thought of it take my advice and start looking now kid. Probably the Newark Advertiser and your local Post Office are your best bets assuming the latter will still be open after the recent closure announcements (fingers crossed eh?).
Now the fact is that a present in memoriam of Jim probably isn’t appropriate for this occasion. I’m sure that in any case this would have already been taken care of at the funeral, as I recall in the form of a donation to his favourite charity.
So the next question is what to get Eleanor for her 50th? If anything? Hmm!
I’ve given this some thought. What do you get the woman who has nearly everything? A few suggestions spring to mind:
Lifetime membership of the Women’s Institute.
You might not of course like this idea. Baking cakes and entering flower display competitions might not be your idea of a good time. Just a word of two of advice before you turn this idea down. Don’t write it off before you have tried it love. You shouldn’t prejudge an activity without having experienced it. After all millions of middle aged (whoops!) women can’t be wrong. Also they might well get involved in other activities too: dry-stone wall repairing, lesbian sex and tea blending spring to mind. Everything is possible. Actually I might think about joining it myself if there is lesbian sex involved. I don’t suppose they can object in this modern age of equal rights. If women are allowed to join the Carlton Club or the Castle Hill Club . . .
Now on the off-chance that there isn’t a WI lodge (arrangement, gossip, school, cardre, platoon, shoal – whatever is the collective noun for a gathering of WIs) in your area we need to think of some suitable alternatives.
Difficult this one. I realise that your place is probably already well stocked with the good things in life – Beluga caviar, vintage Dom Perignon, pork scratchings. So something else along these lines would probably have been greeted by you with some degree of silent contempt. I know you are too much of a lady to let your real feelings be seen by us Lincoln provincials.
So I thought about:
A pair of Wimbledon centre court debentures
Seriously looked into this one I have to tell you. I’m sure that you will believe me when I say that we tried very hard here. Unfortunately I have had to accept defeat having tried every avenue open to us. We tried the Lincolnshire Echo, the Chronicle, the Target. We looked in the St Peter in Eastgate newsletter, Ferrago (the William Farr school magazine – we were sure that there would always be a parent trying to offload unwanted tickets there) and countless other local sources of news and information – even the Bailgate News.
Now I have to confess we didn’t put a card in the Post Office in the Bail but if I tell you that following my earlier remark about Post Office closures we weren’t sure that this establishment would be open long enough for the advertisement to take effect I am sure that you will understand.
Anyway the search for a pair of Wimbledon debentures drew a blank – bummer.
What next then eh? The complete Donny Osmond Collection? David Cassidy? Nah. Cliff Richard !!!?
I have to confess that at this time I was struggling, Eleanor. Looking for big time inspiration. I discussed with Anne whether we should call upon the services of the experts – maybe Trinny and Suzannah but Anne said that their tastes were probably too frumpy for you. Then I said why don’t we get Charlie Dymmock to come and remodel your garden. Anne said I had only made that suggestion because CD didn’t wear a bra and that I wanted to see the outline of her nipples and that in any case as far as she was aware you were quite happy with your garden because Jim had played a big part in it’s current design so that well and truly put the kybosh on that idea.
Oh blooming heck how difficult can it be?!!!
I said how about paying for you to go on a QE2 type singles cruise and Anne said if I could afford to buy you something like that I could bloody well take her on a cruise so I had to confess that actually I couldn’t really afford it and that I was really only talking big so I had to climb down from that one – sorry. Ahem.
Right. Well then. Yeees.
Actually at this time I’d like to apologise for using such strong language. “Blooming heck” is really an inappropriate phrase for this letter – oh dear there I go repeating it. Sorry. I am trying to present a serious tone here. After all it is your 50th birthday. After all how serious can that be? I mean to say fifty? I hope you don’t mind me saying that in such loud font. I’m not sure how familiar you are with font types but the sentence with “fifty?” in it is in 18 point chiller. The rest of the letter is in 12 point DIN Regular. The only reason for that particular font is that it is our corporate style and my “Word” font is set by the IT guy at work in collaboration with our marketing manager. Sorry I’m boring you here.
I chose chiller font because I thought it represented a suitably horrified response to actually being 50 years old. There I go again! This is of course complete rubbish. After all I’m nearly fifty myself. Well, 45 actually but it’s not far off is it in the great scheme of things eh? Eh? A mere week is a long time in politics so how long is five years eh? Thinking about it if I were a politician five years would therefore seem an absolute age so it is a good idea that neither you nor I are politicians, as far as I know. As far as I am concerned the weeks fly by! By the way sorry if you are thinking of running for Parliament or some similar august body – Newark Town Council, Sutton on Trent Parochial Church Council etc etc. I know that although I saw you doing an excellent meet and greet job at the museum in Lincoln you might well be looking for something else to do with your time. WI?… no no no.
I also need to apologise for apologising all the time. I know that our friendship is more solid that this. You understand I’m sure that it only comes out of frustration of not being able to satisfy you. There I go again – innuendo now. Shut up Tref.
I’m now at a complete loss for words (please scroll down)
Right I’m back. Tref here again. Hope that the gap was suitably representative of being lost for words. Anyway it’s all you’re getting.
So fact is it doesn’t look as if we are converging on a present idea here. It could be that we just give up and concentrating on having a good time at your party. I’m sure Anne will still be racking her brains (fair play to her) but frankly once I’ve stopped thinking that’s it. It’s a bit like Russian mobilisation except the other way round. If you don’t quite understand here I fully understand. I’m not bragging. What I mean is that I always understood anyway but I understand if you don’t understand. It’s a bit like describing a cricket match, when they are out they are in, but I really don’t want to get dragged into that discussion – see me later if you do. That could be an idea for a present – how would you like a year’s membership at Notts County Cricket Club?
The Russian mobilisation bit meant that when the Russian army was mobilised into action they could not stop whereas once I have stopped thinking I can’t start up again. Never mind. It sounded good in my O’ level history exam.
If Elliot would like the year’s membership let me know – Tom is a member. It’s only £15 for a year for a junior. Not that I want to cheapen the 50th birthday present. Anyway at the moment we still haven’t decided what to get you so £15 could represent a significant upside J.
I guess it doesn’t do any harm at some stage to reflect on what being fifty must be all about. Mind you I have to rely on hearsay here because obviously as previously discussed I can’t base it on personal experience.
I did ask my mother in law Rene who was laying the table around me as I was typing this out but all she could say was “nothing”. So there is a viewpoint that life becomes a nothingness, a great void once you reach fifty. Rene probably didn’t mean her comment to be interpreted in this way. She actually meant that it made no difference to her moving up from 49 to 50, or if I can put it more dramatically, from her forties to her fifties.
There are plenty of examples of people who have lead full and enriched lifestyles once they reach the half century – the WI is full of them. Apparently.
Charlie Chaplin had a baby when he was 82 years old for example. At least we are told it was his baby. In fact I am being very unfair here. I have absolutely no evidence to suggest that it was not his baby. I’ve not even heard any rumours on the subject. I might well have just started one here of course. Unlikely methinks but don’t mention it to anyone else just in case. I think for the purposes of this discussion we should assume that it is indeed his child and that he was a very active bloke right up to the end, whenever that was.
It is a little known fact that when Charlie Chaplin made love he used to do it silently with an organist playing in the background. Almost certainly. So I’ve heard.
Winston Churchill was 65 when he became a great wartime leader. Mind you he did apparently spend a lot of his time in bed drinking champagne. Not a bad idea if you ask me. Do you think we might actually be converging on a new purpose in life for you here? Being a politician and drinking champagne in bed. Have you got a Chelsea football shirt? I understand that you have to have one to be a politician but don’t worry, you would probably be allowed to wear it over your Lincoln City one. Maybe it depends on which side you support. Labour or Tory that is – not Lincoln or Chelsea.
Did try Google for some inspiration. It came up with helicopter flight over London, a day’s falconry lessons and a day’s off-road driving lesson. Apparently they all come approved by the W . . . no!
It now falls upon me to pen the closing paragraphs. I wonder how long it took Tolstoy to think of the finish for War and Peace. Not that I am comparing the two oeuvres. I doubt that he set out to write a few words to a friend and ended up with 600 pages or so of gripping narrative. If that were to happen here it would only be ready in time for your 60th.
I’m told that JK Rowling had already written the ending to the seventh and final Harry Potter book early in the series. Not so here. Mind you I am quite looking forward to the last book. I am a fan.
So to conclude, Eleanor, I would like to wish you a very happy birthday. I am glad that we have been invited to celebrate it with you and to help you make the day a success. Although you now live in far away Newark (ish) both Anne and I would be glad not to lose touch and we wish you every happiness for the future for you and Elliot and your new extended family.
Lots of love