Happy Birthday, Mum

This is my mum photographed in 1994, at her 70th birthday celebration. Now I am the same age she was then.

She died in 2012, and if she had been alive today, it would be her 98th birthday.

As far as I am concerned, it will always be her birthday. She is never forgotten, not for one single moment.

Sunday Musings On A Birthday Week

Anyone who has read my blog this week will already be aware that I was 70 years old on Wednesday. My week started on Monday, so this is the last day of celebrations. Given how much I have celebrated already, I think a quiet day will be the decent thing to do.

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It has been a great week indeed. Two meals out, a trip to a nature reserve, and lots of nice gifts and cards received. After Wednesday, the weather improved too, and it has been lovely and sunny since. Then last night, it was rounded off in style. Julie took me to a restaurant in North Tuddenham, having arranged for my four step-children and two of their partners to come too. So we had a table for eight, a very nice family celebration, and I had a ’70’ balloon! I received more gifts and cards on the night, along with the news that all of Julie’s children have given some money so that we can go out again soon, and enjoy another meal on them. There was also a box of twelve 70th-birthday themed cupcakes, home-made.
This has been my best birthday week ever!

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Of course, the world news is far from encouraging, and the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. I confess that the last thing I expected to be happening in my 70th year was a new war in Europe. And just when I am at my lowest income since I left school, the price of everything has sky-rocketed. Oh well, no point complaining about that. The rich have always got richer, and the rest of us poorer. Just read any history book.

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Ollie’s moult has to be seen to be believed, with his fur all over the house necessitating daily vacuuming more seriously than usual. We are trying to get him booked in to the dog-groomer next week, as a good wash and brush up will take care of at least some of the shedding fur.

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Regular readers will also be aware that I still don’t have my renewed driving licence. (Sorry regulars, here I go again.) Next week marks the beginning of my first full week of not being able to drive legally until my licence is sorted out. I am trying not to be too annoyed about that, but it’s not easy.

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I hope you all have a lovely Sunday. And if you can, go for a drive somewhere nice. You will appreciate the freedom of being able to do that, believe me.

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Pensthorpe: Part One

Continuing my birthday treats, Julie took me to Pensthorpe Waterfowl Reserve and Nature Park yesterday. It is close to Fakenham, so an easy drive from Beetley.

Home

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(All photos are posted on Flickr, you can click on them to enlarge each one.)

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Early in the season, there were not that many birds. The enclosure for the Flamingos and Cranes was also closed, because of the risk of Bird Flu in the county at the moment. But the large park is a haven of peace and quiet, and beautifully maintained by the friendly staff.

Sleepy swans, mid afternoon, woken by a dipping Coot.
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This Goose let me get quite close, but I used the zoom so as not to frighten it.
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This Swan had a reed-fringed pool all to itself.
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The all-weather observation area. There are also numerous ‘hides’ located around the grounds, for dedicated bird-watchers.
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The central lake is vast, and the River Wensum also runs through the park.
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This is called the ‘Monet-Inspired Bridge’.
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Julie crossing the bridge.
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More photos from Pensthorpe to come soon.

My Birthday Week: The Progress So Far

Starting on Monday, I decided that had to be a routine day, with my regular supermarket shopping trip, and some anticipation of my ‘Pre-Birthday’ on Tuesday.

Tuesday was Pre-Birthday day, and the trip to Pensthorpe Bird Park was planned, followed by an ‘easy-cook’ special meal that evening. Determined to pretend Spring had arrived, I put my shorts on for the first time since late October, and after walking Ollie, we set off for Fakenham. (Where Pensthorpe is.) Thirty minutes later, we arrived, only to discover that Pensthorpe is closed every Monday and Tuesday. Schoolboy error on my part, for not checking the opening times before I left. We are going to go on Friday instead.

Instead, we headed off to Bawdswell, where there is a nice garden centre that serves tea and cake. In the (rather windy) outside area there, I had coffee and carrot cake. On the way out, Julie spotted a straw hat in the shop, and she bought it for me as an extra birthday gift.

That evening, Julie was cooking. The ‘easy’ birthday meal turned out to be anything but, with five rather complicated stages of cooking and preparation required, each one set out on a leaflet included in the box. Despite the complicated procedures, the result was first-class, and the delicious flavours rewarded the time required. Once again, the error was mine, for not reading the outside of the box in the shop before I bought it. On this occasion, that turned out to be a good mistake.

Wednesday was the big day, and well-reported on here yesterday. My birthday meal had been booked in advance by Julie, to the White Horse at Brancaster Staithe, a specialist fish restaurant on the north coast of Norfolk, some 22 miles from Beetley. We had been there with friends some years ago, on a lovely summer evening, and often spoke about going back. It is an expensive restaurant in a nice setting, very suitable for a big celebration or milestone occasion. Not being summer, we were of course booked to eat inside, in the classy restaurant area.
https://www.whitehorsebrancaster.co.uk/

It was raining here by 3pm. We didn’t have to leave home until 5:45, for a 6:30 booking, but by that time, the rain was torrential. Not only that, but incredibly low cloud had settled, making everywhere gloomy and misty. Julie decided to use her Satnav, in the hope it would provide a short cut around the busy coast road. Before we had even got to Fakenham, which is halfway, driving conditions were appalling. As my licence still hasn’t been renewed, Julie had to drive, and we had taken her car. It was soon like driving in a shallow river, and the oncoming main-beam headlights of selfish drivers made it even more difficult.

At Fakenham, the Satnav did indeed offer a short cut, which we took. But that turned out to be across country on tiny roads that in some cases were only wide enough for one car. And the rain was getting heavier, making it hard to see anything on the unfamilar roads. Close to the coast, the Satnav told us to make a turn. But a sign said the road it suggested was closed ahead. By then, we should have been sitting down to eat, and we had no idea where we were in relation to our destination.

The only option was to drive to somewhere we knew, and I chose Wells-Next-The-Sea, even though I was aware it was in the wrong direction. Once there, we safely stopped the car so Julie could ring the restaurant to tell them we would be late. But there was only a message, suggesting we contact them by email, or ring back at nine the next morning. The weather was getting worse, and the Satnav no longer picking up a signal at all. I chose the last resort of taking the coast road I knew, and we arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes later, almost an hour late for our reservation.

We had both remarked that neither of us could ever recall driving in such terrible conditions.

Fortunately, the staff were pleased to see us, and had held the table. We ordered drinks, and perused the menu. Then we found out the menu had changed dramatically since our last visit. Options were greatly reduced, prices greatly increased. But we both found something we liked eventually, and sat back to enjoy the evening. I was presented with a large postcard of the restaurant, a birthday greeting written on the back. At the end of the meal, I was also served a large plate containing tasty sweet treats, with ‘Happy 70th Birthday’ written in liquid chocolate on the plate. And even though we had been disapointed with the menu options, the food had been delicious when it arrived.

Coming home via the coast road was much easier, but no less fractious in the continuing pouring rain and flooded roads. We were pleased to get home, and Ollie was pleased to see us too.

Today is going to be a ‘quiet day’, you can bet on that.

Birthday Bounty

Even though it is something of a special birthday today, I didn’t want to receive a lot of ‘stuff’ as gifts. Stuff that a place has to be found for, and in a house with little remaining space. With that in mind, Julie’s main present to me is taking me out for two different birthday meals. One tonight, and again on Saturday. But she also bought me gifts, and all of them are useful.

A new windproof umbrella to replace the one I had been using for over 20 years.
A new PC keyboard to replace this one, because of some letters refusing to register and having to be re-typed.
A new wine glass engraved with the words, ‘Vintage 1952′.
New black socks with the same printed legend.
A straw hat for the summer to protect my head from insect bites.

In the post, I had already received a parcel from my cousin containing a nice hamper. Inside were special crunchy snacks, a Pâté to eat them with, and a lovely bottle of Merlot. My next door neighbour arrived an hour ago with a gift of a very smart ’70’ tea mug, and a card.

Now my cards are displayed on the window-sill, 12 in all. With no more post until tomorrow, I presume that is it for cards. But I am very happy with that, and grateful for all my gifts, and for the birthday wishes from the WordPress community.

Three Score And Ten

When I was young, Religious Education was compulsory in school. I had a Bible at home, and read it more like a history book, than religious instruction. Parts of it were very dull, but others had action, adventure, even wars. I grew up not believing in any God or religion, but I did remember some of the quotes and catchphrases that I read. Two of them in particular stayed with me.

‘Mene, mene, Tekel Upharsin’.

Do you know what that is? It is the actual ‘Writing on the wall’ that gave us the phrase so often used today.

Then there was this one.

‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.’

So I was around eight years old, and could work out that they were talking about living until the age of seventy. Eighty at a push, if you had that ‘strength’ mentioned.

I spent the next twenty years expecting to die at seventy. Then I became an EMT in the London Ambulance Service. It wasn’t long before I realised that so many people die long before they are seventy. Especially people like me at the time who smoked cigarettes, worked shifts in stressful jobs, didn’t eat properly, and liked a drink on their days off.

Very soon, I started to think that fifty might be a good age for me to live to. When you do that job, you do become something of a fatalist.

Surprise surprise! I made it to 2022, and I am 70 years old today.

Maybe the Bible got it right?

‘Pre-Birthday’

Today is the day before my birthday, always known by me as my ‘Pre-Birthday’. At the supermarket yesterday, I bought a ‘special meal’ as a pre-birthday treat. A ready-to-cook pork belly with honey glaze complete meal, with black pudding, vegetables, and mashed potato. Enough for two, in ‘gift-box’ packaging.

So it is a ‘bung-it-in-the-oven-and-no preparation’ dinner, quick to cook when we return from the Bird Park later. (Weather permitting.) I will accompany that with a glass or two of Lindemann’s Australian Shiraz, then relax and watch something on TV later.

Three birthday cards have arrived already, along with a ‘mystery parcel’. Being a stickler for such things, nothing will be opened until tomorrow morning.

Getting a head start on your birthday is to be recommended, believe me. If you have never had a ‘Pre-Birthday Day’, you should try it.

Musings On A March Sunday

The Blue Tits are back, preparing the interior of the nest box on the Oak tree. When I have been watching all the bad stuff on the news, and Julie is still worried about a nuclear war, watching the innocent routine of nature calms me down completely. Those tiny birds have never heard of Putin, Ukraine, or BBC NEWS 24. Life for them goes on untroubled.

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Better weather, bulb flowers in bloom, children playing in the refurbished playground over on Beetley Meadows, all signs of Spring.

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Just as Ollie’s fur started to look decent again, he has started his Spring moult. Any contact with him leaves small brown hairs on our clothes, and very soon the new vacuum cleaner will be having to cope with the full tufts that fall out as he shakes.

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My fiction serial has concluded now. I will have a pause before the next one, which is already started in drafts.

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Still no news about my driving licence renewal. As from midnight Tuesday, I am no longer allowed to drive. That will feel very strange, after 53 years behind the wheel.

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Next week sees the start of my ‘Birthday Week’. Although my actual birthday is on Wednesday, I am going to try to make the best of the whole week. Weather permitting, that means some days out, taking Ollie to some of his old haunts, and eating in restaurants more than once. I get a few days off from cooking, and Julie has also left the week free from work to accompany me on whatever we decide to do. With the temperature set to rise to 16C by Wednesday, I have a feeling I will be wearing shorts midweek.

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I hope you all have a marvellous Sunday. Think of Spring, turn off the news, and connect with whatever makes you feel good.

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Mid-February Sunday Musings From Beetley

It has been a quieter week, and I am pleased about that.

More bright sunshine heralded every day. It was so nice one morning, I took Ollie out early, and managed some photos in decent light. If you didn’t see that post, here’s a link.

A Sunny February Morning With The Camera

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That sunny and cold weather is set to change though. Heavy rain is arriving from the Atlantic Ocean, set to drench us later today, and during the coming week.

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Ollie was 10 years old yesterday. He loved his new toys, which seem to have rejuvenated him. He spent most of yesterday rushing around playing with them, and went straight to his Walrus when he woke up this morning. I am hoping this coming year will see him free from the infections and medical issues that have plagued his short life.
But my fingers had to be crossed as I typed that.

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Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Julie and I only exhange cards, and we do not buy into the ‘Valentine Industry’. Flowers are hiked-up in price, restaurants are fully-booked with themed menus, and heart-shaped gifts just end up at the back of cupboards, never to be looked at again.

If you intend to celebrate, please spare a thought for the lonely and unloved in your community too. All this outpouring of love and affection must be annual torture for them.

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I haven’t spent much time on Twitter lately, so apologies for not forwarding many of your tweets, or noticing if you have done the same for me.

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Wherever you are, I hope you are happy today, and enjoying a wonderful Sunday.

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