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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

Happy Lockdown Birthday To Me!

Today is my 69th birthday!

(No sixty-nine jokes, please. This is a family blog. 🙂 )

(Not my actual cake.)

Regular readers will know that I make a big deal of my birthdays. I usually string them out over a full week, and on the day I take a trip to the seaside, followed by a nice restaurant meal in the evening.

But in 2021, none of that can happen.

Instead it will be the usual walk with Ollie, opening cards and presents, then a nice takeaway meal this evening.

I would like to wish a happy birthday to any fellow Piscean who shares this day with me. I hope to be able to post something similar next year, when I will be 70.

That’s a nice round number.

Okay, all together now. Sing along with Clare!

Christmas In An Ambulance

As you probably know, I spent a third of my life as an EMT in Central London. Anyone who worked in that job will tell you that the two busiest days of the year are New Year’s Eve, and Christmas Day.

But why Christmas Day? The shops are closed, and most people are at home opening presents, wearing bad taste jumpers, and anticipating a day of eating, drinking, and watching TV.

For emergency ambulance crews, the day starts with the leftovers of the previous shift. Christmas Eve parties, drunken revellers who had fallen over, some in virtual comas from excessive alcohol consumption. Head injuries, cuts and bruises from fights, maybe broken ankles if the streets were icy. Calls to the Police Station to examine injured prisoners, and all this on top of the everyday medical emergencies that don’t go away just because it is the 25th of December.

Once the presents are open, there are the accidents involving children. Rushing off to try out new rollerblades, skateboards, and cycles, many have sustained injuries not long after breakfast. For some, that will mean a few hours spent in the emergency department of the local hospital, awaiting stitches and Tetanus injections. For the unlucky few, it will result in being on life support in the Intensive Care Unit; worried parents sitting by the bed.

Many people start drinking much earlier on Christmas day. Few of those would usually have alcohol just after breakfast, so by midday they are feeling the effects. As the food comes out of the oven, the calls change to burns, scalds, and deep cuts from carving knives. For those that escape kitchen accidents and settle down for the afternoon, the greater than usual consumption of food becomes the problem.

Wind can be incredibly painful. Though it is not life-threatening, to a family the worse for drink and stress, that sharp pain may be indicative of something more sinister, like a blocked bowel, or perhaps a heart attack. So they call 999, and then get stressed out even more by having to wait longer than usual because we are so busy. For some unfortunates, the combination of alcohol, stress, and over-eating does actually cause a heart attack. Also Diabetic Coma, exacerbation of existing breathing problems like Asthma, or the rupture of an Aortic Aneurysm.

By early afternoon, it is not unusual to be trying to resuscitate people who have literally dropped dead in front of the Christmas Tree. This is usually going on in front of a number of distraught family members, some still holding unopened presents.

The early evening brings its own problems. Calls to people who cannot be roused because they have had so much to drink. Babies and small children put down to rest, then found in situations of medical emergency, like high temperatures or even cot death. Following those dramas, people start to leave for home. This now involves car accidents where the drivers are over the limit from ‘just a couple of drinks’. Their relative insisted they have something before they leave, and that might have been a whole tumbler full of brandy, on top of that ‘couple of glasses’ with dinner. They might be unfamiliar with the area, go the wrong way up a one-way street, or not notice that person who was walking over a pedestrian crossing.

In some cases, the victims are also drunk; sometimes wandering around in the hope of finding a shop open, or deciding to cycle home after having been drinking all day.

For most of you this year, it will be a happy and trouble free day. But when you hear a siren in the distance, or see the blue lights of an ambulance pass your window, now you will now why.

Christmas Yet To Come

Inspired by the novella ‘A Christmas Carol’, written by Charles Dickens in 1843, I have dealt with Christmas Present, and Christmas Past.

But what of ‘Christmas Yet To Come’?

At my age, I don’t know how many more Christmases I will be around for. But I suspect they will start to feel very different from those that went before. I am not really predicting anything, but I do have some thoughts on how that difference might show itself.

Online shopping will dominate of course. It already does that, but there is every chance that physical shops will cease to exist. The sending of Christmas cards will be a thing of the past too. With younger people having little or no experience of sending letters and cards, added to the increased costs of posting them, that tradition will be consigned to history, I am sure.

Home TV screens are certain to get bigger too. Being able to stream anything on demand will put an end to the usual batch of TV ‘Specials’ that I grew up with, and are still around today. That might actually be a good thing. Those big screens will also allow more virtual contact with friends and relatives in real time, meaning that you could feasibly have a Christmas celebration electronically, without leaving your home.

And as Global Warming becomes more apparent, and the ‘carbon footprint’ of travelling has greater impact, flying around the world to see family members or enjoy seasonal holiday breaks will also become a memory.

Then there is the preparation and cooking of food. It can’t be that long before a turkey dinner with all the trimmings will be able to be delivered to your door in twenty minutes. Delivery companies will add extras like Christmas Cake, Yule Log, and Mince Pies to their menus, and probably even supply any booze you want too. You will able to click a few boxes on a Phone App, and set the table ready to hear the doorbell ring.

The virtual aspect of life might well extend to religious services too. Why go out in the cold to sit in a draughty church, when that can all come to you on your 100-inch TV? That’s if there is anyone left who still remembers it is a religious festival of course.

I won’t be around to see all of this, but I might still be alive for some of it.

What about you? How do you see Chrsitmas changing? Or perhaps you don’t think it will.

Let me know in the comments.

Happy Thanksgiving

I would like to wish a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my lovely blogging friends in America.

It will be very different for most of you this year, I’m sure.

So I hope you can celebrate as best as you can, given the social restrictions we all have to deal with in 2020.

We don’t have this holiday over here, so I usually give thanks for that fact.
One less thing to worry about. 🙂

My very best wishes to you all, Pete.

Happy Independence Day!

I would like to wish all my good friends in America a Happy Independence Day.

Look on the bright side, if you had stayed as part of England in 1776, you would now be having to try to work out what Brexit is all about!

Enjoy your barbecues and fireworks, and remember those who are no longer around to join your celebrations.

Best wishes from your former colonial oppressor, Pete. 🙂