‘What do you want for your birthday?’ It’s a question I’ve been asked for the past few weeks and although I realise that saying ‘I don’t want anything’ isn’t really very helpful, I have really struggled with suggestions.
It was so much easier in the past. Can I have a bike, or a guitar, and a few years later maybe a bigger bike or a better guitar. Then came the years of technology, a portable TV (Black and white but maybe even a colour one if we club all the present money together). Then it was a synthesizer or computer or mobile phone…you get the idea. Money was always a welcome present. I bet we can all remember opening envelopes on our birthday morning and shaking the cash or postal orders out of the cards.
That’s not to say that this year I haven’t been delighted and overwhelmed by the presents I’ve received. It’s amazing how well people know me. Most gifts have been chocolates and alcohol although the old Cappuccino Girls cast presented me with a pair of pink socks to remind me of the old days!
This year my birthday was always going to be very different. With the COVID 19 crisis lockdown and losing my dad nothing in life has been quite the same but turning 60 has meant more than just adding a number to my age. It seems that every birthday I have had that has ended in a zero has always been a time for reflection.
So, as I ran on the beach yesterday I asked myself what did I really ‘want’ for my birthday?
There’s a slogan for a credit card which says ‘There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else there’s Mastercard’. This year more than any other that has never been more true.
Those were the days…
I’ve been bald or balding for over half my life. You would think I’d be used to it by now, but I don’t think I’ve ever really come to terms with it. I still sometimes dream that I can run my fingers through flowing locks and ask myself why, with so much hair, why do I still shave it to the bone. Then I wake up and realise whilst I can still grow hair just about everywhere on my body, up my nose, in my ears, it’s never coming back on top. Not even Mastercard can get me a full head of hair.
For my birthday this year I’d really like the aches and pains to disappear. I visit my granddaughter everyday and wave and laugh with her from across the road. She’s amazing in so many ways and I’m jealous. She is so flexible. She can grab her foot and suck her toes and she doesn’t winch, she just laughs, and giggles at me. I find it a real stretch touching my toes let alone trying to get them in my mouth. These days I find that every time I either sit down or get up from the sofa I give a little moan. Sadly, not even Mastercard can take away my aches and pains.
I’ve started presenting a Friday evening show called Classic Songs for BBC Radio Wales. This week I played Luther Vandross singing ‘Dance with my Father’, it always gets me. Vandross wrote it based on his childhood memories of dancing with his mother and father. His dad sadly passed away when Luther was only 7. Now my dad was no Fred Astaire, in fact my only real memories of him dancing at all was his very own interpretational version of the Birdie Song which was a favourite of his at weddings or Christmas. That dance really was priceless, not even Mastercard can let me dance with my father again.
In fact, as I thought about what I wanted for my birthday there was no ‘thing’ I really wanted, what I wanted was people.
Maybe in these years of great technological advances we had got to think that actually being with people was an optional extra to being human. We have all sorts of ways to keep in touch via email, WhatsApp, Facebook, Zoom but as the days have turned into weeks and then into months the more we have come to realise we need to touch and hold and cuddle and cwtch. And its not just people we love and are close to, we all born with an inbuilt need to shake hands and kiss on the cheeks friends and acquaintances.
We also need to experience life together to get the fullest enjoyment.
Its great watching theatre re runs online but its not the same as sharing that experience in a packed sold out theatre. I watched a football match from the Bundesliga last weekend in an empty stadium. It felt antiseptic, it just wasn’t the same. We like being in crowds at football matches and in theatres.
What I really wanted for my birthday was to hold those close to me like I was never going to let them go again. I wanted to blow raspberries onto my granddaughter’s neck and hug my mum and tell her everything will be ok.
All of those things really are priceless, mind you having said all that I’ve got my eye on a new set of headphones…now where did I put my Mastercard!!!