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Saturday 22 August 2015


Items on cake: French grammar and dictionary, cup of coffee, Gorgon Times with pages, Ilyama monitor, keyboard, cup for pens/pencils, portable phone, mouse, Tone Deaf print-out, stapler
On birthdays otherwise intelligent, articulate and attractive people wish you happy birthday, thereby discharging some dim obligation. A worn-out end to conversation; invention and wit out of the window.

But why on earth celebrate birthdays anyway? On the day I was born worldwide tyranny was getting into its stride and a UK male could expect to live to sixty. Far better to celebrate the events, acts and decisions which helped lengthen my life.

1948 M&B tablets taken for meningitis.
1945 End of WW2.
1953 Last long-distance bike ride.
1957 End of RAF national service.
1957 First novel (about national service) written.
1958 Sale of last motorbike.
Final rock-climb.
1960 Start of married life.
1965 Move to centrally-heated accommodation (in USA).
1966 Enthusiasm for asparagus and globe artichokes revealed.
1972 Allopurinol prescribed life-long for gout.
1978 First of two ops for varicose veins.
1993 Huge redundancy payment following sale of mag I edited.
1995 Retirement from journalism.
1998 Move to detached house with three lavs.
2007 Final ski-ing holiday.
2010 Last long-distance swim.
2011 Love of Brahms consummated.  

Mind you there are pluses. In my case a special meal, a special cake, a basket of veggies, with more to come on the real date. Oh, yes, plus lots of empty bottles and dinner at Thai On Wye to follow tonight. All in the company of those best equipped to tolerate my extreme quiddity.


  1. Hope your celebration is everything you could ask for. Many happy returns on the day, Robbie!

  2. 'Quiddity' - now that is the first time that I have looked one of your words up and still failed to understand it. Explanation please, and may my mind still carry as interesting a vocabulary at your age.

    I hope that the asparagus and globe artichokes didn't lead to the gout and veins (that sounds like a modern meal experience).

    Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag Robbie. (There are other German possibles but 'Gluckwunsch' appeals because it sounds like you could eat it with Schnitzel.)

    PS 'Thai one the Wye' - just brilliant and I intend to visit it one day.

  3. My very best wishes for your 80th, RR. I hope the celebrations are thoroughly enjoyable.


  4. That cake is a very wonder, can you eat everything on it?

    Have a most marvellous time, many, many happy returns and much love to you and yours.

  5. All: Aaargh. Nobody read the first bit or - even worse - took it seriously. All of you are encompassed by the three cited adjectives yet you refused to bite. There I was, gagging for: "Drop dead, you silly old grouch." or something better, yet none of you bit.

    Blonde Two: Quiddity. Forget the first definition, think quibble, crotchet, eccentricity. At Thai on Wye mention my name, I'm one of their big spenders. They often slip in an unordered dish, free.

    Lucy: Eat a simulacrum of a novel I wrote? Why not ask if I'm prepared to gnaw on my big toe?

    Despite being warnedabout what humidity will do to the cake I could not bring myself to carve it up last night.

  6. I am surprised Robbie; that you haven't learnt by your very great age, that birthdays are for the enjoyment of everyone else, not for the birthdayee.

    Do they serve larb?

  7. My dear Onkel Klaus was also born in 1935 (in February, so he is your elder) and I believe strongly that you two would get on fabulously, because he too is a charming dude who makes me laugh and who is wise. Suffering from germanisity as I do, I shan't extend greetings in several languages until the date arrives. The cake looks grand. Is there booze at hand? I wish my passport were valid. I would row cross the Pond and surprise you with a German aria.

  8. When did sincere good wishes become become a dim obligation? Why post about your birthday, show us pictures of cake and a table set for a party if you didn't want us to congratulate you on surviving another year? Should we have said, "What? You still here?"

    Maybe, too, some of us chose not to rise to the bait this time.

  9. I got back from my SAS Heat Survival Exercise in France last night and just caught up with all this. I have to be honest and say that I do wish you well come the day. Our family seem to have rated birthdays pretty low key. Way back you would have received a cheque from Father (when you had no bank account to pay it into) perhaps a week after the event.

  10. I am one with Crow, RR. Why the posting if you did not want good wishes, you old curmudgeon! (is that more like it?)

  11. All: The point I was trying to make is that the default phrases associated with birthdays (Happy Birthday, Many Happy Returns, etc) are so well-worn as to be meaningless. How can one tell if they are sincerely meant or not? - they are the written equivalent of clearing one's throat. I was in fact issuing an - admittedly indirect - plea to be to be original, to say something in which sincerity was detectable. Thus, had Crow actually said "What? You still here?" I would have had two choices: (a) To have smiled, knowing it was a joke. (b) To have assumed she was telling the truth and acted accordingly. Both more concrete than a greeting card inscription.

    As to publicising the event Blonde Two makes a good point; my birthday doesn't only belong to me. A good deal of effort by others went into its organisation and those people deserved recognition.

    But I tried to practise what I preached. What's so special about an event in which one's only participation is to appear? Hence the list of genuinely celebratable events, etc, that have occurred during my lifetime - leaving the door open for variants on a theme from others.

    And yes, Avus, I am an old curmudgeon; you have noted that in the past (pro and con) so why did you deliberately avoid the open goal I provided? Something in the form of: "Given you are an old curmudgeon I think it best not to send best wishes. Instead, may your wine turn to vinegar, your car tyres deflate, your books not sell, etc, etc."

    Folks, I love you all. I want you at your best, using what God (or preferably some other source) has endowed you with. Inaginative bad wishes are better than bland good wishes.

    And, as Crow says, all of you can if you wish wield the truly wounding weapon of silence. I have no defence against that.

  12. His middle name being contrary
    Our Robbie is typically wary
    In reply to good cheer:
    "We'll have none of that here,
    It's only an anniversary!"

    But his loved ones delight in a fuss
    Which he can't resist sharing with us.
    While rightly he's proud
    He won't say so out loud,
    He's really an awkward old cuss!

    So if you've a warm wish to impart
    He'll just brush it of for his part*.
    But trust him to act
    With an exquisite tact
    If you should find yourself sick at heart.

    While his manners can be harum scarum
    When flound'ring in lachrymae rerum
    I think that you'll find
    His heart's beyond kind,
    And there's no finer person to share'em.

    To have and to eat of one's cake
    Is an error we're all apt to make,
    As he rounds his four-score
    I'd forgive him much more,
    It's his birthday, let's give him a break!

    (*OK, I know that's not a proper rhyme, it's getting late here on Central European time...)

  13. Lucy: Let me speak on behalf of myself:

    I don't deserve it.

    Let me speak on behalf of the others:

    He doesn't deserve it.


  14. I won't rise to the competitive challenge to be more original, more amusing than anyone else. But since I'm one of your regular(ish) visitors and an appreciator of your curmudgeonliness as well as of your regular(ish) and always welcome comments on my own blog, you must accept that any wishes I wish you will be sincere. If they weren't I wouldn't be here. So: a happy birthday to you Robbie, not just on the date itself - may the whole year be to your liking: there must be gods for the curmudgeonly - let them shower you with gifts you really want! And congratulations to your loved ones for the beautiful spread and the imaginative cake. I wish I'd been given like it on my own recent birthday!

  15. Natalie: It seemed about time I checked the exact meaning of curmudgeon; when I've done this with other words I've known for centuries I often discover enormous disparities between what I'd thought and what turns out to be true.

    No great surprises here (An ill-tempered - and frequently old - person full of stubborn ideas or opinions) except that I can't help thinking those who have applied it in and around Tone Deaf have imagined it also involved a rough-and-ready lovability. Perhaps this most recent and horribly risky post of mine has dispensed with that mistaken idea.

    I see that despite recognising the trap I described, you have nevertheless jumped straight into it. "Happy birthday" is banal and knee-jerk and could easily have been avoided. Think of the wealth of adjectives you've ignored, many of which would have hinted at your sincerity without the need for claiming this was your intention. How about: revelatory, rewarding (which has the potential benefit of being ironic), sensual, salutary, instructive, bathetic, ecstatic, etc, etc.

    Of course "shower you with gifts" could also have been vindictive, since many of my preferences come in bottles.

  16. There you go, admonishing me for knee-jerky banality! I'm still not going to take the bait. My wishes have been wished, et voilà! Bonne fête, c'est tout, mon ami.

  17. Natalie: Excellent. Spirited stuff. Now you're in the groove.