I was living alone 24 years ago. My next birthday was my 40th and I was facing the prospect of celebrating alone. A proper Billy No Mates birthday. It might as well have been a lockdown birthday. Let me just put this out there now.... to all of you that have missed your big celebrations this year you have my unreserved commiserations. That includes Lauren’s 30th birthday (while I was being a steroid withdrawal, cold turkey, grumpy bastard as well.) I was going to say “git" but in the interests of accuracy let’s use the right word. It also includes Abbi and Cal's wedding although that turned out to be a resounding success. I could go on but I digress.
Faced with the prospect of a saddo’s 40th birthday I resolved to take matters into my own hands. I hired a tent for the garden. Enlisted some friends to help, sorted some food organised some music and invited a copious amount of friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours (very important). My reasoning here is ....if you invite enough a few should turn up. If they don’t, just party on regardless. For a party in Bugle, it was a bangin' late June extravaganza.
Roll forward 18 months and I found myself entangled with Tricia. By all accounts her 40th birthday event 6 months before mine was a little unorthodox. A kind of divorce-cum-40th birthday party rolled into one. Not a high concept.
So Tricia and I started our party tradition. Parties with a tenuous excuse. It’s November and we're organising a Saturday December 12th, 40 + 2 birthday party vying with office parties, potential bad weather and Christmas itself. We thought that would help keep the numbers low. We hired a little circus tent (Luckily I had a biggish garden) and weather-proofed it by connecting it to the house.
Again we enlisted some friends to help, sorted some food organised some music and invited a copious amount friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours (very important). Well, on my own I could muster a fair few party guests but combined with Tricia we had a veritable festival. I think we enticed about 120 peeps.
We’ve had lots of parties in the intervening years. Some with themes, some with good excuse. All were memorable, all were fantastic fun. One particularly memorable one was our Total Eclipse party in 1999. Memorable, not because of the eclipse itself but because all my brothers and wives were present as were all my wives, imagine that!
So what’s driving me to reminisce about the parties I/we’ve had.
Well, with the help of my oncologist consultant Dr Caroline Parnell and her wonderful team which includes Dr Angela (Ange) Irving and with the help of the Headland Unit nurses and staff I should still be in the land of the living on my 64th birthday which falls on June 30th. The following Saturday is the 3rd July.
Save the date!
My planned chemotherapy after a 9 month slog finishes, to all intents and purposes on or around the end of May which allows a month of recovery, I’m under no illusions, I’ll probably be a puny version of my present self by then.
Add to that Boris's roadmap and the runes are aligning perfectly.
I’m contemplating, subject to executive approval, a party that starts in a small way the previous weekend 26th June. The pre-party erection. I’ll set the scene, a few drinks probably champagne, not too many, maybe a few oysters, turn the lights down low, put on “something comfortable". Well you can forget all that nonsense there’s a party tent to put up...........what were you thinking? Oh! Put the tent up first.
I have the lights, the chandelier the hot tub. So throughout the week we'll enlist some friends to help, because we need to sort out some food and organise some music, thinking cap required.
Sometime before all this, we'll need to settle on a theme. I think “Neil’s Farewell Party" is just too bad taste even for me!. What about “64 and Still Going Strong-ish Party" or “ Another Tenuous Excuse for a Party Party". I clearly need some help here. Suggestions gratefully received. Then once the theme is finalised we'll get the invitations designed and printed. I know just the person.
On the preceding Friday maybe a cocktail party with the regulars and the very closest. Then because we will have invited a copious amount of friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours (very important), we’ll party throughout the day on Saturday, maybe cranking it up a bit in the evening but this is a “drop in throughout the day if you can”- party. My reasoning here is ....if you invite enough a few should turn up. If they don’t, party on regardless.
And perhaps we can link with the Bowel Cancer UK, Walking Together campaign which is set for June this year.
You know that Sunday post party grin you have once the dishwasher has washed it’s last glass, the Hoover has hoovered, the recycling sorted, the hot tub topped up and the hangover is beginning to clear and all you want is a nice coffee and a slice of cake. It’s Coffee Club time! A zoom ur no event. Either an on line or in person Coffee Club party debrief. I’ll make the cakes!
So there you have it. A party to end all parties? Maybe. A celebration? Definitely. A hugs and tears party? Almost for sure.
All of this is, of course, subject to executive approval, my continued response to chemo and not to put too fine a point on it, my survival but I reckon I’m on to something.
If you plan it they will come.