PC 53 A United Nations Birthday

There are various milestones that we humans reach, ponder perhaps and pass, be they your first kiss, your first relationship, going to university, getting your degree/professional qualification, learning how to fry an egg/make a cake, change jobs, marry, maybe divorce, your first child, your second child, the death of a parent/someone close, some health scare, an overseas holiday, writing your first novel/composing your first music/playing an instrument/starting your own business/climbing the corporate ladder, your first house, second house, representing yourself/team/county/country at something, becoming well known, keeping a low profile ….. but your birthdays are a constant reminder, as if one needed one, of the relentless progress of your own existence!

Do you recognise the inevitable build-up of emotion in the days prior to your birthday, sort of difficult not to recognise that your birthday is approaching?  A   warm feeling? “Oh! Yes! My birthday’s next week/tomorrow/today” An event to share with loved ones, remembering the excitement from childhood … and carrying that childish excitement into adulthood. “It’s my birthday! Look at me!”

I always assume that everyone likes to celebrate their birthday but acknowledge that that isn’t necessarily the case. I am reminded of that lovely story from Winnie-the-Pooh about Eeyore’s birthday. Eeyore was an ‘Old Grey Donkey’, probably made of felt and stuffed with kapok, who was generally very miserable about life; I have certainly met some human Eeyores! ‘Gloomy and Doomy’!! Anyway, Pooh and Piglet find out it’s Eeyore’s birthday and give him a couple of presents, including a balloon, and get Owl to write a card. Because no one else can read, Owl thinks he’s very important and wrote the card: “Hipy Papy Bthuthdth Thuthda Bthuthdy’. So Eeyore was extremely happy.

At my first boarding school, aged 8, one’s birthday was recognised by a place at the top table in the dining room ….. and a little knitted Golliwog (not very PC!) to put in the top pocket of one’s jacket. I still have a very classy pen knife (every boy needs a penknife!) that has silver sides and my initials, given on my 12th birthday, a large Oxford Illustrated Dictionary from my maiden aunt on my 16th, a Sheaffer fountain pen that I still have from my 18th, its barrel worn and battered by constant use but the initials still visible, and a pewter tankard inscribed with the date of my 21st.

You may have missed that 70 years ago the United Nations came into being, to replace the somewhat ineffective League of Nations. From its initial membership of 51 states, there are now 193, suggesting that, despite its critics, it remains an effective and essential intergovernmental organisation, in promoting human rights and providing humanitarian aid in time of famine or natural disasters. It’s been less effective in peacekeeping, constrained by its members from being more interventional! Its birthday was on the 24th of October.

My birthday was also on 24th October and a few chums, actually quite an eclectic bunch, came to help celebrate. We had jellies and balloons, sausages and bacon wraps, smoked salmon …… and cake. The candles on the cake could have spelt ‘Happy Birthday’ but rather like Eeyore’s card said “bhtaiy pparhyd” – everyone knew what it said! When it came to blowing out the candles and singing that song, there was a nod to the United Nations and to our multicultural society. The song ‘Happy Birthday’ originates from 1893 and has been translated into at least 18 languages. There was a fairly competent rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ in English; I admit to helping this one, although sang ‘Happy Birthday to me’ and not ‘Happy Birthday to I’! After a suitable pause, the Brazilian Portuguese version ‘Parabens ……’ rang out. Suddenly the assembled group got into the mood: I’ve never heard it sung in Arabic before …… or indeed in French ….. and then in Italian …… but never in Mandarin …… and certainly not Hungarian …. and some words in Czech! We didn’t have party games, but we should have played ‘sticking the tail on the donkey’, particularly as the first part of Eeyore’s birthday story concerns him losing his …. tail!!

Funny how I seem to have clusters of birthdays during the year; for instance in May and June, and then in October (Scorpio!!). Two days before mine was the birthday of my great chum Alwin …. and a business colleague David …… and two of our Bikram instructors …… and the husband of a fellow Bikram student.

I hope I’m not the only one to observe that often the ‘Qualifying Age’ for something moves just before you get there – or so it seems! The age you can vote, the age you qualify for your pension, the years needs to qualify for X or Y, changes to time-bars, drinking alcohol in USA, or even driving a car. Next it’ll be the qualifying age to die!

Birthday parties are fun and …. very necessary! But I was reminded of that parable from the Christian New Testament – Matthew 22; about the religious who have no time for God, represented in the story by those who accept the invitation but when the food is ready claim they are too busy to turn up! So, another birthday reached …… and celebrated. But how about this question to think about for the next few minutes: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” Funny life inn’t? Just some scribbles, huh!

Richard – 27th October 2015 – richardyates24@gmail.com

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