Sunday, April 11, 2010

Big birthday boy

Today I turn 65, and become a pensioner - well not quite yet - I have another week of work, and then ten days of full time effort in house moving before my resignation takes effect. The effects of the nasty bug that has laid me low for the last fortnight are still with me, sapping my energy, so today I felt more like an old man than I usually do. However, the sun shone and bathed the sanctuary with light for my final eight o'clock service for four faithful worshippers, and that felt good, after so many dark cloud laden, rubbish strewn early Sunday beginnings - yes, there's even less rubbish these days, so things are improving, slowly.

There was a good congregation at ten, despite it being Low Sunday, when often many are away. We had a baptism, the child of a couple I'd married eighteen months ago. That was delightful, even if somewhat exacting with my batteries on low. At the end of the service, Pauline came down from the back and got everyone singing 'happy birthday'. There was a birthday cake to follow, over coffee, with candles that re-ignited themselves when you blew them out. Such kindness. So hard ot believe it's me having a Significant Birthday.

The last time that happened to me was when I had an Easter birthday in Geneva. It comes as a bit of a shock when it happens. That time I didn't notice the improvised organ fantasia on the 'happy birthday' tune during Communion, and thought people ere smiling just because it was Easter. A priest leads from the front and is the centre of attention, but the only way to make this a true act of service is empty oneself, with the detachment of an actor on stage absorbed in playing a role. It's what a priest does for God and suddenly to become the focus of a different kind of attention is bit like being awakened out of a deep sleep.

After church Owain Clare and I went to a favourite Indian restaurant - the Vegetarian Studio for lunch. It's a friendly family place with a little Hindu shrine on the wall just outside the kitchen, and some of those working there had evidently been worshipping at the temple up the road before starting their day.

We went home for tea and another birthday cake and presents and phone calls from the kids - lots of new CDs, a shirt and a fabulous cooking pan with which I will be able to cook paella for four instead of two! Whilst listening to my first new CD, I fell asleep soundly. I seen to need to do this at the moment as well as having a good eight hours in bed. Dozy old man! Then it was back to church for Evensong before spending a quiet evening on the sofa with Clare in front of the TV. No stopping on for a final St John's Friends' committee meeting. Time to leave them to plan a future that won't involve me. Nobody is indispensible, after all.

I remember Mansel Gower recounting, some forty years ago how shocked he'd been when he quit teaching A level Maths at 65 one week, then the following, he was drawing his first pension at the Post Office, and the counter clerk was speaking to him loudly, clearly and slowly and with quite a different demeanour than when he'd been in previously - as if he was suddenly old and decrepit, no longer capable of counting out the few quid the State was passing him across the counter. Attitudes to age have changed as people have remained fitter and healthier for longer. Sixty five is the new fifty, or so they say - just as long as you're not burned out or fighting a bug. Fitness we can do something about, but health is a gift not to be taken for granted.

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