- February 2, 2016
Never has my column been more inappropriately titled than right now. I am entering the eighth day of having no voice, yes, I have been stricken with laryngitis.
It started in London. I was there to join in the celebrations for one of my dearest friend’s 60th Birthday. I love this time of the year because for 4 weeks Ms C is a month older than me, small fry you might think but when you get to this ripe old age a month matters.
Ms C is a generous and beautiful soul and had invited 17 of us to dine with her at a very smart restaurant in Twickenham, La Trompette. I love it there, the food is delicious, the service impeccable and the private dining room about as stylish as once can get.
It was a lovely occasion and it was good to catch up with so many old friends too. A couple of courses in and a bunch of the girls – mad to say girls and boys when we are all about to turn 60, but we do – anyway a bevvy of beauties headed over to me and as one asked when I planned to make the speech.
Well I was speechless, quite literally. I guess I should have thought about this and
prepared a few choice words to say about her and thank her for her kindness and generosity. I had not.
Ms C and I go back to 1975 when she was Miss F. We have been close ever since, right through the Mrs C days and now the Ms C era. We have holidayed together, laughed together and cried together. I taught her to drive, a fact that strikes fear into many a heart as she is the fastest and most aggressive driver I know – and our friends hold me responsible for this, even though I am a very calm driver myself.
It was odd really that as they posed the question of a speech, my throat started to dry. Now as many will know, I am no shrinking violet and the problem is not trying to get me to speak but rather getting me to shut up. So it had to be something else.
I braced myself with a glass of excellent Chablis and waited for an appropriate moment to call the table to order. This is no easy task as the gap between a main course and pudding seems to be the trigger for cigarettes and toilet visits. Yes, again 60 year olds seem to need to dash to the facilities far more often than youngsters.
Finally I managed to get everyone to sit down as discreetly as I could without drawing too much attention to the fact that I was about to speak. I tapped a glass, called the table to order and started.
It was easy too, my life has been dotted with this rather lovely lady for over 40 years and those dots have for the most part been brightly coloured and joyous. I took the gathered friends through a series of anecdotes that many will have remembered.
There were stories of scary driving lessons, tales of swimming in the Serpentine in the heatwave of 1975. We have holidayed with her children in the Greek Islands, a memorable episode littered with very scary car escapades and dining dramas. I spoke of her beauty, she might be 60 now but she could pass as early 30s any day of the week, and without resorting to cosmetics or hair dye I might add.
We have lived through our twenties, thirties, forties and fifties and never lost touch. Sometimes we speak several times in a week and then a month might pass. It does not matter as that kind of friendship is not bounded by a need to speak daily. There is also a weird sixth sense, we seem to know by instinct when the other might need to talk.
Some people become the constants in our lives, the cornerstones of our existence. You might not look at them everyday but you would know soon enough if they were not there.
That night the memories flowed freely and the laughter came too as did the tears. After about eight minutes I started to choke up – in every sense.
I was moved by the memories yes, but I was also really losing my voice. By minute nine it was gone and all that remained was a breathy squeak. It added to the dramatic effect of course as most of the guests thought that I had been moved to silence by emotions alone. In part I was, but the emotion I was feeling was one of celebratory joy. A joy that for 41 years this rather special person had been a massive part of my life. Supporting me when I needed support, encouraging me when I was down and sharing in my
I sat down and realised how lucky I have been to have her, and so many other great friends in my life.
Later that night a few of us sat around in her lovely kitchen and chatted, catching up on what was new and remembering old times. I sat in near silence as by now my voice had all but gone, but it was lovely to be a part of this special occasion. The voice has been gone for eight days now and although I can talk I sound like a cut price Charles Aznavour with a Lancashire accent.
Enforced silence does give you time to think. I have been thinking, as I rocket towards my own 60th birthday, how very lucky I have been. There have been bad times for sure, but there have been so many good ones and I am sure even better to come.
In Somerset there is mum, always there to keep me in line. In Brighton the lovely Ms C and Ms McD who bolster my life in so many ways, without them I would be lost, and of course Mr L, a companion for 30 years now who never fails to make me laugh with his dry wit. With each year I get older Mr L remains forever 36, how he does this I do not know.
Thank you to all those friends and readers too who make this all so possible – simply by being there. Sixty? I laugh in your face, bring it on I say!