Sunday, 25 May 2008

On Being Sixty

1948 and a world not without problems. The State of Israel was proclaimed and British troops withdrew. The Soviets blockaded Berlin, air lifts saved the population from starving. British troops left India and Mohatmas Gandhi was assassinated. Malaya experienced emergencies and Britain dock strikes.
Also at home the National Health Service arrived, free health care 'from cradle to grave'. British Railways and the Gas Board were nationalised and the GCE replaced the School Certificate. Other new arrivals included the transistor, self service stores, Alcoholics Anonymous and Oxfam shops. Plus Mrs Dales Diary, very British and 45rpm records, very modern.
The radio, or wireless as it was more likely to be referred to regaled us with A Slow Boat to China and Buttons and Bows. Picturegoers were offered Scott of The Antarctic and Oliver Twist. Norman Wisdom amused at the London Casino and Laurence Olivier starred as Hamlet on the London stage.
The London Olympics was the biggest occasion of the year, minus German or Japanese contestants. The USA dominated, the suspicion was they were steak fed whilst Movitone News reported that over two million people in Britain were eating horse meat purporting to be steak.
Hard times still prevailed and the Black Market thrived, eggs one shilling each, milk one shilling a pint; even nylons available at a price. The word spiv was still prevalant though the first rationing restriction, that of flour was lifted. But coupons were still the order of the day, even for shoes and clothes.
Sport lifted the spirits. Twelve year old LesterPiggott won his first race, at Haydock Park on 'The Chase' and Don Bradman beat England seemingly on his own. At least he didn't advertise Brylcreem like his English adversary, Dennis Compton. Plus Wilf Mannion of Middlesborough Football club refusing to play for the maximum players wage of £12 weekly.
Hard times in the main but life went on. And in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Mr Peter Sherwood and his wife Francoise celebrated the birth of their second child on the 24th May, calling her Paulette Dorothy.
Fast forward sixty years. A family celebration was called for. On a cold, windy night, the 24th of May, 2008 just over thirty people, friends and family including four children celebrated the birthday of Paulette Dorothy Stevens, nee Sherwood at a low key, laid back barbecue in a daughters garden. The children bouncy castled and karaoked, the adults chatted, ate and drank, all ad infinitum. The mix of people, family style, 2008 was interesting if of no scientific value whatsoever.
Two were Maltese, one Latvian, one French, one Irish and last but not least one Welsh born, the rest boringly English. Inevitably at such an occasion few are now in full time employment. Of the eleven still so engaged and paying taxes so that the rest of us can live comfortably (joke) no fewer than seven are self employed. Including those retired the following occupations were represented. Seven had been schoolteachers, not one still working full time. Managers, civil servants, postman, chemist, photography, publican, all were represented. Some roles exciting, some less so. And in their spare time individuals who excel in pastimes unconnected to their employment; two excellent musicians, a 'twitcher' of national renown, even a self taught tree surgeon, talent is often there if we care to enquire.
Thirty plus individuals, the children with years in front of them and some of us with the problems that come with age. Two present are over eighty years of age. Six are diabetic and at least five have had surgery for cancer. Arthritis affects at least six of us and the number taking regular medication for one ailment or another is into double figures.
The common denominator, Paulette and an appreciation well deserved. And a good time was had by all.


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