14th December 2021
So I recently turned 50. I guess it’s one of those landmark birthdays with a zero on the end of it and although I’ve had four of them before this one was a little different. And I’ve been trying to work out why.
The original plans for my fiftieth were blown out of the water by the ongoing ramifications of the pandemic. No need to bore you with details but plan A went out of the window and we ended up having a smaller but very special plan B which my family had organised. It was brilliant and I was able to enjoy some quality time with those I love.
A few days before my birthday I had a 30-year school reunion. As well as catching up with some friends I’ve kept in touch with, there were some people there that I hadn’t set eyes on in over three decades. I was a little nervous about catching up after such a long gap (a bit like getting back to networking or returning to the office post-Covid), but as is often the case, it was as though nothing had changed. Within seconds we were laughing and reminiscing about our younger days and what we got up to: our sporting achievements; our relationships; our rule breaking; some of the crazy characters we’d come across; and, of course, our hair (or lack of it). The gathering could easily have provided another verse to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Glory Days’. It was a wonderful gathering and I’d urge anyone to do it.
However, we had all either recently turned 50 or were about to, and it was the first time I can recall a peer group discussing illnesses and scars, aches and pains, and moans and groans. A shoulder op here, a new knee there, even a hip replacement. We also spoke about our kids and families – in the same way that real grown-ups might. It dawned on me that we were all getting older, and the opportunities of having these zero-ending birthdays were becoming fewer. We joked about that too, but there was an underlying realisation that there are some things in life you just can’t control.
To that end, I lost my father last Christmas, and this was my first big birthday without him in my corner. I’ve mentioned him before in these columns: the time he gave me, the foundations he set, the fun, the wicked sense of humour and the love. His absence really hit home and I took a little time out alone to reflect and raise a glass to him.
I’m conscious this may be sounding a little philosophical and introspective, which isn’t really like me. Don’t worry, however, I had a blast and I intend to have many more blasts in the coming years. But it has been a lesson for me and I’m happy to share it. As we head into another new year, appreciate your mates. They’re idiots but they’re your idiots and you wouldn’t change them. Importantly, make sure those closest to you know how much you love them – you’ll be able to take a lot of comfort from that for all sorts of reasons at some point.
Is it me or have the events of the last two years taught us this? Seize every opportunity, laugh a lot, love a lot and take time to celebrate the milestones, however big or small. Cheers to that!
P.S. thanks for everything, Dad.