Organising an 80th Birthday

Posted on February 17, 2012

I have had various phone calls in recent days from my Dad, sister and eldest brother with regards to my Dad’s forthcoming 80th Birthday to be held at a local village hall. Obviously, with the hall booked, this left the arrangements of the catering, music, and invitations to be dealt with. The initial phone call with my sister left me thinking that I was to be charged with the impossible task of planning the music, though after a phone call with my brother it became apparent that he was taking charge of this unenviable mission.

On discovering this, I was quite, in fact very relieved, my nose remained firmly in its joint, because I would not have a clue where to start on the music front. My Dad was a young man in the 40’s and 50’s not the swinging sixties, I am not even sure if he has heard of The Beatles or Elvis. He liked music though, when I was young he was always singing, but his eclectic taste included various  hymns, world war love songs and a combination of Perry Como and Bing Crosby. Though always in full voice, my Dad was incapable of finishing a song because he either ran out of lyrics he knew or he simply merged one song in to another, something like this…..”Oh Danny boy the pipes are calling, from glen to glen, along the mountain side………………..morning has broken like the first first morning, blackbird has spoken, like the first morning……..daaa da doo, dee dee dee, dda dum dum……………..strangers in the night, exchanging glances..dooo beee dooo deee dooo…daa da dum dum.”  A lesser child than me would have been institutionalised under the mental health act.

Among his personal favourites was the song “I’ll be with you in Apple Blossom Time”  a ditty first written around the time of the first world war. He only knew one verse, but that doesn’t matter, it remains tattooed in to my sub conscious to this very day, probably because I heard it each and every day from when I was an embryo in my Mothers womb right up until I left home some twenty two years later. The verse he used to sing was as follows:

“I’ll be with you in apple blossom time,

I’ll be with you to change your name to mine,

Church bells will ring, dickie birds will sing (followed by moronic bird whistling noises).

You wont believe this, he knew just one verse and he even got that fucker wrong, I have just looked it up it actually goes like this.

“I’ll be with you in apple blossom time,

I’ll be with you to change your name to mine,

Church bells will chime

You will be mine

In apple blossom time.”

Not even a mention of a dickie bird anywhere in the whole song, let alone that verse.

I’ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time: One of my Dad’s favourites

However, for pure domestic comedy gold we have to move on to another song called Galway Bay by good old Bing Crosby himself. There is a verse in this particular song that had my late mother scuttling through the kitchen draws in search of the carving knife. It went like this:

“Just to hear again the ripple of the trout stream
The women in the meadows making hay”

My dad’s version went like this:

“Just to hear again the ripple of the trout stream
The women in the meadows AT THEIR PLAY.”

My mother (by now a staunch feminist) would politely interrupt and politely correct him with the following words………….

“They are not fucking PLAYING John, they MAKING HAY you stupid old goat,…..if I hear you sing that one more time I’ll slit your throat.”

As you can see, I had a rather odd childhood, the threat of violence, rather uniquely I think, always came from the female. Fortunately for my Dad, the bark was generally more dangerous than the bite.

What is more remarkable is that the condition of not being able to sing correct lyrics is hereditary, my other Brother (Graham) has taken on the mantle with great gusto, his inability to put lyrics together is quite extraordinary. Several years ago when we went to watch Reading FC at the Millennium Stadium 29,999 Reading fans chanted “Blue Army, Blue Army, Blue Army in support of their team. Graham chanted “You Army, You Army, You Army.”  That’s two words in a basic football chant, yet he still got one of them wrong………. unbelievable stuff, I am not even sure if my Dad is capable of that.

So my job is chief of invitation operations. I am to design an invite and do a mailshot as I have convinced my dad that doing word of mouth invites is a recipe for the people you want to come not turning up and the people you don’t want at your party turning up and scavenging all your food and drink. Experience has taught me that a party without invites equals disaster. Obviously, doing the invites is not easy for an 80th, because quite frankly, quite a few potential guests are in fact………dead.

As I reeled off a list of people I remember from my childhood my dad greeted me with…………..”Dead….he died years back…..dead…..I think he’s dead…..yep he’s dead…………dead….is he dead?.. bugger me I can’t remember.” It made me realise that we are not very immortal at all, what is the point in worrying about the economy and pensions, none at all really. Out of all the people my Dad let off nuclear bombs with in Australia in the 1950’s I think he is the only survivor, two new hips a heart by pass and a rebuilt aorta have made him apparently indestructible, he deserves his 80th bash to be a bloody good one really don’t you think? If you are reading this and you know him, your invite will arrive later next week, either by post or email.

I really don’t know how Bruce will manage the disco, I really don’t, I just can’t see the old man air guitar-ing to Black Sabbath or Nazareth, nor anyone else for that matter, well, except Bruce of course. Conversely, I can’t really see people bopping around to Bing Crosby or Perry Como. Lets be honest here, it is highly unlikely you will find them two on a CD compilation called Dance Floor Fillers. I could tell during my phone call with Bruce that he is actually relishing the challenge he has been set, one that I think is considerably harder than finding out which of my dad’s oldest friends are still treading the planet.

Though it has to be said, if anyone can pull it off, Bruce can.

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