Birthdays are often bitter-sweet: we tend to remember with Joni Mitchell. that ‘Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day”. I wonder whether memories become like that old pair of running shoes that you look at and say, where did the soles go. I remember buying them, I remember the tracks on which i wore them. but how have they become old?

And then you discard them and they become you gardening shoes and stare at you from the bottom of cupboards, accusingly, as if to say, you have no respect for the aged. This will be you someday. Have you forgotten Karma?

I’m actually a recovering pessimist, and today is a celebration, I think, not just of one person’s half-century, but of the hope that we have as human beings on this whirling ball. Ross reminded me that, in fact, I am just commemorating the fact that I am half way to the Queen’s telegram. It might be something other that a Queen by then, if the republic takes hold.

I like to think of my life as a stone dropped in a pond — actually, I think I am just a pebble. But when the ripples from my life intersect with those of of others — my friend and family that have been kind enough to gather tonight — surprising things happen. I am fortunate to have fallen by accident into a professional where we celebrate the growth and needs of each person in our little communities, and that colours my view of every encounter, every conversation, every heart to heart, as we might say at Chev.

So thanks to each of you: this is more about you than me. So much of my life is represented in you: family, school, uni, places I’ve worked, chance encounters that have blossomed. you’ll forgive me if I reflect on just a few:

  • My parents
  • My brothers and sisters
  • My children (Madeline and Dominic, Liam and Aidan)
  • Paula
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I feel as if life has only begun, that there is much to do, to say, to celebrate. Instead of delaying it with more formalities, perhaps I will will leave the last word to Rabbi Ben Ezra, Browning’s wonderful character:

Rabbi Ben Ezra

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”