Thursday 20 August 2009

The cake and I

I’m crap at blogging. OK, I’ve been away for a couple of weeks and not doing anything much online, but that should have provided me with plenty to write about. In fact, it did, but my habitual feeling of ‘who the hell’s interested in that’ makes it easier to check my Facebook page, look for chocolate, read the offerings of proper bloggers and invent more and more displacement activities.

So, to ease my conscience, I’ll give you just one insight into how I’ve spent my holiday time. It was my birthday – the first with a zero on the end that has seemed significant, because, according to the Bible, I should now be dead. (And probably will be when God takes time off helping American golfers to win matches in order to come and punish me.) Yes, I’ve been here for three score years and ten. So I went to Plymouth to celebrate it with my 3 sisters, 2 brothers (all younger than me) and our spouses. And we had a wonderful time. So much so that I was forced to replace my (again habitual) mantra of ‘Hell is other people’ with (gulp) ‘Heaven is other people’. I am Darwinned (my version of ‘blessed’) with a great family – they laugh, take the piss out of each other, and should take out a patent on the mechanics of having a good time.

There was wonderful food, excellent wine, amazingly creative presents, a specially written and performed song and, most of all, a cake. I say ‘most of all’ because my youngest sister, who made it, managed to crowd onto it objects and images which featured most of my main interests. It would be tedious to list them but, from the obvious ones, such as the shields of my school, university and the city where I’ve lived most of my life and my interest in horse racing and sailing, they ranged to a bicycle and a wee duck (because I ride a bike and confit de canard is probably my favourite meal).

Around the feet of the little, kilted, icing figure who sat carving wood (another hobby of mine) lay tiny wood shavings of icing. A golfer prepared to putt to a flag (in the 70th hole) beside which curly green icing formed the rough which he’d managed to avoid (for a change). The edge of the cake carried the titles of all my plays and books. But the pièce de résistance lay underneath the cake itself. It was propped up on five wee glasses acting as pillars and forming a sort of basement. I peered at it, saw tiny figures beside the pillars and was baffled. My sister said ‘Well, where is it?’ ‘Under the cake,’ I said. Then she patiently teased out of me the realisation that they were in a cellar. It was a scene she’d recreated of the main theme of my most recent book – 5 guys chained to pillars in a cellar.

When someone not only knows you so well that they can sum you up in a series of cake decorations but also takes that much trouble on your behalf, it almost suggests (if only briefly) that there may be some truths in life after all – no purpose, no structure, but enough to confirm that life is definitely worth living.


  1. Cracking post, Bill. You are surely darwinned to have such a family. Here's to the next 70.

  2. Thanks Michael - but 'the next 70'?? Be careful what you wish for.

  3. Wow, that means your were 69 when we met. I would never have guessed. You must be young for your age.

    Happy Birthday!

  4. Thanks Gary. Flattery is so comforting.

  5. Kid sisters are the best!

    P.S. Was it chocolate? Carrot cake? Plain old white? And how about the icing? Sickly sweet or delicious cream cheese frosting?

  6. Delicious, moist, textured, flavour-full sponge. Creamy icing. Exquisite filling, all washed down with champagne.

    Enough of this. I have a reputation as a cynic to maintain.

  7. What a wonderful way to celebrate your 70th birthday. I'd love to have a sister, especially one like yours who devoted so much time and effort to produce a great birthday cake like yours.

  8. You're right, Linda and Jean - (although 'kid sister' is stretching the meaning of the adjective there - she has 4 grandchildren). But, lest you get the idea that this suggests some form of adulation, I ought to note that, while they're proud of me for being 'famous' (another huge stretch of meaning), they take every chance they get to remind me of my feet, legs, trunk and head of clay. I love it.