We'd made a good day of it. I came up to Norfolk on the train, and he met me on the station platform. We drove to Morrisons, which is the social heart of the local market town, and I pushed his trolley around. He didn't need to buy much, but we bought some staples for the back of the larder, and a "meal for two" deal for later in my visit. Then we drove back home for a cup of tea, and sat in the conservatory discussing how the view over the fields had changed in the last twenty years.
I helped out with a minor issue on his computer, and checked out the latest images for his local village publication. We went out and cleared some vegetation from his driveway, then carried it down the road to nextdoor and dumped it on their bonfire. It was also time to cut down this summer's tomato plants - they went on the compost heap - and then it started raining so we went inside for a tea and a coffee.
Then we went out for a meal. It was some considerable drive, but Norfolk's like that and my Dad knows these roads backwards. We ended up in a restro-pub by the river, where a log fire was blazing entirely unnecessarily, and ordered curry and pie. We chatted about our earliest memories, which for him might have been a bomb dropping in January 1943, and for me might have been an Underground trip to Putney. And we tried not to be distracted by two gossipy ladies from Bexleyheath at the next table, and the slightly over-earnest waiter.
After that we headed to the Norwich Playhouse for an evening of quickfire quips with Barry Cryer. He'd brought along Colin Sell on the piano, who intervened occasionally with some comic songs. And we laughed at all the appropriate and inappropriate moments, even though I think many of the jokes were exactly the same as he'd told two years ago on his previous national tour.
And then we drove home in the dark, in the moonlight, along mostly empty roads. Before locking the car away I stopped to stare up at the stars in the night sky, in detail entirely invisible from London, until the security light switched on and blotted them out. Inside we had a slice of fruit cake each, and watched Arsenal thrash Norwich on Match of the Day. Like I said, we'd made a good day of it.
The last time I saw my Dad he was a shadow standing on the far side of the living room, closing the door and heading off to bed. I was surprised he didn't want to stay up five minutes longer, because midnight was imminent, but he's never been quite so in awe of precise timing as I have.
The next time I see my Dad, which'll be in a few hours time, he'll be 75.
It's his birthday today, which is why I'm up in Norfolk in the first place, and we'll be celebrating with a family meal later. So that's going to be good, and a rightful celebration of three-quarters of a century of life. All three generations of the family will be present, with the exception of eldest grandson (who's now, blimey, off studying at university). And later we'll come home and watch TV, which as of today Dad gets for free without the need to pay for a licence. There are downsides to being 75, but there are benefits too.
So anyway, good morning Dad, and happy birthday. You're probably reading this at some ridiculously early hour with a cup of coffee in your hand, and I'm undoubtedly still fast asleep in the spare bedroom. But congratulations on this temporal milestone, and let's make it a 75th to remember.