Today is my Dad's 80th birthday, so as a special treat I haven't written today's post, he has.
Eighty years ago today something occurred in a small Hertfordshire village that made the Diamond Geezer blog possible. (Probably the most important bit happened about nine months before but we’ll gloss over that.) The baby boy born that day was DG's dad, who perhaps we should now call DGD. He managed to survive the austerity of war and many childhood illnesses, including scarlet fever. DGD grew up surrounded by new houses, close to a Metropolitan line station, alongside the Grand Union canal and plenty of nearby countryside. His mum would teach him to recognise all the woodland trees, wild flowers and birds. Soon he would be able to build a camp in the woods, make a bow and arrow, find and observe bird nests.
Seventy years ago DGD was a shy little boy in his last year at the village primary school. Before long he would be starting at the big grammar school in the nearby town, a year earlier than most pupils, having done unexpectedly well at the eleven-plus exam - he started there when he was still only ten. Now he had to wear a black blazer and cap. Being small for his age, he found it all very overbearing. Teachers were very stern, striding around the school in their gowns and quite happy to beat misbehaving children with an old plimsoll.
Sixty years ago DGD was a busy young man, cycling to and from to his scientific job in the civil service. He had survived peritonitis in his late teens and then left school with three A levels. No university was keen to have him, because admissions were much tougher in those days, so he was studying in London on day release from work. In the evenings and at weekends he was busy helping in the Scout movement. At a county event earlier in the year he had met a young Guider from the other side of Hertfordshire, and agreed to send her some photos he had taken, and now they had started writing letters to each other...
Fifty years ago DGD was happily married and living a small Victorian house in his home village with his wife and their two young sons. The elder son was already starting to read and was interested in doing sums, and the younger son was now walking. The family had not got a car so all travelling was done by foot, bus or train. DGD’s wife had taken on the role of Guide leader, and did part-time work at home for a local firm so she could spend time with the children. DGD was still working at the same location but was now more involved in press work.
Forty years ago DGD was the proud owner of a small orange car, having passed his driving test on the third attempt. This meant the family could go further afield for holidays – this summer it had been a walking holiday in the Peak District. But DGD was still cycling to work because he enjoyed it. The two boys were at the same local school that DGD had attended earlier, and even had two of the same French teachers. They were also singing in the church choir and playing in the school orchestra.
Thirty years ago DGD was still working at the same site for the same organisation, and was now running a much larger operation, very different from his original qualifications. But it was looking like privatisation might be on the horizon and the ethos might change for the worse. In better news, DGD found that it was possible to get cheaper car insurance just because you had reached your half century! Sunday mornings were usually spent on a visit to the allotment, Sunday lunchtimes eating the produce and Sunday afternoons doing more gardening at home.
Twenty years ago DGD had taken the opportunity to take early retirement from his paid work, and move away from Hertfordshire to Norfolk. The village was a very different place to be living, and a lot closer to the two grandchildren... with one more on the way. He still did occasional jobs as chairman of recruitment panels but was kept busy on his new allotment, playing short mat bowls and was getting involved in other village activities. This was that period of life when there was time to go off abroad together on coach holidays. Having done parts of the USA and Canada as well as Finland, a coach tour of Austria was being planned.
Ten years ago DGD’s wife was increasingly unwell and so he was doing more and more of the shopping, cooking, washing and even ironing. He was able to help the rest of the family by sometimes picking up the youngest grandchild up from school, and no longer went cycling as often as he used to. His birthday cake was decorated with bowls, a camera and some vegetables, and lots of friends from the village came round to help him eat it. It felt like the two of them were part of the local community now. They would share one more birthday together.
Today too many people seem to be aware that it is a significant birthday for DGD. He is getting very apprehensive about all the attention he is getting as he would happily celebrate with the all the family over some cake and a cup or two of tea. This morning there are cards to open and phone calls to take, and later on he is being taken to lunch at an unknown destination. He has been assured that no undue surprises are involved. Next week is looking really busy. It is still a good life if you make the most of it.