Virginia Barton

12 April 2017: Fourscore years


12 April 2017


Fig Monday, Temple Tuesday …

Then Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday.

The fig and the temple are references to readings sometimes used on those days during Holy Week. I can’t actually find precisely where – possibly in the Office. Anyway, they refer to the cursed fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple.

Wednesday is more familiar: Judas spying out the opportunity to betray the Lord. As to the word “Maundy,” I had always associated it with the reigning monarch distributing specially minted coins to the selected poor. Whereas in fact, the word Maundy derives from the latin admonitus, command. At the beginning of the farewell discourses Jesus said:

“I give you a new commandment: love one another just as I have loved you…” [John 13:34]

Presumably the giving of money to the needy is symbolic of that commandment?


80th_birthday_vintage_notepad-r09067009564e444fb3443c747ff03e2b_amb08_8byvr_324The loving of one another this Maundy Thursday will, I know, be amply displayed in our flat because it happens to be the day when the great big 80 will be celebrated – by me, actually. Promise I tried not to advertise it but the inner sixteen in me bobs up every now and then and I do love a party. All the old truisms such as “you’re as old as you feel” never felt truer, despite the bulges, lines, and hair colour.

Yes Virginia, you are jolly well eighty years old.

(And those defects you have just listed can be addressed. Think of Nancy Reagan.)


Do I mind? Yes I do. What I chiefly mind is that one absolutely has to face the fact that the end is nigh. How nigh we have no idea. (Nigh is an archaic word for near and I like it. Archaic is also good.) A further truism advises us to “make the most of each day”, perhaps because “nigh” may be very nigh indeed. I hope I’ve made the most of every day for it has been a grand life — so good I would gladly live it all over again.

How about another eighty years, starting at the beginning?


My birthday has always fallen in the Easter season; before, after, and once on the Sunday itself. (Was that the year I got my longed-for ballet shoes?) This year Big O falls on Maundy Thursday which is defo not a day for a party. Because the paterfamilias is rather groggy we will have a family “do” on Easter Sunday arranged by the children, and my beloved BH, fresh out of hospital, will have to be trundled there in the wheelchair, luckily just along the corridor to the communal Dining Room.

There will be poignant, notable absences; a daughter and her husband and a few of the grandchildren, are temporarily in foreign fields. But there are quite enough of us to make a crowd, and I know some kind person is making a cake. I am hoping someone will ask me to make a speech because I started writing it at Christmas: pithy but long in well-turned phrases to be carefully enunciated so that it sinks in. My Big Moment.

Bet I spoil it by crying.





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