Virginia Barton

8 January 2014: BH’s birthday party


8 January 2014


We are anticipating BH’s significant Big Nine-O by having an eighty-fifth instead. After all, he may not make ninety but, God willing, 85 is likely, the great day being only a few weeks away.

There is something about the man that makes the girls want to spoil and pet him. It may be because he expects absolutely nothing so is delighted and genuinely surprised with anything. Or it may be that he is just such a thoroughly good sort and everyone loves him.

I, who know him better than anyone, subscribe to both.


(I had a selection of pin ups stuck inside the lid of my desk at school. Margot Fonteyn and Ulanova gave way to Nasser [of all people] and gorgeous Gregory Peck — then along came BH who doesn’t look like any of them!)


When we first married, in fact on the first of his birthdays after we were married (the Big Three as I now realise), I decided on a picnic in a nearby forest. Not only a picnic but a breakfast picnic. The idea was to walk, but snow was falling and had fell – quite a bit of it. So we drove, in our old car that smelled of tired leather, to the chosen spot.

Golly it was cold, brass monkeys cold. The heater didn’t work unless the engine was running, but economically we turned it off. I abandoned the idea of getting a Primus going in the snow and boiling a kettle for tea. BH perked up only slightly at the prospect of jam sandwiches and marmalade-filled digestive biscuits, in fact he looked so miserable and cold we went home after 20 minutes.

Picnics are not his thing – he can’t see the point: why not eat at home, sitting on a chair, in comfort? It is one of the small differences between us, because I just love a picnic, any where, any time. I’ve made tea with the Primus on Hadrian’s Wall, up countless mountains, beside a hundred lakes. AND in a field at Gretna Green, and on countless stops between Calais and Barcelona.

But BH never took to it; tea yes, in a tea-shop or an hotel. In fact the best way to get him to come for a walk is to bribe him with tea at the other end.

Thus a Tea Party is very suitable.


It’s easier to remember the more recent celebrations than the early ones, although the children loved to make a Birthday fuss of their father every year. For the Big Six he was given a ticket to Washington, DC, where he stayed with one of said children.

Big Seven was at the opera: The Barber of Seville. Guess which year was celebrated with a Sunset Strip Organ Recital, performed by the son and heir? Big Eight found the clan gathered at a super waterside Indian restaurant where one ate a discretion – we did.

Hey ho, time passes and this year finds him “dentally challenged,” shall we say.




Of course there are also Feast Days. In BH’s native land in the good old days, it was customary to name your infant after a particular family Saint, or with the name of the Saint on whose day he/she happened to be born. (My brother-in-law’s parents drew the line at St Polycarp but chose the nearest acceptable name – Timothy as it happened.)

Do parents still do this? It’s a lovely custom and “hooks” you to your patron. There are so many peculiar names out there now which have nothing whatsoever to do with saints: Jace, Easton or Harrison for little lads; Autumn, Quin or Elverly for their sisters.

But one never knows, perhaps there will be Saints Quin and Jace in the future together with the Martyrs Saints Hyacinth and Florence?


BH likes his Feast, or Saint’s day to be remembered also, but I’ve never suggested a picnic. More to his liking is the Pavlova cake made for him every year by a devoted fan. Humph.




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