Birthday bashes

My mother-in-law, Margaret, and I recently shared a joint 120th birthday party: we both hit zeroes within the same month, and of course we didn’t want to make it too obvious exactly which ones… but since Margaret wouldn’t want it to be thought she was 80, and I’d hate people to think I was 60, the disguise is a bit thin, to say the least.

On my actual birthday a few guys came down from Cheltenham. I was keen to honour those friends who’d been there in the tough times, so this was a good opportunity.

John and Dave came down at lunchtime so we went birdwatching in the afternoon. The weather was cold, grey and damp – unlike the previous day when I’d seen the ferruginous duck, which unfortunately was now no longer in evidence.

However, we were in a good position for seeing the starlings arriving for the evening. I had rather low expectations, with the grey weather almost guaranteeing that they would dive straight into the reedbed, which is exactly what it did – though seeing enormous flocks of starlings all flying into the small same patch, many going directly overhead, was still impressive.

They’d almost completely settled, with the last ones having drifted in so that we were about to leave, when, for reasons that can only make sense in the minds of starlings, they all decided that they didn’t like the reedbed on the north side of the track, and headed to the one just south of the track, about 20 metres away. For about five minutes, in the gathering gloom, they put on a full murmuration very close to where we were stood.

The starlings’ birthday murmuration at Ham Wall (1)

The starlings’ birthday murmuration at Ham Wall (2)

Afterwards we went to a wonderful Indian restaurant in Taunton called “Guddi and Gikki”, where we met up with Dave and Carolyn Kania, and Dave Slight. Whereas in most Indian restaurants you receive a menu with about two hundred choices, this one provides you with an A5 sheet of paper containing three choices. They pride themselves on doing Punjabi home cooking, and the hostess (‘waitress’ would do her an injustice!) sets the tone with a warm, friendly manner, as if she were welcoming friends into her home.

Birthday curry at Guddi and Gikki: Carolyn Kania, Dave Slight, Jen, me, John Linney, Dave Doughty and Dave Kania.

For the 120th, we had a large family gathering with my mum coming from Cheltenham, and Jen’s family from various parts of Warwickshire and Devon. We were generously catered for by Elaine Ellis in Catcott. Unfortunately none of us did a good job on recording the occasion photographically, apart from some entertainment on the swingseat.

How many kids can you pack on a swing seat? Mary, Katie, Natasha, Austin, George, Sophie and Andrew (who built it in the first place).

Jen’s looking slightly alarmed, which Sophie finds funny…

Somehow the birthday girl managed to avoid the camera. You won’t be able to get away with it next time, Margaret!

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