Wednesday, 15 September 2010


I've just been to a 90th birthday party. The dear old chap is well into his second childhood so we played musical chairs and pass the parcel. I jest.

It was actually a 'celebratory luncheon'. Luncheons are so much tastier than lunches don't you think? In preparation for the event I went to buy a 90th birthday card. Not surprisingly, there were a lot less of these to choose from than say 70th birthday cards. However, I eventually managed to find one that wasn't covered in lavender there being the presumption, which is supported by statistics, that females live longer than males.

Then there was the problem of a gift. This wasn't easy. I mean, what do you buy for a 90 year-old who has evidently been there, done that and has a wardrobe of tee shirts to prove it?

I headed for the book shop where I so often find the solution to my gift buying dilemmas and ploughed through all the ageist joke books about senior moments aimed at those in Death's waiting room. No good. If I couldn't raise a laugh I was sure he wouldn't and anyway, I had no idea what sort of sense of humour, if any, he had.

Then, like a Yukon prospector finding a precious nugget of gold, I found a piece of treasure in the form of a book of photographs called "When I were a lad" by Andrew Davies. The subtitle is "Snapshots from a time that Health & Safety forgot" and it this lack of awareness of danger which provides the humour of the book. It was a delight.

Let me give just three examples to remind you that there was life before the Jobsworths moved in.

Firstly the front cover has a wonderful shot (sic) of a schoolgirls' archery competition. One girl has drawn the bow and is about to release the arrow towards a distant target. Immediately to the left of the target are serried ranks of schoolchildren and staff blissfully unaware that if the arrow were to deviate just slightly, they would instantly become a human kebab.

The second example is of a family who are proudly displaying their new 'conservatory'. This is too grand a word for it since it was really a lean-to with a corrugated plexiglass roof. How best to show off this wonderful addition to their home than by standing the entire family which included several children, on top of said plexiglass roof which was clearly suffering under the weight?

My favourite of all though, must be the photo with accompanying text which said that if you paid the man a farthing, he'd dangle you off the back of the tram as it went along. The picture shows the tram conductor leaning over the rail clutching the back of a small boy's sweater who is wriggling with glee as face down, he sees the road whizz past underneath him.

I feel sure that the book will bring back some happy memories for the 90th birthday boy and who knows? Maybe that was him hanging off the back of the tram.


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  2. What an incredible sounding book and a very clever idea for someone elderly. In fact, I'm 55 and I'd love that as a present. Clever you. I'll have to look out for it.