A little cooler than yesterday, we nevertheless had a bright, clear day with intermittent clouds scudding across the sky.
Helen and Bill visited this morning bearing champagne and pinks in celebration of the birthday on which Jackie has reached her official extended retirement age.
Late in the afternoon I walked to Imperial China. Not the real one, Ian will be relieved to know. The restaurant in Lyndhurst where I was to meet Jackie for her birthday meal.
I took the route up Mill Lane and via Pikes Hill. An aged oak that bears a warning sign about the depth of the Mill lake must, if not already plotted, be a candidate for The Woodland Trust Ancient Tree registration.
As I walked the lanes and tracks in the splendid light, I reflected on the fact that it is almost 48 years since Jackie and I first met. As we embark upon old age together we have an inestimable blessing in that, despite having been reunited comparatively recently after spending most of our lives apart, we have memories of our early years together. Unlike most people who come together later in life, we have no need to imagine the younger versions of each other. We knew them.
In the restaurant we shared a joke with the waitress who assumed that the T’sing tao beer would be mine and the sauvignon blanc Jackie’s. Next to us were a silent couple, a generation apart in age. In what seemed to me a role reversal the woman in her eighties spent the whole time reading from a mobile device, while the younger man we assumed to be her son ate his meal without a word.
A rowdy birthday party group more than made up for this. Why is it that such crowds always seem to have imbibed a good few drinks before they arrive, and always bring along at least one cackling chicken and a couple of laughing hyenas?
We have noticed before that it is very easy to miss the shredding of the duck, done at your table and with a sleight of hand that would qualify the prestidigitator for The Magic Circle. Even being prepared for this performance, I only just got my camera out in time.
We did of course enjoy the meal and the company.