On this day I want you to know that I think everything will be ok. I don’t know what I mean by that or why I say it. I say it so you won’t have to worry. I say it so you can go now if you want, not leave me entirely but turn your attention elsewhere, so that you know I won’t keep pulling at you to come back. There are two brown bullocks beyond the garden of the house where I am sitting. They are munching at the grass by the side of the river and lifting their heads every so often to ruminate and take in the air around them. They are swishing their tails and the birds are singing. How good they are, even if they do nothing but this. How good you were.
On this day I would have cooked for you a roast chicken because you said you still thought of that as a treat and we talked about how it used only to be cooked on Sundays or special occasions in the days before supermarkets and battery farms. I would have made a cake out of almonds and hazelnuts because that was your favourite, and there would be a chocolate topping with eight candles on one end and seven at the other, and when the candles were all lit we would be there – all your children singing happy birthday to you. After that you would get up and pretend to make a speech, one of those interminable ones that go on for ever, where people say things like, “I remember the day in 1947 – it was a Tuesday, no, I tell a lie, it was a Wednesday afternoon and the sun was shining, though if my memory serves me correctly it may also have been a little cloudy….”, and you would go on like this in a faux BBC just post-war voice and we would laugh and you would cut the cake and pretend that you wanted to keep most of it for yourself.
On this day, when you were sixty-four, you sat at the piano and sang, “will you still need me and, more importantly, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four.” Even when you were in sad times you looked for where the laugh was and it always appeared, like the time in the Indian restaurant when the old man sitting alone eating his Vindaloo looked up and said, “I love to hear the chink of coins, it is music to my ears,” and it sounded just like you, if you had been pretending to be an Indian man with a small pile of coppers on the table.
On this day, if it was a weekend, the weather was fine - the sun always shone on your birthday. We sat at the long wooden table underneath the green canopy where the small bud roses bloomed, and you made fruit salad with raisins, almonds and Amaretti.
The bullocks have moved away now. They came for this, I think, to bring some essence of you on this day of your birth, eighty seven years ago.