We had been planning my more or less usual party for birthdays ending in zero for quite some time, but some weeks before I had had both the idea of inviting the Wembley Drama group, and a scheme to get them both to and from Ickford, using guests who were coming out from West London to ferry them, as well as Matilda, who is rapidly becoming indispensable. Fortunately, these plans very nearly worked perfectly, the only glitch being that Thomas, who was supposed to be coming out with Dave and Laraine, old travelling pals, failed to make the meeting place. A real shame, as I like him a great deal, and I am sure he would have very much enjoyed it.
The party was a relatively grand event, with 120 guests, a marquee, a ceilidh, plenty of drink, organised by my son Joe and his friend Dan, and excellent food supplied from the Damascus Rose, a collective formed by Syrian refugees, and operating out of the Old Fire Station in Oxford. This had been Lucy’s idea, and proved to be ab excellent one. They served Syrian vegetarian food, which was hugely enjoyed by just about everyone (except for Val, who only just got there to eat anything, and me, who was far too busy and nervous to be able to sit down to enjoy it.)
The party was a huge success, perhaps even greater than the previous ones, and Zhvan certainly contributed to this success, as well as thoroughly enjoying themselves. Several of them were on the dance floor a great deal – in fact Tulsi could scarcely be persuaded to do anything else, dancing just about every dance. And they did seem to mix with lots of people – so many of our other guests told me they had chatted with them, and very much enjoyed their company.
And, it has to be said, I had a good time too, even though maybe not so much at the time, but with a real sense of pleasure and satisfaction that so many people had enjoyed themselves. There were, of course, lots of old people there – this was a 70th birthday party after all, so many of my friends are my age – but there were also all ages represented, with lots of Youth Theatre graduates; all of both families (mine and Val’s); and lots of children, who also seemed to be having a ball.
My song went down well – “Shotgun”, the George Ezra number – and we also gave out copies of Innocence Abroad, the first volume of my book about our travels. And at about 6, as suggested but not enforced, people drifted away, leaving lots of warm words. And happy memories. Especially important, of course, for my international guests.