Sunday, June 29, 2008

Happy 90th Birthday!

Uncle Ken's 90th birthday party was a tremendous day long celebration. I think it was everything he wanted, and it certainly surpassed my expectations.

The roads in the countryside of Wales are not much bigger than your car - that's one small compact car - and are lined on either side with tall hedgerows. Unbelievably, these roads are for 2-way traffic, but you hardly ever meet another car. If you do, one of you has to back up to the nearest slight widening in the road, then both of you have to get up on the grassy banks to then pass within inches of each other.

Also, none of these roads are well signed. We had to navigate these little winding roads to get to my cousin Chris' sheep farm, and the written directions we had one important left turn described as "right." But we did find it eventually, and found the old man.

It was so great to see Uncle Ken. He looked the same as ever, just slightly thinner. He gave me a great long hug, and was very interested in meeting Anna and Colin. There were lots of other cousins to meet also, people from all branches of the family tree. Sometimes it was a bit boggling to figure out how we were all related, but everyone was so enjoyable.

The farm house is quaint and cozy, so the party was in a large white tent. Also in hilly Wales there's almost no space large enough and flat enough for such a tent, so Chris had crushed gravel poured for the floor. My heels sank into this substrate, making the balancing of myself and my champagne glass even more precarious than usual, but I was in good company, and anyway, Chris soon let me borrow a pair of Wellies (rubber farm boots) so I could go see his Black Welsh Mountain Sheep and short black Dexter cows.

The kids made fast friends with some children that were close in age - Chris' granddaughters Amelia and Hanna, and his step-grandson Roman. All day long they were tearing up and down the green hills, collecting moss (Colin is particularly fascinated with moss since he's never seen it before), finding slugs and nuts and old sheep horns, climbing the stone walls, and trying to set off the real cannon (blessedly, no ammunition). The little girls in their pastel party dresses, playing ring-around-the-rosey, London Bridge is falling down, and Duck-Duck-Goose looked like little fairies under the green mossy trees.

Ken had wanted all the family to sit at a long table with him at the head, and Chris really made that happen for him. Ken did look so pleased as he looked down the long table at the many generations present. We did miss having my sister Steph and her family there, and she was mentioned many times. After a lovely catered lunch, we toasted him and ate strawberries with cream and cake. Anna was brave enough to sing one of the songs she learned in school for him - which he loved, and my dad sang some of the old songs with him.

After a few hours we said a sad goodbye to many of our distant relatives/friends -- most of them had 2-5 hour drives to get back to their parts of England. Those of us who could stay moved to the glass conservatory by the house. While the kids continued to run up and down the hill, we sipped Gin and tonics. Simon got Uncle Ken to tell a few war stories - Ken was gone for 6 years in WWII, fighting in Northern Africa and Italy. He always tells war stories, and I've probably heard them all, but I loved hearing them again.

Chris and Val grilled some of their lamb, some beef burgers, and some free range chicken for a late supper. Then sun eventually did go down around 10 o'clock, and it was time to drag the tired children back to town to bed. We were so sad to see the long, lovely day end, even Anthony. We were all scheming to find a way to all get together again soon, for another happy celebration. We don't want to have to wait for Ken's 100th birthday! A few more rousing songs - America the Beautiful, Jerusalem, Home with the Armadillo, the Everly brothers' Dream - and we were off down the hedgerowed roads to our beds.


mr man said...

Sounds absolutely idyllic. I kept having flashes of the many BBC shows I've enjoyed over the years. Glad you deciphered the left/right mis-match and made it to the party to help Uncle Ken celebrate.

peevish said...

Thanks for the wonderful recap, complete with a glass conservatory. Wow! Where are the photos? I would love to see the black sheep!

noni said...

What absolutely beautiful word pictures! I look forward to seeing photos, too.

EdamameMommy said...

agree with all the others. I drank up your descriptions and I'm still thirsty for more. I'm so wishing I were there...I'm turning shades of mossy green :)

ColeBugsmommy said...

Sounds like a wonderful time! It something your kids will never forget!

mainlyclearskies said...

What an amazing party! I love the part about all the generations at the table.

Alissa said...

Sounds awesome!

dap_info said...

What amazing memories you are capturing right now for you entire family to savor forever. Thank you so much for sharing. Please come back to Fort Worth and share yourselves with us soon, too. Tell Anthony #61 is amazing. Thanks for the return call...loved hearing about the views from the castle. Miss MY friends terribly! xoxo

peevish said...

Hi Anna, we got your postcard!
Are you home yet?

Ruby & Lyra