Ralph Waldo Emerson said it first...
'It is one of the blessings of old friends, that you can afford to be stupid with them...'
and I wouldn't normally subject friends to the public Birthday spotlight here, preferring to just embarrass close family, but I have to make an exception today for a very special friend (and she will kill me for this) who has had a very hard time of late, and I am sure some good wishes wouldn't go amiss.
I'll call her Wiz, because I always have; one of my oldest friends having met in 1972, student nursing flat-mate, next door roomies in Nurse's Homes various, compatriot on the horse-drawn caravan holiday around Ireland (why?) me cutting up her food when she fractured her scaphoid (roller skating), my best mate and there for me when my brother died during my nurse training. There followed many, many days when I did not want to walk onto a ward full of sick people and Wiz and Bookhound kept me going. Wiz was the bridesmaid at our wedding and, at 5ft heaven-knows-how-much, she was still taller than me in ballet flats while I teetered on my very 1970s wedge heels.
We've kept in touch down the years, survived three babies each but Wiz has always put me to shame in one department. Whilst I settled in my armchair with a pile of books once all that child-rearing time became mine again, Wiz took up serious training and rowed competitively when the rest of us were letting the mould grow on the plimsolls. Then, as if that wasn't enough, she recently took up Polo... yes, on a horse... the stick, the galloping, the chukker, the works.
Anyway, Wiz had a really serious encounter with a naughty patch of ice whilst out riding her bike back in early December last year, almost six months ago to the day, and in an instant her right side had hit the road very hard indeed. So fast that she didn't even have time to put out her hand and fracture her scaphoid again, so had a car come around the corner next she would have been in trouble, but as luck would have it the next one along was a doctor, also on a bike. Wiz has had to have a new hip which she didn't want as she liked the old one, except it was very broken, and recently more surgery to mend her dislocated and crocked shoulder.
I went up to see her back in February and it dawned on us that we had known each other for over forty years now. We yakked and laughed the day long, as well as taking a crutch-assisted walk up the road, the only time I've ever been able to keep up with her if I'm honest.
Keeping cheerful when life throws so much at you, and when you are in so much pain... and when you are used to being so active, takes some doing, and I can only begin to imagine how hard the tough days have been, but Wiz has managed to keep smiling because, as we agreed, what else can you do.
Unlike Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, this is reality, not fiction, though, as we pondered when we met, it's hard not to imagine the setting-off-five-minutes-later scenario, and she may have been calling the ambulance for the doctor. But you can't change what has happened and have to make the best of it, and Mr Wiz and Family Wiz are doing a fine job of looking after her. I send her a book every few weeks and we keep in touch most days, and summer and warmth are coming so things will look up soon I feel sure.
And I say that to anyone else out there who is going through the mill at the moment too, for whatever reason, hang on in there.
But to Wiz, Happy Birthday me old mucker, as old as me again now for just a few months... and careful with all those candles now...
And if you wanted to send birthday wishes from your corner of the world I am sure Wiz would be absolutely delighted to read them.