Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Birthday in Bronteland

It may be March, but the Yorkshire Moors near Haworth today were still looking like Winter with no trace of Spring:

Snow still lurks in all the shady bits. It'll be there for a few weeks yet, no doubt. It's the old stamping ground of the famous Bronte sisters of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre fame and there seems to be a rule that any business in the area must be named after them. Bronte Garage. Bronte Butchers. That kind of thing.

We were at the excellent Dog and Gun, Oxenhope, to celebrate my friend Connie's ninetieth birthday. It's not actually until Wednesday this week, but with Connie's track record we're all expecting that she'll still be around then, and hence we felt justified in celebrating slightly early.

I met her a long time ago. On my first day at Leeds University, which was October 2, 1974, we were all put into little groups for Fresher's Week.

In the group I was in was a very very tall chap called Charles, who was also from Leeds. and we got on well and were friends all through university. And we've been friends ever since. I met his mum, Connie, a few times and always got on well with her. She lived with her sister, Winnie, who was ten years older to the day. They ran a draper's shop called Jennie's Wool Shop - - - though I suspect that there never was a Jennie.

In the mid-nineteen-eighties, Winnie became ill and sadly died. I went round the following week to see Connie, and thought I'd take her out to lunch to give her a change of scene.

We had a lovely time: I went back the next week - - and every week after that for years and years. When Olli was little, Olli would come too of course. Now I'm so busy working that I can't see Connie every week, but I do see her every two or three weeks. We go out for lunch, or to a garden centre: or even to a garden centre for lunch. Sometimes my mother comes too, but actually Connie's my friend more than my mother's, as Connie was the quiet, less extrovert of the two sisters and is more like me in personality than like my social, extrovert mother!

She's one of those people it's easy to take for granted, is Connie. Always friendly, always delighted to see me, always ready to fit in with whatever I suggest we do. She's a very intelligent woman, an ex-pupil of Leeds Girls' High School and her working life included some admin at Leeds University and painting airoplanes during the Second World War!

I tend to assume she'll always be around, because she always has been. From time to time she goes to the doctor for a check-up and they declare with some surprise that there's really nothing wrong with her. She's got a bit slower, and her eyesight's not brilliant, but her mind is still as sharp as ever and I was noticing today with sadness that, in comparison with Connie, since her fall and broken shoulder, my mother is getting very forgetful indeed.

There are some things that Connie will always say. Anyone who she considers to be a bit above themselves is invariably described as "Very bay window, very cut glass". And she has two comments about the weather. She's been saying "It was that fine rain that goes right through you" since before the comedian Peter Kay - who brought the phrase to public attention - was born! To my delight, she said it again this lunchtime. And any kind of weather, no matter how glorious, always has the gloomy corollary "Mind you, there was a cold wind."

So this lunchtime, Charles and his wife Jacqueline, and Stephen and me, and my mother, all went out with Connie for lunch, to celebrate her ninetieth birthday.

The food was superb. I had melon with Parma ham and then pork with cider and apple and when both of these arrived they had a strangely familiar look to them. This was, I instantly realised, because I had made the very same choices when we were last there two years ago. We were supposed to go there for Connie's birthday last year too, but there was thick snow so Charles and Jacqueline - who live near Haworth - couldn't get out of their village, the Dog and Gun was shut and we took Connie to the excellent Wellington in Leeds instead.

Charles and Jacqueline had brought Connie some "Happy Birthday" balloons and they gave her two stunning patchwork cushions which Jacqueline had made, plus a big bunch of flowers. Connie seemed well pleased. I will see her on the actual day and give her our presents then.

Happy Birthday, Connie. I hope we'll all be at the Dog and Gun in March 2020, when she will be a hundred. I'm already looking forward to the melon with Parma ham and the pork with cider and apple.


Blogger Jennyta said...

What a lovely occasion. Connie looks wonderful in her photo too. I'm sorry to hear that your mum is not as well as you would hope though. Maybe the advent of Spring will perk her up a bit.

9:18 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

How delightful...It's wonderful that Connie still has her marbles and enjoys the pleasure of your friendship. None of us control when we are born but in life most people seem to form friendships within their own age groups. How enriching it is to have friends from older or younger age groups too.

10:43 pm  

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