A second first for me this evening when I attend a 60th birthday party.
Where do the years go. Huh?
“Our lives might be getting longer – but they will always be too short.”
This is a good line and a much better way of saying the same thing; worthy of the inverted commas and maybe even the italics also. The words of one of our great thinkers? Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain…
Er, no. Me actually, a line I used in my other first of this momentous week; my Ted talk where this line and others failed to arouse the emotions I had hoped for.
But life goes on and this evening heralds a clear and distinct new phase in my life.
School. College/university. 21st. First Job. Marriage and weddings. Second/third job. Babies. Infants. Divorce. Second weddings…
…and now a friends 60th birthday! So soon. ‘Where do the years go, eh…’
My memory is one of the least reliable tools in my shed and often I am struck with fear by what I have given up.
Even things very recent… like where we were last Christmas. I can get this at a push. Some gentle nudges and reminders. But the Christmas before last… not a chance.
And similarly with the big events in my life…
My twins first steps. Tom’s first words. My wedding day is blurry. My graduation has all but evaporated but oddly, my two disastrous reviews on the first Monday of the 1994 Edinburgh festival still loom large.
Odd then what we can recall and what we cling on to. The name of the boy at school who bullied me seems an unhelpful thing to store.
But then other incidental and innocuous occurrences can too become indelible and with good reason.
My career has been long and varied. Certainly exciting with some obvious highs. Six books. 4 BBC radio series. Selling movie scripts. Stand-up awards… And many lows also which I won’t labour over here.
But of all the things in my working life, one of my most vivid and abiding memories is this…
Christmas Day morning. I am 16 or 17 and I arrive at the North Star pub in Ealing Broadway for my cleaning shift, from where I am due at Mass at Ealing Abbey with my family.
The pub is a mess and particularly so the toilets. More specifically, the men’s toilets are a complete disaster. The Ladies loos are pristine by comparison and I wonder if advocates of gender neutral toilets have really thought things through.
A couple of hours later, I am done and I am about to leave the pub when the landlord calls me back. He is a tough Irish man, mid-thirties I guess but at the time, I thought he was ancient.
He was standing behind the bar with a neutral look on his face and giving nothing away.
“You’ve done a fantastic job this morning Dom. Thank you.”
And with this he opened the till and peeled off a ten pound note and handed it to me.
Back in the day, when I was appearing regularly on TV, I was paid enormous amounts of money for shows; just a few hours work of being a hero and which didn’t require rubber gloves and yet memories of these shows are hazy at best. And like the memories, the money too, has now gone also.
And yet, more than 30 years on, my memory of that Christmas morning is still with me and as vivid as ever. Not to get too misty eyed but what he gave that morning was much more than a tenner. And I wonder if he realises this? I suspect not.
To end and talking of giving…
I need to get a present for my mate this evening.
A wealthy man who wants for nothing apart from a different waist size.
And so difficult to buy for then. But I have the perfect present.
Long retired already, he plays a lot of golf and so a dozen premium golf balls is an ideal present, although given his golf ability, it is a present that he will quickly lose.
But no matter.
He will enjoy trying to keep possession of his golf balls – and this is what we must all do with our lives. Enjoy ourselves and take nothing for granted.
Happy Birthday, Mike.