1 July, 2018, 1:54 pm
I’ve had just about all the birthdays I can stand this year, much as I love them.
They come in a cluster at this time of year, so I try to not make it just about me, I try hard to remember other people’s too.
So any way, my day comes and I think it is going to be a bit flat because one of the household is away and there probably won’t be a special dinner let alone a breakfast buffet.
So I am just slouching off to the bathroom feeling a bit down when up comes the three-year-old grandson, known as the Hound of Cullen for his warrior ways.
He’s still in his superhero pyjamas and his hair a tumble of slept on curls looking quite the little angel, and lisps ‘Happy Birthday’.
His sister, also in her pyjamas but with a ponies and rainbows design or something similarly soppy, joins in the birthday wishes. Too cute for words.
Panting upstairs behind them comes their dad, the dad they were supposed wait for so they could all sing the happy birthday song together over the cake.
The cake is duly presented. It is a cupcake with an enormous puff of chocolate icing on top, into which a single, flaming, red candle is stuck.
Oh yes, the cake. They rush to the table with a couple of butter knives ready to save it before it is incinerated. But first they must sing the song.
I’m happy to say that there is apparently no longer a copyright on this trite little tune that has been warbled, slurred, muttered, bellowed and musically mutilated by some generations of singers in 18 languages, according to the internet. I’d hate to think we had to pay to sing it in public.
The people responsible for the song in 1893 were a couple of American sisters, Patty and Mildred Hill, who have passed away so you can’t write to them and complain.
It isn’t so much the song itself, it is the way most jolly partygoers, especially small children, sing it. More a dirge than a chorus of celebration.
Though they are desperate to get to the cake, we have to drawl our way through this thankfully short ditty. But wait, there’s more. Now we must also have Fiji’s ever popular second verse, Happy Long Life to You.
Sometimes you wonder if you will actually live long enough to get to the actual cake, but just as it reaches a long drawn out, final ‘yooooo’ I hear the kindergarten child start into a third verse learnt at school, urging God to bless the birthday person.
Finally I draw breath to blow the candle while the assembled company give a couple of rousing cheers and a heartfelt ‘kaila’, yet another unique island custom.
Some people then clap the number of years the birthday person has reached, but in the interests of health and getting to school on time that doesn’t happen on my birthday any more.
The very next day is another birthday, this time with a bigger cake so some of it can go home with the celebrating auntie. Her cake is decorated with bright pink creamy flowers and the young superhero demands more than his share.
What with all the singing and cheering and gobbling, the superhero throws up bright pink floral cream on the mat, which draws an end to the celebration.
But not to the birthdays. My youngest daughter, Cuddles the Thug, currently abroad is greatly annoyed by my apparent inability to remember her birthday.
Quite honestly, the whole business of being rushed to the maternity hospital in the middle of the men with guns troubles of 1987, not to mention the usual pain and indignity of the birth process, makes me want to draw a veil over it all.
But Cuddles too is due a celebration so I made a particular effort this year to note it carefully in my calendar and check daily as it drew near.
Therefore last Saturday I was punctilious about sending her an early morning happy birthday message on the family phone network. She couldn’t complain this year, by golly.
Later in the day I got a phone call from her, I thought to thank me for remembering without her sister having to track me down and remind me.
“Tell me,” Cuddles said thuggishly. “Did you just get the day wrong, or did you get my birthday date wrong. Again.”
Turns out her birthday was the following day.
I don’t want to hear any more birthday songs until at least Christmas.