Michael’s 86th Lockdown Birthday

All exotic plans scuppered, no North Norfolk like last year, no Paris, no travel due to the Coronavirus Lockdown, then the snow came, so no fish and chips and champagne in Southwold harbour either. It would have to be a home affair.

An early highlight of the day was the morning walk to the supermarket, to get food for the evening. After a boiled egg and marmite soldier breakfast naturally (table decked out with blossoming yellow afro Witchhazel).

Planning was secretly schemed though the day, with Gabrielle arriving early for Table Tennis then distracting with Upwords while we did our final dress rehearsal on zoom.

Unbelievable on Zoom was the highlight, for both of us, the culmination of converting M’s story to a script, roping in Ben (by chance staying at East Lodge on an acting job in Bungay), Juliette and Richard, actors from Halesworth. With Ben’s up to date knowledge of Zoom, and his blatant encouragement too, we rehearsed over the weekend. The day before I’d delivered the food package to all – (smoked salmon, pink bubbly, stilton and a cake), using the walk with John as the excuse.

I almost didn’t record it – the landline went! The great music 2001 Space Odessy Blue Danube – did not transpose, I fluffed my lines (oh how the negatives come first), Ben, Juliete and Richard, all brilliant, Ben porting a new prop of glasses, Richard so arrogant in his suit, Juliet, with her V&A scarf, oh what joy to hear it all come together! Michael almost speechless, very touched.

Gifts from Kath and Candy, a Noel Coward dressing gown (kimono) from me, champagne, confit of duck, dauphinoise potatoes, spicy red cabbage, almost burnt brussels, followed by M’s favorite, Tiramisu. Dogs washed the plates.

Here’s the day in photos

Some screen captures from the zoom

Michael’s Account – which naturally starts with food at breakfast:

Rachel arranged an amazing birthday for me. After a special breakfast we took the dogs for a walk and did some shopping.In the afternoon Rachel, I, and our neighbour, Gabrielle. played table tennis, as we do most days. We play our own version of the game, each of us taking turns to play the other two together. For the first time ever, I managed to beat them. They both denied they were making it easy for me. Rachel had then arranged for me to play Upwords (a board game like Scrabble) with Gabrielle, while she prepared a surprise Zoom for me.To my astonishment, this turned out to be some actor friends of hers joining her for a performance of a dramatisation she had done of a short story I had recently finished writing. They had taken a lot of trouble with costume, props and music and, when I talked to them afterwards, said how much they had enjoyed it and how they thought I should enter it for a local drama festival. You can imagine how it made me feel that Rachel had gone to such lengths for me. It was the best possible present, but the day was not over. We both retired to dress smartly for a dinner of smoked salmon and champagne
, followed by confit of duck with dauphinoise potatoes and pickled red cabbage and a dessert of tiramisu, all cooked by Rachel. 
On the table were more presents from my daughters and also from Rachel, who among other things, gave me an embroidered silk dressing gown of the sort that Noel Coward, my agency’s most distinguished client, was famous for wearing. I now wear it when I read to Rachel first thing in the morning. It will always remind me of this extraordinary birthday – not that I could ever forget it.

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