One of the many, many things I admire about Captain Tom Moore - aside from the fact that he has raised £30 million for NHS charities - is the way he always manages to say exactly the right thing for
the moment. I still tell myself every night when I go to bed: “Tomorrow will be a good day!” just because Captain Tom said it would be. Then today, watching those legendary wartime aircraft, the Spitfire and the Hurricane, fly past over his home,
he memorably remarked (as he pumped the air in a classic salute) that he was one of the few people who had seen them fly in anger and how good it was to see them fly in peace.
Like most of us who haven’t been blessed with Captain Tom’s incredible knack of saying just the right thing, I spend a fair bit of time regretting what I failed to say - the smart retort, the sympathetic response, the perfectly appropriate
comment for the occasion.
There have also been times when I would quite like to erase from memory the meanderings of my errant tongue. Never more so than
on the occasion of the Youngest of the Darling Daughters’ wedding to Dunk’em Dave fifteen years ago when I disgraced myself with my heartfelt, but wine-fuelled, ramblings captured on video along with other guests’ far more sensible and meaningful
expressions of good wishes for the happy couple. Unfortunately, because it has been preserved for posterity - and because the replay of the wedding video is always part of each anniversary celebration - I am regularly reminded of my inability to capture my
Inner Captain Tom. There is one particular moment which has everyone convulsed with laughter at my expense when the microphone comes loose from my Mother of the Bride outfit and I can be seen waving it around ineffectually while My Boy who, with the Darling
Daughter in Law, shares the spotlight with me, eggs me on to further excesses of embarrassingly emotional outpouring.
While many of us come over all teary as Captain
Tom accepts the honours, the tributes, the thanks, the thousands of birthday cards, the rousing choruses of Happy Birthday - he remains the stoic, decent, upright, inspirational man he is.
For our family, April 30th is not just a special date for Captain Tom - it is also the 23rd birthday of our Katie, the eldest of the Tremendous Ten grandchildren. I tell her that I did try to book a fly past over her new home
to celebrate but both the Spitfire and the Hurricane were unaccountably already promised elsewhere. She laughs and says she thinks Captain Tom has done rather more to deserve it than she has - but, let’s face it, I tell her, she does have another 77
years to try to emulate him.
Like so many who are marking birthdays in these Lockdown Days, she won’t be able to gather round a party table with her
parents and her sister, while the planned celebration with her Grandad (known to you all as Mr B) and me has fallen by the wayside like so many similar gatherings. We are, however, relying on her boyfriend - let’s call him Dependable Nathan, because
we are all, well, depending on him - to wrap up all the gifts we have sent direct to their new address, to assist in the baking of a birthday cake and to make the day every bit as special as our girl. I have the utmost faith in him.
I am worrying that our granddaughter may have forgotten that I came to a decision that my birthday banners would stop at the age of 21, though the significant birthdays that follow - as in, ones ending
with an “0” - would be marked with an appropriate banner. My reasoning was that I had to stop sometime - I couldn’t go on making banners reading “(Name) is 37” (insert appropriate number.) Sooner or later, one of the Tremendous
Ten would beg me to stop embarrassing them with yet another Age Related Banner - so much better to make the decision in plenty of time. All this means that I haven’t made Katie a banner this year and have been torturing myself with the thought that she
might feel that I have sadly neglected her this year. This is the problem with traditions, they can come back to haunt you - like hasty words and tipsy tattling. I compounded the problem last year when she told me all she wanted for her birthday was a banner
- so I made her one which read “TWO LITTLE DUCKS”. It was a one-off but I wonder if it might have raised expectations...
I am pretty sure that our
Katie knows how special she is to us, banner or no banner. I will never forget the day she was born, the first time I saw her, resting in her mother’s arms and gazing up into her face as if to say: “So YOU’RE my mother!”
She was special then, she is special now. Happy birthday, dear Katie, from Grandad and from me.
For once, the right words come easily...