When I woke up this morning, I said my usual devotion of the day, and then – hang on – does that sound quite holy and pious? Hmm. Not everso, because I then remembered… flip me! It’s my birthday. 72 years on this earth! Entering my 73rd year. In the bedroom next to mine was my granddaughter. You will understand how far from pious I am when I tell you that instead of sending her a sweet benison, a wise word for the day, I yelled through to her (yes, yelled) “Seventy bloody two! That’s ridiculous! I refuse to be seventy bloody two!” She has probably woken to sweeter sounds.
It is ridiculous. Listen, my chums, it’s completely ridiculous. I am, at heart, possibly 14. Or 18. Sometimes 7.
After coffee (and emails full of silliness) because the dogs are recovering from Kennel Cough and we can’t go to the beach where we might infect others, we drove to a friend’s vast estate and walked up the track there, in the rain and wind. Seventy bloody two! I played “Oceans’ by Hillsong on my phone and worshipped and felt some peace and acceptance. But still, under it all, a sort of disbelief… 72? Me? Really?
After a lifetime of stupid decisions and silly twists and turns, nearly drowning in the Med, running aground in a small boat in the world’s busiest shipping channel, crash landing in a plane, coming off a motorbike at speed, marrying the wrong bloke, marrying the right bloke, attending his funeral far far too soon… all that and more, much much more … how is that I’m seventy rotten two?
Beats me. Driving home, I had a moment of pure rebellion – the rain had stopped, the sky was clearing, the dogs hadn’t coughed since last night, and I knew the tide was going out and the early morning dog walkers would all have gone by now. I drove to the beach, we walked straight to the sea, and then the dogs ran and ran and ran, free and happy, bouncing along, beyond the high water mark. Not one cough between all three of them. And I stood in the waves and played “Oceans” again and knew, for certain sure, that the best part of life is the glorious release of being totally, completely, shoutingly honest. With everyone. So I said to my God that it is wonderful to be 72 but it’s bloody hard too, and that I’m tussling with all sorts of thoughts and I don’t, as they say in Derby, know my arse from my elbow.
I took all my confusion and celebration and grumpiness and swearing, which were doing me no good at all, and I gave the lot, lock stock and smoking barrel, to God.
And suddenly, 72 in the great scheme of things, in the reach of eternity… well, 72 didn’t seem too terrible. Why not 72? I could still stand in the sea and laugh at myself and watch the dogs chasing birds, and pray for those I love, and know God. Hang on! I could still know God? Me? Know God? So I started singing – in my cracked and horrible voice. And when I couldn’t remember the words I made ’em up.
So, how’s my heart and soul right now? They’re OK. God has given me such a great blessing today that both are feeling right jolly. Right jolly.
One year we were filming “Bramwell” on my birthday and when I went home in the evening, catching the train from London back to the Midlands, I was carrying such a huge bouquet of wonderful, wonderful roses (especially selected Victorian roses to match our period drama!) and so many gifts that as I struggled onto the train the guard said “Ey up, look out – it’s the Queen Mum!”
Today, once again, I feel like the Queen Mum. Or the King’s daughter, maybe. Royalty, anyway.
I came back from the beach and settled down to a peaceful day. Not a bit of it!!!
Knock on the door – a friend delivering a sweet bouquet of glorious flowers…. the dogs had just settled down when there was another – colleagues on a TV series sent another great bundle of flowers. Then came champagne and chocolates, arriving in a gorgeous yellow box (you may know the shop!) and then flowers from my daughter and a wonderful selfie of her beautiful face….. by the time I had answered the door four times I was feeling completely giddy! Flowers! Champagne! Chocolates! The Queen Mum couldn’t have been happier.
FaceTime with Nancy, FaceTime with Little Luce….. And tonight, before all the pubs shut down in Wales (what good is a pub with no beer?) dear friends are taking me to dinner.
Seventy two? No problem. No problem at all. As God tells us in Isaiah
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Want to see my table right now? Here it comes: