My Big Seven Birthday

My brother reminded me a few weeks ago that I had not uploaded any article for more than two months. It’s his subtle way of asking his brother what he had been doing or not doing. There hasn’t been any noticeable changes in my life or lifestyle in the last 100 days. Thank God I haven’t been ill or unwell, though I have gained a kilo or two after the festive seasons and a drinking and eating spell in Thailand last month. Recently, though, we are going to a few more parties under the guise of celebrating me turning 70.

When I was much younger, in the teens, 50 years old people were regarded as old and senile. Now septuagenarians are regarded as young. Indeed, it is now fashionable to refer to those between 60 and 80 as the middle aged, and a friend who is now 55 has threatened me that we are expected to live to be 120. Stephen Hawking, for example, was told when he was 22 that he had only a few years to live, but he lived 50 years more than his doctors had given him. When Fr. Joseph Mallin S.J. died on Easter Sunday this week, he was 104. In the Eighties when he was Principal of Pun U Wah Yan Primary School, he was sometimes perceived as a fragile old man. Hawking published his “A Brief History of Time” in 1988 and he later said that people bought rather than read his books.  Time is such an elusive thing or entity. I was struck when I studied Buddhism that time is not a dharma, implying that it is not one of the basic, minute elements from which all things are made. But time affects all people and many people live by time rather than live with the times or live through time. I read that some scientists dredged a clam from the sea off Iceland some ten years ago, but accidentally killed it, only to discover from the growth lines on its shell afterwards that it had been around since 1499, or close to 200,000 days. What a life!

And so it came to pass; and I am officially 70 years old today; and to mark the occasion, I have decided that April is to be my birthday month and 2018, my birthday year.

I have already gone through a few birthday parties, some planned, others accidental, but I must first mentioned the one organized by Su two days ago. Well, she began to plan for a dinner party in April for me as early as February. She had learnt of a dinner party I organized for myself at my favourite restaurant Amigo when I turned 60, which was before we met. It was a small and exclusive party of old friends with a few younger ones who on and off had referred to the occasion with fondness. So, without consulting her husband, she booked the entire eating floor at Amigo, planning to organize a party for 80 to 100 guests.  In the end, and after some twists and turns, we decided to have a lunch party for 30 instead, to keep it manageable, so to say.

In the end, a third to half of the friends at the lunch could have attended my party ten years ago. I’d like to believe that everyone at the party had a great time; Su and I certainly enjoyed it very much. No one was drunk; and there was much to-ing and fro-ing and interaction between friends some of whom haven’t met for some time. The core group comprises the people who have frequented Amigo since it opened for business in Causeway Bay in 1967.  I began using it from 1969; we literally picked up friends there; we made friends with the management and staff there; we followed them from Percival Street to Wong Nai Chong Road; we sang there; ate and got drunk there and had slept over in the staff quarters; and so on. It became our meeting place for a long period, before we all grew older and had families. Indeed, we would meet our separate dates, take them home and return to Amigo for a few drinks before driving our separate bangers home, often under influence. Those were the drunken days when we didn’t have drink driving laws in place and when the streets were a lot safer.

Still on the lunch, Su had advised our friends not to bring gifts that won’t last or that takes up too much space because we live in a small flat. We also asked them not to bring wines, cakes or sweets; and we asked them not to drive. As I have already said, no one was drunk, which is unusual for parties, perhaps it was lunch and mid-week. We took many pictures; and my nephew and his wife who came with birthday balloons helped to take more, most of which Su had sent to our friends or uploaded, which is what technology or present day lifestyles require. Most important of all, we are thankful for the love and friendship so generously showered on us, which would last me for a long while.

Then there was this party last night held in a small restaurant housed in a government cultural complex in North Point. It was billed as a birthday party organized for me by a group of young brethren. It turned out to be a very unusual and memorable party. The chef walked us through every course with professional and skillful finesse, fit for reality TV shows and complete with eloquent and sweet messages for festive occasions. Su found out later that the chef, a Mr. Chan, had received some chef awards and had been on TV shows.

The highlight of the evening came towards the end. Now, the small area can only hold four to five tables of ten to 12 persons and one or two other smaller tables, so that there would be about six parties including ours. We were sitting with our backs to one end of the room and the table in front of us must be celebrating someone’s 70th birthday too because they had the right balloons. Suddenly, the lights were dimmed and birthday buns were distributed not only to ours but to every table. Candles were lit and blown out to the birthday tunes provided in house and more pictures were taken, but that was not all. The chef came out with a boxful of goodies and party paraphernalia, including goggles, wide brimmed spectacles, hats and crowns, and a dummy birthday cake. He went on a walkabout to each table and donned the guests with his props for more picture taking. It was surrealistic, unreal, laughable and somewhat crude, but it was great fun and totally unexpected. What we found most funny was why each table was celebrating birthdays of someone on a perfectly normal weekday, albeit a Friday commencing the Rugby Sevens.

It does seem that the world can be a happy place, notwithstanding the media had tried hard to make us believe that it was falling apart and people are fighting each other. I am preparing to go to another party; and I hope to talk to you again soon.

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