Adventures in Letter Writing No. 81: The Big 5-0!

I didn’t really want to come across all egocentric going on about my 50th birthday, but equally it’s not every day you reach half a century, is it. Also people have been so kind and generous that I just wanted to put down a little official thank you, here on the website.

Usually I get really excited about my birthday – as I always say, not in any expectation of cards and presents but just an unexplained desire to tell people – however this year I didn’t really know how to feel about it. 50 seems such a large number when you write it down and it meant we’d lived here in Swanage half my life. I now can’t really say I’m from Oxfordshire anymore, can I? Every birthday is a real privilege, I know that, but also it is a bit of a shock too, that whole marching on of time.

It didn’t feel right getting all excited either because a dear friend, Daniel Spencer, very sadly died of a heart attack on Easter Saturday and his funeral was the day before my birthday. What an amazing person he was, reflected in the incredible and emotional funeral jam-packed with people whose lives he had touched. I hesitate to do some PR for letter writing out of respect (Dan was Member No. 18) but even before The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society existed Dan had written a letter to be read at his funeral, born out of a feeling he didn’t have long for this earth. He was only 48 when he died. It was profound hearing his words read out. I must ask his family if they’d be happy for me to share his letter, it had us all laughing and crying as only Dan could. Never have I felt the truth more about that quote by Goethe who says letters are the most significant memorial we can leave behind. Dan will be very much missed.

So “celebrating” my 50th felt all a bit flat. However, as I’m constantly reminded, this world is full of just the loveliest kindest people who of course completely rescued the day for me. Eldest, even though her A levels were starting on the Friday, went to great lengths to wrap up 50 presents with help from husband and youngest. I opened 25 in the morning and 25 in the evening, as for most it was a school day. There were cards and wishes galore and balloons and flowers and telephone chats with friends I hadn’t spoken to in ages. It’ll be no surprise that a lot of the presents were letter writing or postbox or stamp themed and things to help me continue running THLAS which I was so very grateful for.

One of the highlights was a video compilation of birthday messages from friends and members dotted around the globe put together by the brilliant and kind Liz Kentish. There was a lot of awwing on my part as I watched it in the morning, and most definitely a lump in my throat and something in my eye. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to that. It made my day! As did the “Blue Plaque” for my Letter Writing Shed, organised by sister-in-law in Zimbabwe. I should point out it’s not a real one (haha!) but hey, maybe one day!

(Click HERE to take you to the video link.)

I was also just a little bit chuffed to get a birthday message from Russell Lewis too, writer of the incredible, and favourite, TV series Endeavour (amongst others) wishing me more power to my handwritten letter writing elbow.

I’m never sure about doing a birthday fundraiser either but I always feel a bit bad having a lovely time when so many around the world are clearly not, and as I had some of The Wild Cards left over I thought a little fundraiser would be a nice way to pay it forward. The artist, Jackie Morris, even sent me an original birthday painted postcard which is already in a frame!

So there you are, just a little marker of my big 5-0 to say thank you so much to each and every one of you for making the day/week/fortnight so special. It really is very much appreciated.

Dinah

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