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On Saturday we hosted a 75th birthday party for my father. The invites had been sent out. Two days of preparation work which involved shopping for food and party pieces, and finished with the erecting of tables, chairs, umbrellas, balloons and bunting in our garden. The barbecue was set up and there was plenty of lovely food made ready.The only things we had no control over was the British weather, and what guests would arrive.
The British are well known for talking non-stop about the weather, and it's because it is the worlds most unpredictable. I found out via a television documentary it's because the U.K is slap bang in the middle of various competing global weather fronts. Nature doesn't know which one is going to win. One day you can have an easterly pattern bringing in the cold and rain, the nest it might be an Atlantic front with stormy weather, and the next it could come from the south bringing a stunningly hot heatwave from the Sahara desert. Then when it shoots down from the north it will bring snow from the North Pole.
In one way it makes life more interesting, but in another in can be a pain in the back-side because it can make it extremely hard to plan things more than a few day ahead. That's why when you only get a few inches of snow in this country the whole place comes to a stand still. People moan saying, 'why can't we be prepared like the Scandinavians or Russians?' And the answer to that is that they can predict to the week when snow is going to fall, but in England we may get it, we may not. Eighteen months ago the dear wife bought a snow shovel in case of snow, and it has sat in the garage ever since, never being used!
So in the week running up to my fathers 75th birthday I checked the weather forecast after the local news and every day the weather changed. We went from bright hot sunshine to terrible rain storms, and the prediction for Saturday kept on changing. All I could do was to prey for the best and make emergency plans in case the garden party was a wash out.
In the end the rain held off and it was mostly a cloudy day which was a blessing because with so many oldies invited they will have wilted like thirsty flowers if they had to sit in thirty degrees of sunshine all day. Also cooking over a raging hot barbecue can be extremely uncomfortable when the sun is burning into your back.
There were plenty of cold drinks and I had a steady stream of cold iced Cider close by my side as I beat back the flames that were so insistent on burning the sausages, burgers and chicken into cinders. It started at midday and by the evening our guest began to depart, and we started the task of clearing up. It wasn't until Sunday afternoon when we finally had everything cleared away and put back in their rightful place. The children had great fun bursting all the balloons they had spent two days earlier blowing up, and we were still eating
It can be exhausting (and stressful) holding a large family party, but I'm just grateful I had the chance to do it. For anyone who has followed my blog from the very start, or has read one of the many interviews you will know that a great spur for writing my book Frenzy a Daniel Jones Story was the death of my father-in-law. A couple of my family couldn't make it to party, and for the flimsy of reasons. My brother was going to a dog show with his girlfriend! They both have at least the next fifty years to go this dog show. It's not a major one like Crafts, and they weren't even competing in it, but he won't have another chance to celebrate his father's 75th birthday. As my father has surpassed the age barrier for most males in the U.K my brother may never get the chance to say happy birthday again to his dad.
It is so easy to take other people for granted, expecting them to always to be there. This is something I hear quite often when as the verger of the local church I sit through funerals. Time and time again family members will stand up at the front to say a few words, and time again they will lament the fact that they wished they could have spent more time with the recently departed.
Maybe if we spent less time in front of the television, or our computer screens, or on our mobile phones scanning the Internet we would all have more time for each other, and that goes for me as well.