Next Sunday and Monday there will be four birthdays to celebrate in my family. My sister Carole and her daughter Amanda on Sunday and me and her son Peter on Monday! Something to celebrate, especially as Amanda will be 50 on her birthday and I shall be 88 on mine. My sister who was born the day before my eleventh birthday will be 77 and her son will be 48. His arrival on my fortieth birthday when I was teaching at Catford School. It gave me the title and the impetus for a piece of group work to which all my classes contributed and which we called ‘Ain’t love grand’. The title swam into my mind because I was so high when I heard the news that he was born. And within a day it had taken off. By the end of the term, we had covered one entire wall of my classroom with pictures and poetry and anything any of my pupils found which celebrated the fact that love was indeed an extraordinary and wonderful thing. One of the girls brought a picture from a magazine of a baby being born, which is quite commonplace now in the days of ‘Call the Midwife’ but was revolutionary then.
When the wall was covered, the school librarian who was a great friend and had been following the progress of our work and providing the poetry that my pupils had come tearing into the library to find, came down to see what it all looked like. She was very impressed which rewarded us all and suggested to me that we should take the completed work and enter it in a competition at a big event called a ‘Book Bang‘ which was due to take place in the middle of Bedford Square, in the heart of Bloomsbury, between May 28 and June 11 and was organised by the National Book League. So I wrote to them to see if such an entry would be possible and got an encouraging answer back saying ‘yes do bring it’.
We set off giggling and struggling with our huge exhibit and joined the festivities. It was an absolutely wonderful day as so many writers were there. We sat at the feet of the incomparable Dannie Abse, whose poem ‘The smile was’ we had quoted in full and we followed one or another of our heroes or heroines one after another all day dazzled to be in their company. As if that weren’t enough to make the day, when the announcement of the winner of the exhibition of class work was announced, we were so surprised and happy we were like dogs with two tails and didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Because surprise, surprise, we had won a prize.
Love really was grand!
And it has gone on being grand, one happy year after another all of them fascinating and complicated. I feel myself blessed, truly blessed to have such relations and I haven’t even started to tell you about my own family, whom I love to bits in the same way.
Happy Birthdays Quartet!