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    “I don’t want a party. I don’t like disruption. It’s my birthday. You can have a party for my 70th but I shan’t come.”

   In such a mood did Norman face the prospect of reaching three score and ten.

    Cryptic e-mails passed between Rachel and Jean but one was intercepted on the upstairs computer.  “No!” he wailed. “It’s not that I’m not grateful. I do love everybody. I’m very flattered that they care but I can’t cope!”

   Seeing he had suffered enough his family decided to party for him in small segments. First Susan and Tony came over, ostensibly to put up some new blinds in the bathroom. They offered to take the Brands out for a meal. Norman scented a celebratory rodent, particularly after Susan had handed him a birthday card and some excellent bottles of alcohol. “I’d rather have a takeaway curry from DeWani Shah,” he declared. It was, after all, HIS birthday and those curries are particularly good so that is what they had.

    The following week he was called to the door by a postman bearing a large box of wine and chocolates, all the way from Streatham. Next came a shower of cards and then a phone call from Janet and Bob, on holiday, singing “Happy Birthday to you.”

   “People are being nice to me,” he muttered gratefully and donning his I’M NOT OLD. JUST RETRO badge  went off to the Day Centre where he was greeted by another resounding chorus.

   Back home his manipulative wife confessed she had no food in for that evening. They would just have to go out for a meal. “Oh all right then,” he said, reminding her in passing that everywhere would be full up as it was the week of the Great Thame Show. “Not at six o’clock,” she told him firmly for that  is the hour at which he cares to dine. But then Alison, Howie and Amy arrived to give him an extra grandfatherly treat. Amy was at her gurgly giggly best and by the time they had left Norman was so overwhelmed by his birthday experiences Jean relented and suggested another home delivery of a DeWani Shah curry. “Yes please,” he said.

  This was only day one of his octave, however, and on the following Sunday  the Watkins family returned for a festive lunch. It was a very jolly occasion. Amy was in a very friendly mood, even though she was not allowed a share in the delicious celebratory champagne - a recent present from the Sperl family.