It's a swell day for my golden jubilee

IAN COLLINS The eve of my 50th birthday and suddenly I feel rather too long in the tooth. It appears that I have lurched from ageless to aged in one fell swoop. In fact, rather like that character in the Kafka story who finds himself turning into a cockroach, I seem to have woken with a gorged hamster, or possibly a cart horse, taking over one side of my face.

IAN COLLINS

The eve of my 50th birthday and suddenly I feel rather too long in the tooth. It appears that I have lurched from ageless to aged in one fell swoop.

In fact, rather like that character in the Kafka story who finds himself turning into a cockroach, I seem to have woken with a gorged hamster, or possibly a cart horse, taking over one side of my face.

Happy birthday to me. Oh, ow, ouch.


You may also want to watch:


I never feel too much jubilation at personal jubilees, actually, but today I'm not quite down in the mouth. For this one promises to be just swell.

Before a long-planned celebratory lunch I now have to fit in a lengthy emergency session with the dentist. Alas, I know the drill.

Most Read

I'd planned for a jar and a jaw, but the latter bit of my anatomy has just presented me with an anniversary abscess or three.

And that's how this birthday gargoyle comes to find himself staring at a clinical ceiling decorated with a poster of ancient Rome. How appropriate. The Colosseum (in its current crumbly state) looks the spit of one of my molars.

It's strange because although, like most men, I have a pain tolerance of around zero - and would readily dial Exit without recourse to a swift painkiller - I find in the spreading sense of numbness something well worth celebrating.

For all the glory of imperial Rome - and all the wonders of any past era - how the hell did even our bravest ancestors endure life without antiseptics and anaesthetics? Early death wasn't the really terrible thing. It was all the agony beforehand.

Forget the wheel or the internal combustion engine or the microchip. For me the biggest breakthrough moment for humankind was the 1900 delivery of aspirin.

Of all the weapons we ranged against Hitler - that most hideous abscess on the gum of history, and a giant boil on the bum of humankind - the greatest was penicillin. It was developed in the nick of time to help heal Blitz victims as well as to cure some of humanity's “naturally” lethal ailments.

As we advanced from warfare to welfare, human wellbeing was to be based on the humanitarian belief that the world could be made a paradise by the removal of pain. Thank goodness it rendered obsolete the callous mumbo-jumbo of all those religious maniacs who argued that suffering (and most especially other people's) was part of God's grand plan.

And so this child of the welfare state - having little or no belief in God or Freud or Marx or Mammon - grew up with firm faith in the miracles of modern medicine. If it hurts zap it. If a pill works, pop it.

We're not there yet, of course. But at least all sensible people now accept that pain is not a virtue, but a blight to be painstakingly eradicated.

After surgery (the first of several sessions, alas), anaesthetic and a blissful sachet of dissolvable antibiotic, I'm all set for my birthday lunch in Tate Britain. Hurrah.

While my companions work their way down the menu - chomp, crunch, chew - I sip and slurp soup and linger over a legendary wine list. A bottle of red-black Portuguese douro for £15, after a large splash of pink champagne at a price I prefer to forget, sets us all up a treat.

After several toasts to pain-free life - minimal hurt to ourselves and others seems to me a healthy maxim for happy human existence - I wallow in the walls.

For the greatest joy of Tate Britain's restaurant is the feast for the eyes courtesy of a 1920s wraparound mural by an art student called Rex Whistler.

The surreal adventure in an enchanted landscape, featuring mermaids and unicorns and the artist on his bicycle, is called In Pursuit of Rare Meats. Clearly the youthful Rex was not yet ready to dip sensitised teeth into The Solace of Soup.

Very soon after D-Day this towering talent was killed beside his tank in Normandy at the age of 39. His Tate murals are an eternal joy.

Meanwhile, besides (or rather way below) the release from pain, I am counting the best birthday presents ever - including the complete works of J.S. Bach in a 155 CD collection for less than £75 (thanks to Prof and Mrs Weise of Costessey for the suggestion), a wren's nest box and a painting by and from Mary Fedden.

And as I open a cheeringly tall stack of envelopes I laugh on the one unfrozen side of my face. One contains a redirected Christmas card.

Even for a recipient lacking a stiff upper lip, but now boasting a very fat lower one, the mid-winter round-robin letter is bliss in early spring.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus