Double Digit Birthdays

I suppose it is a truism that the most of these one can have is nine. I just reached my seventh. Seems like a good time to look back at the others and see what I was doing.

My first, 11 in 1952, saw me just commenced at boarding school. About six weeks into my first term in this new and strange environment I can’t honestly recall what I was feeling. I do know that I was not particularly happy in that first year. Looking back at the whole of the six years I spent there I do think the experience was good for me. Over the last few years, thanks to the magic of the internet I have been able to make contact with some of the men who were fellow pupils there. In the last couple of days we have been discussing the effect on us of the religious education we received there and it seems that the majority are, like me, either atheist or agnostic, certainly sceptical about religions.

My second double digit birthday, 22 in 1963, happened six weeks after my marriage and 3 months after completing my apprenticeship. Definitely a happy time, excited at the life ahead of us as a couple and the interesting work I was already doing in a small design drawing office.

My third, 33 in 1974, I was in South Africa, embarking on what would become a very happy and fruitful period. There will be more about this in forthcoming installment in my Monday Memories sequence.

240px-cleethorpes_central_promarade_28june_201229By double digit birthday number four, 44 in 1985, I was a County Councillor in North East Lincolnshire, then part of Humberside. One of 4 Liberals holding the balance of power, I was struggling to keep up with the enormous work load and my full time job. A year later I accepted a generous severance package which allowed me more time for political activities and, or so I fondly imagined, writing.

On my fifth double digit birthday, 55/1996, you would have found me working as a Project Planner at a steel works in Scunthorpe. Knowing the job would not last beyond the following summer, I attended a recruitment fair staged in Leeds around that time by British Aerospace. Later I would be invited to attend a selection day, and at the end of June 1997 I joined that company, still in the role of Project Planner.

Eleven years ago, my 66th birthday on November 2nd 2007, I was beginning my second year resident in Ireland, retired, painting, writing and looking for opportunities for volunteering. The following year I began work as a volunteer with the local community development company, a move which subsequently led to both of us becoming volunteers with a local support group for cancer patients and their relatives, which we still are.

If I make it to an eighth double digit birthday I shall have out-lived my mother by a week – she died the day after the 7/7 bombings, five days before her 88th birthday. As for 99, that’s too far in the future to contemplate!

12 thoughts on “Double Digit Birthdays

  1. An interesting take on numbers and birthdays. I never thought “double digit” birthdays could have any significance, in fact I remember nothing of mine, not even my last, 66! That would have been a year after mandatory retirement, probably doing finishing touches on kitchen renovations! Not exactly for the hall of fame.

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  2. What a lovely overview of your life’s experiences, Frank. Birthdays have a way of compelling the kind of introspective contemplation we spend most of our lives avoiding! I think it’s great that you faced yours head-on; doing so is how we find narrative patterns in our life. I did a big essay for my fortieth birthday that I thought maybe two people would read, and it wound up being one of my most popular posts ever — it brought a ton of new readers to my blog! I guess it goes to show we all grapple with the complexities of these rites of passage.

    Like yourself, I too experienced a sudden transition to parochial school (at fourteen) that I examined anew after the recent death of my dean. Most of us — me and my classmates — ended up atheist/agnostic, too!

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  3. You went off to boarding school the year I was born! As before…some of those doubles – 22 in ’74 – I still don’t have that onenailed down. I find it funny that by birthday I couldn’t say, the year is required.


      1. For you. But for me? At 22 the same year? The mid 70s are the last time I was, shall we say, “cavalier” with my mind. A severe state of socio/economic and self identity rediscovery that is available now only in fleeting bursts. Which is probably a good thing.

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  4. A fascinating record of a busy and productive life Frank. A most enjoyable read.
    I can’t remember much about my double-digit birthdays, must make a note for mine 77th 2028.

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  5. Love the reflections of your double digit years. I have a few more years before I reach my 77. In my head, I could recall where I was at each of my previous years. For example the year I turned 66, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Surviving the chemo and cancer will be a year I’ll never forget. Thank you for sharing your years.

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  6. Thank you Hopeful and Chuck for your contributions. Chuck, I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis but glad you have come through the experience intact. I’m told by those I know who have undergone cheno that it is a very debilitating experience.


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