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Date: 01/07/13

A Good Afternoon

I'm aware that very few occasions of unalloyed joy are allowed into this 'ere site; at least from my own life. So, to go some way to redressing this, let me tell you about yesterday afternoon.

You see, this 30 June marked a significant birthday for my dear friend of thirty-odd years, Alex (who blogs here...and here...and one or five other places as well). I won't say which significant birthday, although clues may be coming up later if you're sharp enough.

As Alex is not a party animal in the normally-accepted meaning of the term (almost totally 'tee' and allergic to chocolate, poor boy!), the private family celebration on Saturday night was augmented by a little buffet-cum-barbecue (*) at his parents' house on Sunday afternoon, to which a small number of select friends had been invited in addition to the family.

So I duly walked the two miles over the ridge to Brynteg at lunchtime to a house I had last visited some twenty years before. When I arrived, I found the Birthday Boy and his friend Rodney getting the barbecue blaze going. Having handed over my present (a pair of home-burned DVDs of the TV show which brought us together in the first place - read on...), I went into the house where Alex's parents were finishing the preparations. There they were: Kevin, a son of ould County Mayo, still twinkling nicely at the start of his eighty-third year; and Blodwen, a Dyffryn Nantlle girl; both of them giving the same warm and generous welcome they have shown me since I first knew them.

Then it was back out onto the patio to make small-talk until the rest of the family arrived. They duly did (running - as you would expect with their inheritance - to Celtic Standard Time; that is, a bit after when you think, but not so far after as to cause concern); there was Alex's youngest sister Julie with her family, and then a few minutes later next-youngest Bernie and her family, who had travelled up from Somerset for the weekend. I hadn't seen the girls for at least twenty-five years, but the mutual recognition and affection was all that it could have been.

With the barbecue blaze now going nicely, Julie's husband Graham and son Sam officiated at the burnt offering. I jest, of course; everything was nicely and properly done. So, with good food and good company, we sat for a good couple of hours talking and laughing.

Then - as Bernie had to head off back south - it was all inside for the cutting of the cake. This, as anyone who knows Alex would have guessed in advance, had a Star Trek theme. But first, for reasons I've already adverted to, it was necessary to extricate the chocolate figure of Worf from the enterprise (as 'twere). This didn't go quite to plan, and I can't seriously imagine that the warrior's cry might change to "Today is a good day to have your legs fall off and land in the icing!".

We toasted the guest of honour; all of us, I'm sure, having in our minds one significant 'absent friend', Bernie's twin brother Seán, who passed from all harm some two and half years ago (a tragedy to which I referred in glancing terms here at the time). But this time we were altogether in one place for the happiest of reasons.

And then, all too soon, it was time for goodbyes as the family went its separate ways for the time being, but all united however distant in space. Blodwen gave me the same parting admonition - "Don't be a stranger, now!" - which she has given me down all the years, Julie and her husband gave me a lift home and I arrived back a little after four, greatly refreshed at having spent a little time in the company of people whom the world would be a better place for having more like...

(Does that make sense? The grammar of it would defeat a German philologist. Perhaps it works in Klingon)

I had already sent Alex my little greeting on Saturday night, just in case he was Away From Keyboard on Sunday morning. I've uploaded it to B3ta now, so that others can enjoy it.

The signifcance of this is that, although I was acquainted with Alex back in the old Yale Sixth Form College, we struck up an actual friendship by discovering that we had a mutual interest in a certain TV manga series. Or, as we were to discover years later, a mangled manga series. Battle Of The Planets was a bastardisation of the pioneering Japanese anime series Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman. This was sanitised for the US market because Americans, as we know, cannot bear too much reality. It was many years - and the coming of Teh Interwebs - before I realised all this, and found it frustrating that the original Gatchaman had been released on DVD...but only with English subtitles if you buy the Region 1 (i.e., US) 'product' and ultimately end up crippling your DVD player thereby.

Some kind souls, a few years ago now, ripped the first thirty episodes in a more widely useable format and posted them online. They were going to do the remaining seventy-odd as well, but various forms of that crippling deformity known as 'real life' seem to have intervened to prevent this. But I downloaded what they had so kindly provided, and it was copies of these which I was so glad to present to my friend yesterday.

(Cloaca). ()

So, that was a most agreeable and life-affirming Sunday afternoon. My warmest wishes to my old (sorry!) friend and his remarkable family; and my gratitude for having been a member of its extended version for so long.

Sometimes in this life are beautiful...

Update: Some photos from both the family 'do' and the barbecue are now on one of Alex's numerous blogs.

(* I just know that that is going to feature in some pretty bizarre Google searches any time now).

(† The 'in'-est of 'in' jokes. You'll never know...).