I don’t usually do much for my birthday but this year I decided to push the boat out…
Back at the start of January when I’d been feeling a bit down in the dumps I planned a couple of musical gatherings at my house and Yim Soon had suggested that one of them be close to my birthday. The guest list began quite small but grew to the point where I wasn’t sure we’d have enough places for people to sit. And in the couple of hours before everyone arrived I was hastily assembling some IKEA stools that we’d bought years ago. I’d also received a few days beforehand an e-mail from Haesook, a lovely Korean woman I’d worked with at L’Arche, and who I hadn’t seen since I left two years ago. She had subsequently gone to L’Arche in Brisbane (where, she informed me, L’Arche shares an office with the Irish Chaplaincy in Australia!). Haesook was going to be in Canterbury for a few days and wondered if we could meet up. By happy coincidence it what when I was having my gathering, and she was able to come. It was great to see her again, and I was incredibly touched when she told me she had read every single one of my blogs since they started, so that when I began to tell her I’d just organized a concert in London she said “yes, I know, I read the blog”!
The guests were people I’d got to know through my 31 years in Canterbury: some at l’Arche; some through the children; others at church; some a combination of these. It was a wonderfully international group (Korean, French, German, British, Anglo-Irish), and Yim Soon had prepared a sumptuous Korean meal (I’d offered to help but she wouldn’t let me in the kitchen! And anyway, I was busy with my IKEA stools). We ate, we drank, and then we sang. I kicked it off with a couple of easy singalongs, then there was a request from my four year old godson Carlos for ‘Jubilee Blues’. It’s a song I wrote for a CD ‘The Jubilee Sessions’ which was recorded in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of L’Arche in France and the 40 years since L’Arche began in the UK, in Kent. It turned out that Carlos had been listening to the CD in the car on the way over (as he often does, apparently: I think he’s my number one fan!). I was very touched by that and gladly sang the song: and if you want to have a listen as well, click here: Jubilee Blues
Other musicians offered songs, and there was a range of instruments on offer so that everyone could join in. It was a great evening, much enjoyed by all, and I was glad I’d decided this year to do something for my birthday. Only time will tell what lies in store for my 55th year but it’s off to a good and hopeful and musical start.
PS The title of this blog is inspired in part by a comment made almost 20 years ago by a friend of mine Christopher John. Chris, a New Zealander, is a member and currently Minister General of SSF, the Society of St Francis, a worldwide Anglican Franciscan congregation. He founded an SSF community in Korea which is where I met him when spending a year in the country with my family from 1999-2000. I was teaching a couple of classes at the Anglican University in Seoul and Chris was also part of the English Department there, and one of our jobs was to organize in the summer an ‘English camp’ for some of the students over at the beautiful East Sea. We didn’t manage to get the students to speak a lot of English but we had a great time with them, at the beach and in the karaoke bar. And it was on the way to the karaoke bar one evening that Chris uttered words that stayed with me: “well, you’re only 44 once”!