MY BIRTHDAY The day started as it was to go on – with lots of surprises! I was up at 7:15 to let Old Tom [the cleaner] in and he had a present for me, a pair of kid leather gloves. Then Brian gave me a card from him, Sue, Roo and Lou Lou [his wife and daughters] with £30 in it. Jim was next into the pub and gave me a pair of sox and a tie from him and Mo [his girlfriend]. But the best surprise of the morning came at 10:30. I was cleaning out the glass washer when the phone rang and it was Joe [my brother]. It was Sunday night in Fairlie¹ and he had rung up to say Happy Birthday! With Linda on the extension up in the kitchen we yarned for 20 minutes and that would have cost PGG a fortune! 

Linda gave me a couple of blank tapes and Billy Joel’s new album Storm Front². As well as a jersey that she has ordered from home.

The lunch session was pretty quiet and when the second mail arrived there was a card from Helen, Brian, Shayne, Linda, Kev and Leah [Linda’s family] as well as letters from Luc [a Canadian we had met in Australia] and Janice [my cousin]. 

When I went upstairs at 4 PM there was another surprise in store for me. Linda, Louie, Ang, and Mary-Anne [the other bar staff] with a huge cake, wine and more pressies. From Linda, a hip flask² with my initials engraved on it, and from Louie a card and a wooden pen. We ate the cake (which even had 27 candles on it) and drank the wine then Londas and I went upstairs to have a snooze.

27 years old, The Red Lion, Lambeth, London, England.

At 7:00 we went downstairs after showers for a drink in the bar then caught the tube over to Piccadilly Circus. We walked up to Leicester Square and asked around until we found Monmouth Street where Linda had booked a table for two at Mon Plaisir, a little French restaurant.

Mon Plaisir is still in operation, at the same place on Monmouth Street. It is now the oldest French restaurant in London. (Photo supplied)

We had a wonderful neal there – I had escargot and entrecote steak and Linda had king prawns and pigeon. We shared a bottle of 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon and finished with cheese, biscuits and cappuccino. It was a great evening and a wonderful atmosphere in the restaurant.

We made our way back to the pub and went upstairs… 

¹The country town on the South Island where he lived and worked as a stock buyer for the firm PGG.

² I still have that cassette and hip flask!

³ In those days, in England, the mail came twice daily during the week

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