I had been dreading July 15 2022 for quite a few years. And then it came. On Friday. I turned 60. Why was I dreading it? After all, we’re told that 60 is the new 40. If only…
Part of me was intending to just ignore it. Treat it as just another day, no party, no celebration, nothing. Nada.
Turning 50 meant nothing to me. Or 40. Or 30. But 60, well, that’s old isn’t it? Most of our parents generation would have retired in their sixties. I feel as though I’m mid career, not at the end of it, but turning 60 means you have to confront reality.
Anyway, a few months ago various friends persuaded me that I couldn’t let it go unmarked, so let me take you through my day on Friday.
I got up, as usual on a Friday, at 5.10am, to go on Good Morning Britain with Jacqui Smith, Ben Shephard and Charlotte Hawkins. I did think they might wish me a happy birthday but I wasn’t expecting them to present me with a cake, a bottle of champagne and a West Ham shirt with DALE 60 on the back! And nor was I expecting the happy birthday video from West Ham legend Tony Cottee! It was quite overwhelming, but I didn’t cry, which was a surprise to everyone!
From GMB it was on to Channel 5 and the Jeremy Vine show. They too had a surprise present, which I undid live on air. It was another West Ham shirt, but it was last season’s and the wrong size. Awkward! But it’s the thought that counts.
After that I went for breakfast with my friend Richard at Dishoom in Covent Garden. I’ve never had sausage and egg on Naan bread but boy was it tasty!
And from there it was on to The Hippodrome where I hosted a lunchtime drinks and canapes party. The weather was fantastic and it was a truly lovely event. I even managed to speak to everyone! There were no speeches, just good old fashioned conversation, good food and drinks. It was a fairly eclectic mix of guests, who included some MPs, LBC colleagues and other media people. There was a lovely atmosphere and it all went by far too quickly.
At 3pm 10 of us adjourned to the Clermont Hotel by Charing Cross Station for a wonderful afternoon tea. After that it was off to the Abba Voyage venue next to the Olympic Stadium.
Our party was made up of Jacqui Smith, Ayesha Hazarika, David Canzini, Brandon and Justine Lewis and Gyles and Michele Brandreth. Oh and me. My partner John and our best friend Dan Bryce dropped out when it turned out I had bought two fewer tickets than I thought I had. Neither of them especially like Abba anyway! They drove us there and went for dinner at Westfield.
The concert itself was amazing. At no point did you think they weren’t real. Gyles kept asking: “How do they do that?” “Search me,” I replied. At the end, when they came on as themselves I momentarily thought it was really them and shed a tear of two. Of course, it wasn’t them, but it felt like it was. The performances were not just real, but so well choreographed. The interplay between Agnetha and Frida in “I Still Have Faith in You” was a joy to see. I know this all sounds weird given they were avatars, but it just didn’t feel like that.
I’ve still got three more birthday events – a dinner for Norfolk friends at the end of the month, one in mid August in Saffron Walden for family and friends in Essex, and then in North Devon in September with the Devon branch of the Dale family.
To be honest, I never expected to actually enjoy Friday, but I really did!