There’s no getting away from it, I’m 70 years old today, and while I know it’s only a number, and that you are only as old as you feel, which some days is 50, and other days is 90, still and all, 70 seems quite significant. When Psalm 90 says that our normal span of years is 70, and 80 for those who are strong, I take comfort in the knowledge that, while this is written in Holy Scripture, it was written in a different time, and that perhaps in our time, 80 is the new 70, and 90 is the new 80 – just ask Father Justinian!
Tonight, I will go out for a meal with my brother and his wife, and my two nieces. Of those, my brother and his wife will be 50 years married in August; my youngest niece just turned 40 recently; and my other niece’s daughter will be 21 next Thursday, so there will be plenty of significant landmarks to celebrate, and lots to catch up on. Of course, my older brother and myself, if left to it, would probably want to talk football most of the night, but none of the three ladies has been known to be stuck for words, so I think that, apart from family matters, and given the interests and occupations of those involved; politics; education and the NHS will feature heavily in the conversation. It’s a long time since we actually had a family meal out together in a restaurant. Usually, we gather in one of the niece’s houses to celebrate our family occasions but, as there is usually a fair amount of chaos with grandchildren present, someone has decided this time that it would be good to have a better chance to chat, and so, my niece’s husbands have kindly undertaken to mind the bairns and leave it to us.
Having not been near a restaurant for a long time, certainly since lockdown began, I will now be going out two nights in a row as, tomorrow night, our Passionist community foursome in Bishopbriggs will head out to a local restaurant and have a meal together, so I am looking forward to that as well. Usually, on a Friday night, we make sure we are all there anyway, and have fish and chips together, or else we bring in Chinese or Indian food, but, given the occasion, we thought it would be nice to go out, especially as we weren’t able to do it for Fr. Justinian’s 90th as the restaurants hadn’t opened up yet, so it will be a double celebration.
I’m not really one who likes going out to restaurants too often, I prefer it to feel like a special occasion, and so, every now and again suits me better, and when I do go out, I really enjoy it. Growing up in Partick in the 50’s and 60’s of course, restaurants were only for people who could afford it, and the nearest we ever got was when, on a rare occasion, our mother would take us to the University Café on Byres Road for a high fish tea, which essentially was fish and chips, with bread and butter and a cup of tea. We thought this was fantastic, and, when I think back on it, it was fantastic. On my occasional jaunts to Partick, I notice with nostalgia that the University Café is still there, but whether they still do high fish teas or not, I’m not so sure. However, they also used to sell lovely ice-cream, and I’m sure they still do that.
My first encounter with a proper restaurant was probably in my late teens and early twenties. I had started going with my parish, which was then St. Laurence’s in Drumchapel, to retreats down at Coodham, the Passionist Retreat Centre in Ayrshire. I made friends on those retreats that I still have to this day, and it became part of our routine that, when we got off the bus on a Sunday night on our way back from the retreat, we would head across the road to Dino’s on Buchanan Street, now sadly no longer there, and have a big plate of Spaghetti Bolognese. Any pretence we had of being sophisticated restaurant patrons was probably scuppered by the fact that, each and every one of us, to the horror of the Italian waiters, would smother our Spaghetti Bolognese in tomato sauce. I would never do that now but, and don’t tell him I told you, on Tuesday nights in Bishopbriggs we usually order in pizzas, and Father Gareth loves to smother his pizza in tomato sauce, regardless of what the toppings are. What a man! So, as always, protect yourselves, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.