27 07 02
Dear All
Well here I am, 50 and still standing. One major change, I can see properly out of both eyes, otherwise only the numbers have clicked over, I have noted no dramatic signs of maturation and can only assume that growing up is something that happens to other people.  I am however resisting the tendency to grow out.  The last few days have not helped in this endeavour, speaking of which I think that hi-jacking the 4th annual Hoolie-do as a Birthday Party made it the best Birthday I've ever had, or been at.  It would not have happened without the huge effort in cooking, organising and preparing of the Mothers, Aunts, Cousins and friends.  And it would have been no fun at all, without all the friends and relations who, with no regard of personal risk to life and liver, came and celebrated 50 years of whatever I'm supposed to have been doing all this time.
It nearly makes me very humble.
But enough about all of you, what have I been doing?  
It all started in the early hours of Friday morning, when Fiona and I were fast asleep. The cat jumped onto the bed and we all slept on to a decent hour, something like 10.  Soon, after a sustaining meal of cornflakes and cat food (that was what the cat had) Fiona and I motored south in fair weather, high spirits, light clothing and a green Subaru.
Resting overnight in Lytham St. Annes, I painted some window frames and drank too much whisky, as you do, (well as I did), and talked into the wee hours with Fiona's parents.  On Sunday, we drove over the Pennines to Sheffield for a business meeting and then back over to Manchester for Laser Surgery on my right eye on Monday morning.  That took a couple of hours, mostly waiting.  The actual procedure takes ten minutes to set up and two to do.  I found it painless enough and Fiona watched the whole business on a TV.  She had been through the process three weeks before, having both eyes done, and was curious as to what it looked like from the outside.
Then it was on to Dingle Road, Fiona driving, where we started eating and drinking, visiting and occasionally fixing things. It's difficult to tell exactly when the party started but it might have been Friday night.  By Saturday Lunchtime it was in full swing with balloons, at 8.10pm a bunch of girls emerged straight out of the 50's with gifts and cakes, startling and invigorating many of the older participants.  The party ran to about 4pm on Sunday, at which point I demonstrated the new garden sprinkling system.  My apologies, I hadn't expected the water pressure to be that high.
Despite issuing releases and let-out clauses I have been presented with many birthday gifts of different shapes, sizes and degrees of fluidity.  Apart from several bottles of jollification there were gifts of gold, crystal, corner-cupboard, and paper, a 4x4 the size of a toad, a toad the size of a camera, and a camera the size of your thumb.  During the celebrations and general partying there were music, singing, appalling jokes and tall stories.  Several people were drawn into unconventional (some would say borderline) conversations of my own favourite philosophies and I think some listeners worried that there might be others like me in the woodwork.  (To those I say; don't fret, you only get that effect after too much drink and being unused to exposure to bright sunlight.) In fact it all went so well that we intend to do it again on Saturday 28th June 2003 (when I shall still be 50) and use that as an excuse for a 5th Hoolie do.  That should give anybody holidaying abroad a better chance of getting in on the action.  It will be a one-day event, to prevent excessive wear and tear to the elderly. (No names no pack-drill.)
On returning to Sunny Tarbrax on the Tuesday we discovered that it had rained a bit and several roads were rather deeper under water than usual.  Unfortunately some weak minded child had had a little fun puncturing the tyres on the Discovery while we were away, so I was unable to go puddle jumping and pulling people out of the deeper bits.  What's this, you cry, Jim passing on bad news and feelings of negativity?  Well no, you see I had ordered the new tyres before we left, because all four already needed replacing, the supplier was so concerned at this bit of vandalism that he gave me the trade price and I saved £50.  All I had to do was borrow an electric pump for a day, which made the lender feel good, and I had a good story for two hours off work and a good blether (Scottish gossip) with the customers and staff of the tyre fitters.  I even snagged some free sandwiches on the way out of the Hospital!  I appreciate that some people would feel this was excessively good luck all round, and that my come-uppance is just round the corner.  I just smirk.  Sickening isn't it?  
In the meantime the rain has stopped, and just now the sun came out, some of the midges seem to have been drowned.  However, a dilemma is causing me to lose sleep.  You can't strim wet grass, I must do a bit of strimming or the grass stays wet.  The wetter the cats get, the more affectionate they become, and four pounds (about 2 kilos) of wet cat yelling "Get a towel now, you idiot, I'm all wet." whilst standing on your chest at four in the morning, puts a bit of a challenge to the deserved lie-in.  I think I'll sprinkle catnip on the grass, then all the neighbourhood cats will roll it flat.
Preparations are well under way for the visit to Bill and family in Australia during November, passports, cork be-dangled hats, sheep spotting manuals and the like.  I haven't the faintest clue as to what it will actually be like, and refuse to watch Neighbours or Cell block H to find out.  I have gleaned from others braver than I that the walls are made of cardboard, crocodiles make poor house pets, and that Darleen has been seen out with Bruce.  However, I think I might need more, so we are reading up on the area, including a book by Bill Bryson. I don't know if the mobile phone will work there, so I'll see if I can find out on the Internet how to make a Bull Roarer.
Home projects before Australia.  I hope to get a concrete base down for a proper garage and a workshed, then it's just a matter of finding a little cash for the actual structure.  Another project is another conservatory on the opposite side of house, to catch the evening sun.  Again it's going to cost a bit, so I'm hoping for a fortuitous supply of cheap windows. It worked last time.  
The sun is well up now and the grass is drying out, so I'd better get this finished and off, and do a bit of strimming.  See y'all