Celebrating my 60th birthday

Standing on the end of the Baba ridge on my 60th birthday © Sybille Yates

As many readers of my blog will already know, today Sunday 26th February 2012, I celebrated my 60th birthday. As I wrote in a previous post, just like Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in 2012, I am also celebrating my Diamond Jubilee.

Overall, I have quite positive feelings regarding reaching this landmark. As I wrote previously on this blog, in October 2011, I passed the age my father was when he died. Over the past year, I’ve shed around 10 kg in weight and feel fitter now than I have for a number of years. I can still keep wicket in a forty overs-a-side cricket match and just over half a year ago, I successfully climbed the highest mountain in the Czech Republic.

The one thing I have become aware of during the past year is how much greyer my hair has become. But whilst the hairline does continue to recede and the hair becomes increasingly thinner on top, I still have more hair than I can ever remember my father having.

I firmly believe that God has a great sense of humour. This was very clearly brought home to me when I sat down on Saturday 25th February, the day before my birthday, to say Morning Prayer. The Psalm set was Psalm 71. In particular, two verses brought a smile to my face as I read them. In verse 9, the Psalmist pleads,

‘Do not cast me away in the time of my old age;

Forsake me not when my strength fails.’

And further on in verse 18 he cries,

‘Forsake me not, O God, when I am old and grey-headed,

till I make known your deeds to the next generation and your power to all that are to come.’

The ‘old and grey-headed’ bit did somewhat ring true. But I also liked the challenge of the second half of the verse – my responsibility to make God’s deeds and power known to the next generation. It is a reminder to me that I still have at least a further five years of full time ministry ahead of me before I can consider retiring. And even when I am retired, so long as my health permits, I intend to apply for ‘Permission to officiate,’ to whichever Anglican bishop’s jurisdiction I am then living under.

So how did I celebrate my birthday today? Well, I had known for quite some time that my 60th birthday would fall on a Sunday – a working day. Of course, as all clergy have heard ad infinitum, it is the only day we work! But any proposed celebrations became much further curtailed when two days beforehand on her own birthday, Sybille went down with a hacking cough and cold.

Then this morning started off even more inauspiciously, when the first sound I heard as a woke up at around 06.45, was our elderly black and white cat Oscar, being sick somewhere. Fortunately, it was only on the floor of our bedroom and therefore fairly easy to clean up. A little while later, as Sybille awoke, I was greeted with ‘Alles Gute zum Geburtstag’. But not wanting to pass on her infection, Sybille decided that her best course of action was to stay home, rather than accompany me to Church.

However, it was at Church this morning that the highlight of my day occurred, not least because it caught me completely unawares. In the absence of our regular organist, Professor Michal Novenko, the organ was being played by Larry Leifeste, a Texan who moved to Prague with wife Celieta, in August last year and have both joined the St. Clement’s congregation. Since then, Larry has very happily deputised on the organ, whenever Michal has been ill or away.

I duly announced the first hymn from the back of Church as Hymn 190, ‘Forty days and forty nights’. But instead of striking up the tune ‘Auf der Tiefe’, to which the hymn, so appropriate for the First Sunday of Lent, is set, Larry instead started playing ‘Happy Birthday to you’. The congregation soon twigged, (several of them already knew it was my birthday), and they duly joined together and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me as I walked up the aisle.

Early this afternoon, after I got back to the Chaplaincy Flat, Sybille said she felt well enough to walk up the hill through woods behind the Podbaba complex, to Restaurace na Staré Fare where we ate a late Sunday lunch. By the time we had finished eating, there was sunshine and bright blue sky, in contrast to the mixture of rain and snow of the morning. So before returning home, we walked out to the end of the Baba ridge where there is a wonderful view across Prague and where my 60th birthday photo at the top of this post was taken.


20 comments to Celebrating my 60th birthday

  • Happy birthday! I have a full-proof answer for you – hair dye! It really works, though better if you manage to keep some hair as well – Paul turns the big 60 this year too, in fact together we turn 110 – which sounds so much more impressive!

    • Ricky

      Thank you for your birthday greetings Lis – I’m not bothered about going grey. In fact, I’m quite surprised that it hadn’t happened earlier. I’m more concerned about retaining as much hair as possible to keep my head warm in winter 🙂 Two years ago, our joint ages added up to exactly 100 which we thought was fun, especially as our respective birthdays are only two days apart.

  • I’m always lurking here…even if I don’t say much. Hope that’s OK!
    I will be coming to Prague for Easter though so hope to drop in to a service! I don’t really know the Anglican Easter traditions (I’m Catholic), so would appreciate a heads up as to what would be best to attend!

    • Ricky

      Ann – thank you for lurking 🙂 Of course it is OK! The Anglican Easter traditions are fairly similar to many Roman Catholic ones. If you put ‘Easter’ into the search facility on my blog you’ll find a couple of posts about our worship on my three previous Easters in Prague. I’ll drop you a private email with more details of services.

  • Happy birthday for yesterday, Ricky and to Sybille for Friday. 🙂 It sounds like you had a lovely day despite poor Sybille’s cold. I can just imagine Larry striking up ‘Happy Birthday to you’ in that way. I’m pleased to say that I recognised where your photo had been taken before reading the caption. 🙂

    • Ricky

      Thank you for your birthday greetings Perpetua – It would have been nicer yesterday if Sybille had been 100% healthy. Unfortunately, she’s still coughing and spluttering but hasn’t so far, passed it on to me! Yes – the view from the end of the Baba ridge is very memorable 🙂

  • Happy Birthday Ricky! Congratulations on passing the date of your father’s death (a milestone that mattered a lot to me too). You look hale and happy on your 60th. How lovely that you began you day in a such a dignified manner – thanks, Oscar.

    I an so excited that my friends Ann and Michael plan to come to St. Clements while they are in Prague in April! Michael, Ann’s sweetie,and Sher V. were my very first Prague blogging buddies. Now you will have met them all.

    • Ricky

      Karen – Thank you for the birthday congratulations & your kind remarks. Do I assume that ‘Ann’ of Ann and Michael’ that you mention is the same as ‘Annmucc’ who commented on this post earlier?

  • Hi Ricky (and hi Karen!)…yes – you can assume that ;). The decision for Easter was between visiting Karen in Turkey, or Prague…this time it will be Prague, and I hope we will drop by St Clements for one of the Easter services (Michael is not aware of the plan yet Karen ;)…I am sure you and I together can convince him!)
    You say that Easter is quite similar in Catholic and Anglican. Do I then assume that the Saturday night event is the main one? Where I come from (Malta) Easter is a big deal, and am not sure where the cultural and religious aspects begin and end 😉 Michael (the one Karen mentioned) had written about Easter in Malta here: http://blogging.gelle.dk/2009/04/30/easter-in-malta/

    • Ricky

      Ann – I thought I’d got my connections correct. Just wanted to check 🙂

      Some Anglican Churches do have what is known as an Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday/Easter Eve. We don’t, in part because we borrow the building where we worship. So our main service is on Easter Day at 11.00. Thanks for the link to Michael’s blog post about Easter in Malta. The various processions are very similar to what you get in Spain during Semana Santa/Holy Week with which I am more familiar.

  • “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head.” Proverbs 20:29

    “White hair is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.” Proverbs 16:31

    Happy birthday. I always wonder if mankind had not fallen and we were perfect, would our hair still turn grey to show age and wisdom? We now associate grey hair with old age but was it meant to be a sign of growing weakness or was it meant as a badge of honor achieved? I think if the world was perfect our hair would still turn white at a certain time to show maturity and wisdom. I like grey hair.

  • Hi Ricky, Happy Birthday from a regular reader of your blog! You make we want to come for a visit to Prague – and to your church, of course. We’ll see…’Forty days’ has the best bass line of any hymn (in my opinion) and I used to love singing it during my many years in church choirs. Pity it’s only once a year.

    I was in exactly your menu situation (previous blog) a few years ago in Spain. I offered to translate into actual English from Spanglish the most hilarious extended instructions for the use of various things in a hotel room in a small hotel. The owner was polite but disinterested despite my best attempts to convey to him that his instructions did not say what he thought they said!

    • Ricky

      Hi Peter – Thank you for the birthday wishes & do come to Prague & visit St. Clement’s. You would be most welcome!

      I think you are a relatively recent visitor to my blog or at least, one who has only started commenting fairly recently – something I very much appreciate I might add. If you put ‘Czenglish’ into the search facility on this blog, you will find many previous examples of what I am describing. And if you go here http://rickyyates.com/czenglish-%E2%80%93-an-explanation/ , you’ll see my explanation of why this happens and why I usually get a similar reaction to that which you experienced in Spain, even allowing for the fact that Spanish is spoken far more widely than Czech.

  • R. Doolittle

    Ricky; Congratulations on your 60th. I like the view behind you. I never visited that spot, but I recognize the features in the view, and they bring back fond memories.

    • Ricky

      Robert – Thank you! The view is from the Baba ridge which lies immediately behind where the Chaplaincy Flat is located in Podbaba, Prague 6. I wrote a whole post about it, including some more photos, which you can find here – http://rickyyates.com/baba-and-podbaba/ . I’m glad to be able to help bring back fond memories. I do hope that we see you & Elaine back in Prague again in the not too distant future.

  • I’m sorry that this comment is so belated….but Happy Birthday! I do hope your wife and your cat are both fully recovered by now ;-)and that your hair retains what remains of it’s youthful vigor!

    As I mentioned elsewhere, you are one year younger than my father who just turned 61 on Feb. 4th. His hair-line isn’t actually receeding….it’s just becoming sparse in the middle! Very Franciscan 🙂

    God Bless,

    • Ricky

      Hi Pearl – Thank you for the belated birthday greetings. Oscar the cat is fine – he is just occasionally sick & from time to time produces a hair ball. Wednesday 21st March was his fifteenth birthday so he too is now a ‘senior cat’ 🙂 And my wife has just about lost her cough.

      I do like your description of your father’s hairline – I think I shall start saying that mine is ‘very Franciscan’ too 🙂

  • Jess

    Hi Ricky, I have just started reading your blog and am enjoying it very much. I just thought i’d say happy birthday and say that I thought it would truly have been brilliant when the congregation broke into happy birthday for you. I always think it’s those moments that make us feel very special.