Letters from Thailand

{October 11, 2007}   They Don’t Make Birthdays Like This Anymore


I just joined a Facebook group called ‘You Know You’re From Devon When…” which mentioned Gus Honeybun, the rabbit, who should be familar to everyone born in the 70s and 80s who lived in the South West. It was a 5-minute show at tea-time where the presenter (the legendary Ian Stirling is pictured here) would read out birthday cards to the lucky select few, and Gus would do bunny-hops (one for each year) wink (ditto) or if you were REALLY lucky, press the magic button which changed the colours of the scenery (if you were REALLY, REALLY lucky, it would be the RAINBOW button!) Even the most boisterous kids parties came to a standstill at this time, when parcels having been passed and gallons of fizzy pop (orange or lemon?) consumed, everyone would sit, with baited breath around the TV to see if their host was one of the chosen ones.

Obviously, there was a limited amount of time, so not every card could be read. I think I managed to tally up two birthdays altogether, no magic button though, just bunny-hops for me, most disappointing. And, of course, there was an unwritten etiquette on how to behave, especially if you weren’t one of the lucky ones. In this case, any reaction at all would be regarded with utter disdain by your peers. In fact, I remember attending a classmate’s birthday party one year and the birthday girl broke down in tears and had a tantrum that the wondrous anniversary of her birth had not been read out on live TV (can’t remember her name, but the look of her face creasing is imprinted on my memory, in minute detail). The rest of us sniggered silently, rolled eyes at one another and ignored her for nearly the whole year. We started to speak to her again in the run up to her next birthday, ensuring (we hoped) an invitation to a repeat performance of brattishness. Not a chance. Her parents decided it would be much better to take her, and a couple of her less bitchy friends, to the cinema instead. Things changed when you reached the age of 12 or 13 (the upper age limit, if I remember correctly), your family sent in a card, and your name was read out. That was enough to ensure that you endured the worst teenage years EVER. No one ever forgot that. I still bear the scars!



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