Column: Countdown to a landmark birthday

The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster
The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster

The first week in April used to be a very expensive time for me.

Within four days I would need to get cards and presents to celebrate the birthdays of my mother, brother, uncle, aunty, two friends and my wife!

The 3rd to the 6th of April needed much forward planning and careful budgeting. It did mean there was no risk of forgetting any of them, however, some years they would also coincide with Holy Week and thus it made a busy time even busier.

This year, in late August, I turn 50 and while it is not polite to mention a lady’s age, my wife was born in the same year as me.

We both don’t understand how we can be so old. Talking to her parents and my father they don’t understand this either, for if their children are now 50 then by implication they are significantly older than they feel.

It was not perhaps my most generous moment when I pointed out to my wife that we were now further from her birth now, than the end of the First World war was from the milestone day when she was born.

The old physical milestones can still be found on some roadsides around Lancashire. They normally show three things.

The first is to tell you where you are, the other two pieces of information place you in relation to two neighbouring towns.

Ones around Lancaster are unusual as they often contain fractions.

There is rather an interesting one in Bolton-le-Sands, north of Lancaster, that tells you Burton is 6½ miles away and Lancaster 4 miles.

Nothing on the stone tells you about the locations, nor the nature of the road. It simply informs of where you are, where you could go and how far it is!

Thankfully milestone birthday cards tell you only two of these facts: how far you have travelled in life and where you are now.

We do not know the hour or date of our final destination and it would not make for a much of a celebratory card if it were to show a ‘countdown’ to that day as well!

In the Bible, in the Old Testament, Samuel puts up a stone between two places to mark that God had helped them so far. (It was called Ebenezer-stone of help.)

It acted as a reminder of all that had happened and was also an encouragement for the future and the challenges that lay ahead.

In itself of little importance but what it spoke about both past events and assurance of provision for the future made it a true monument and marker.

Now, where can I find a fire extinguisher for those 50 candles?