3 June 2012 – Penelope’s Sixty Sensational Celebratory Surprises

As I hinted last week, we’ve been busier than a one-armed wall paper hanger preparing ourselves for Penelope’s Sixty Sensational Celebratory Surprises which culminated in a grand surprise birthday party last Saturday. This had been literally days in the preparation yet in spite of the general perception that Greg was probably incapable of organising the proverbial piss-up in a brewery, the day and evening actually went off reasonably well. Most importantly, Ms Playchute appears to have been genuinely surprised by the collection of friends, family and acquaintances who gathered in our back garden to greet her.

60 Glorious Years

The first surprise amongst Penelope’s Sixty Sensational Celebratory Surprises actually occurred a week ago last Thursday with the arrival of Ben from the States. I had told Ms Playchute that I had a meeting in Oxford and set off to Heathrow to collect him. When we arrived home Pen was on her knees scraping the weeds out of the cracks in the patio dressed, of course, in her “best” gardening clothes. She was suitably surprised and indeed shocked by his arrival and was, not surprisingly, delighted to see him.

Then, on Saturday we presented her with the second of her Sixty Sensational Celebratory Surprises – a “voucher” for a Hot Stone Massage which as well as being a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable experience also had the important subsidiary effect of ensuring that Penelope was away from home for a few hours. This gave our various co-conspirators the opportunity of gathering food and drink from various secret storage locations throughout the village and making preparations for the grand festivities in the evening.

The voucher also included the important further distracting information that Penelope was to join Ben, Nick & Lucy and Annabelle and me for a birthday dinner at the Inn at Farnborough immediately following her return. This was merely a clever ruse which was intended to compel her to change into her “going out to dinner” clothes at the conclusion of her hot stone massage so that she would be dressed and ready to go when she arrived home.

In fact, of course, when she arrived home she was greeted by a collection of friends and family who took great delight in the stunned expression on her face. Various friends and family prepared a multitude of salads and desserts and I expertly incinerated asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and Borsin, Sandy’s salmon with pesto, a multiplicity of lamb burgers and an assortment of chicken pieces marinated in a delicious maple syrup barbeque sauce, not to mention a collection of vegetable kebabs – an absolute feast!

As well as the various burnt offerings, I had also prepared an audio-visual presentation of photographs of Ms Playchute through the ages. Her mother provided a collection of suitably embarrassing photographs and I added a selection from our albums which, together, run the range from Penelope at a few months old to Penelope and me about two weeks ago. If you are suitably curious you can watch it yourself below.


And, if that wasn’t enough, you can endure a similarly tedious collection of the least bad photos from the evening. You’ll find a slideshow below and the photos themselves, if you are particularly keen to see a larger version, you will find here. Thanks to Ellen Walton who provided photography services for the evening.


Guess who had more birthday cards than just about anyone I know? So many they don’t all fit on the one surface!

Penelope's 60 Sensational Birthday Cards

And just in case you imagined that we had forgotten about someone else celebrating 60 years of something or other this weekend, you will be relieved to know that our village and just about every village between here and Botswana is bedecked with miles of bunting and acres of Union flags. The Guardian had an article with the intriguing headline: Diamond jubilee weekend: what’s on where – plus how to avoid it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t nearly enough advice, in my view, on how to avoid it. Still, those who work get an extra day off on Tuesday so I suspect most people are at least delighted to have a four-day weekend whether they are Royalists or Republicans. The BBC has a short video of the Queen over 60 years – a photo for each year of her reign from 1952 to 2012. You can watch it here to see how Her Majesty went from photo A (1952) to Photo B (2012) in one minute and nineteen seconds.

The Queen - 1952 The Queen 2012

If we were looking for celestial signs of approval, it is interesting to note that the weather for Penelope’s Sixty Sensational Celebratory Surprises was glorious and sunny; this weekend the weather for the jubilee is grey, damp and cold. Enough said.

Love to you all,



One thought on “3 June 2012 – Penelope’s Sixty Sensational Celebratory Surprises”

  1. Dear Penny,
    What a spectacular 60th Sensational Surprise Birthday party!!! Greg’s Blog and the pictures, both still and slide show of you growing up and you and so many loving friends at the party, was a delight for a cousin to see. I am so sorry I did not know of your big six-0 coming up. I would have at least sent a congratulatory Email. As it is, I now send you a congratulations on 60 years of life, and particularly on (?) years of a loving marriage and a wonderful grown family. (Of course Greg had something to do with both). The Stragnell family certainly know how to throw wonderful parties. Much love to you, Penny!! Bunny

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