Happy birthday Claire – woman in two centuries

I’VE been away.

Only for two days – in Townsville.

I decided it was time I took a holiday; and why would you go anywhere else?

I’m glad I did it. When you live in the suburbs it’s too easy to forget there’s a city centre just over there, smack-dab against the ocean, with beaches, grass, fountains …

Somehow there’s never any time to go there; sometimes it seems easier to fly to Brisbane than to drive to Flinders Mall (but why would you?).

I’d forgotten about the raucous shrieking of lorikeets in the trees at dusk. Flinders Mall might be losing people, but it’s never going to be short of lorikeets. I’d forgotten about the Strand, and the fabulous children’s water playground, which should be compulsory in every city and town in Australia.

I forgot about Palmer Street, where the only thing you can’t eat are the customers. I even forgot about Castle Hill – and you can see that from anywhere!

It was like meeting old friends, particularly Palmer Street, where I had lunch with Claire Langbridge on her 81st birthday.

I’d never met her before, but I’m glad I have now.

Claire was born in Liverpool, England, in 1927; two months before the first television set was built. There was no Velcro in 1927. Plastic bags wouldn’t surface for another 23 years. The Wright brothers were still arguing about ownership of the patent for their ingenious flying machine. Washing machines were unknown and a microchip was a very small sliver of fried potato.

I don’t know if she ever got sick, but Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin the year after she was born. The aerosol spray can, parking meters, the board game, Monopoly, and bubble gum are all younger than Claire.

She migrated to Australia when she was 21 to marry the man she loved. She raised three children, embarked on a successful career in real estate (from which she retired last year); she became a widow, married again and is busy now improving her golf drive.

Claire is the new generation of 50 year old 80-year-olds.

Alert, eager, planning the future, matching me glass for glass in birthday champagne, she’s redefining the definition of old.

Old is a place you go when you choose to, and not before.

Old is anyone 15 years older than you.

Old is not Claire Langbridge, who is merely 81.

With her daughter Vivien Evans, her son-in-law Alan, two close friends and Townsville Bulletin columnists Mary Vernon and Malcolm Weatherup (the Bullie’s own sweet little M&Ms) we talked for three and a half hours over a fabulous Sirocco lunch (thanks for the service, Liam!). We covered politics, religion, youth … Malcolm and Alan tried to have a fight over cyclists but their hearts weren’t in it.

We even talked about old people, even though there weren’t any in sight.

We toasted a young lady whose life has spanned two hemispheres, two centuries and a billion experiences, and who – much more than the lorikeets, the Strand and the children’s water park – made me realise yet again that it’s bloody good to be alive!
Happy birthday Claire, and thank you … x.