It has been a good 80 years
With, what seems to me perfect timing, I have twice this week heard Louis Armstrong singing that evocative song "What a wonderful world"
Nothing could more aptly express my feelings at this moment
"I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world"
and it is you my friends that have made it so.
My neighbours -my colleagues in the Liberal Democrats- above all - my family
I am often asked if it is't about time I downsized and got rid of this house which is far too big for me.
But I love this house. Brenda and I must have been shown round more than 50 houses when we moved down here from Yorkshire. but this was the only one that satisfied her.
I have lived here now for more than half my life. It has seen many good times and indeed continues to see them.
But it is not the bricks and mortar but the quality of the community that envelopes us.
I cannot recall ever having a bad word or even a bad thought about any of my neighbors. Many of them have lived here for as long as I have.
I am particularly pleased that another generation of the Beckwith's are living next to me and would particularly like to welcome Peter here today. Ruth - Peter's wife - and Brenda were good pals. Those who were here at the time of the Queens Silver Jubilee are not likely to forget that event.
Brenda and Ruth decided that what this community needed was a street party to celebrate the day. As I remember it there was not the wildest enthusiasm at first but after Ruth and Brenda worked on them they stirred up a volcano of fervour. They got the police to ban motors from the street. They collected old sheets and dyed them red, white and blue and made bunting from them. They organised the food, celebration mugs, entertainment for children and adults. and with considerable foresight arranged for the use of the school in case it rained - and it did.
Well Peter - I expect they are both up there somewhere organizing the pants off someone who believed heaven was a place for rest and relaxation.
And there is dear Rita and Peter Moore. Rita says she looks across at my house every morning when she goes off to work to see if there is some sign of activity. Between her and the milkman they should ensure that I don't moulder away for too long before I am discovered.
And of course there are too many others to mention - but you all make a significant contribution to my well being.
So, I am afraid my neighbours, you are going to have to put up with me for a while longer.
My Liberal Democrat colleagues.
Little did I realise what I was letting myself in for when somewhere around 1980 I signed up with them. I thought I would just pay my subscriptions every year - smile benignly upon their progress - probably even vote for them.
But my work for them has given me an aim in life that I would greatly miss and those who were colleagues are now my friends.
I was talking the other day to Bruce Routledge - our revered Treasurer. We were discussing a campaign to increase our membership. We decided on a new motto. "We may not be that good at getting our candidates elected - but we have an awful lot of fun trying"
And finally my family.
I suppose the one dark cloud in my 80 years was Brenda's early illness and eventual death. Sad because she was unable to see the full fruition of her devotion to the welfare of her family. Sad because she was not able to share the peace and contentment that retirement and innumerable friendships have been granted to me.
I am blessed with three daughters. I am immensely proud of each one of them. Each has developed a family life that is comfortable, caring interesting and yet very different from the others - yet in each case I am made to feel contented and welcome in their company. And unlike many families they get on so well together.
They have married good men and each has brought in-law relationships that have enriched my life.
There is however one thing I have to say to my sons-in-law. Don't you think it is time you injected a bit more urgency into your plans for looking after me in my dotage?
The best offers I have received so far are;
From Steven and Lesley - he will tidy out his garage
From steve and Jill - well he was going to tow a small boat behind his barge. But now having sold the barge I see nothing forthcoming.
And from Curt and Ali - I can doss down in their veranda and they will even provide me with a hot-water bottle to protect me against the alpine nights. I have to say though that I would also need a chair lift up to their front door before I could contemplate that offer.
So gentlemen I would like to see a bit more movement in that direction please. I certainly cannot contemplate living in an old peoples home, watching day time television in the common room and having nothing to do but complain about the matron and the food.
Well my friends I would like to propose a toast - in fact if you can endure it I would like to propose three. So make sure your glasses are well charged. My wine waiters will pass amongst you and replenish your glasses without spilling too much in your lap.
My first toast is to Brenda and Ruth. I hope they are looking down benignly on this gathering. By the law of averages it will not be too long before Peter and I join you. But I have to say that we are in no hurry.
To Brenda and Ruth!
My second toast is to my newest granddaughter Edie May. Nothing could have been a more wonderful 80th birthday gift than her safe arrival.
And again I am reminded of the words from "what a wonderful world"
"I see babies crying. I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world"
To Edie May!
My friends. I think you are the salt of the earth. And I want to propose a toast to each and everyone of you. May our comfortable life style and friendship long continue. Yet may we also continue to bear in mind and to work for those who are perhaps less advantaged than us.
To us all!
Richard Antony Bonner with Edie May
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