It’s the only time I ever have decided to have a party for myself. I was looking forward to being 40. The 30s had been good and I was very happy, with lots of friends and a social life (gosh). I planned it all and invited lots of people and it was all very jolly. Weeza was working in Greece at the time and I spent half the evening on the phone trying to get through to her.
I decided on a present for the Sage to give me this time. He had made me a wonderful oak box, a scale model of a 17th century coffer, which sits on the mantlepiece Even Now. It’s all pegged together and the panels slot in and the only nails are ones he made for the hinges, also hand-made by him. To age the oak, he got hold of some pure ammonia (not self-made) and – this needed great care because of the fumes – the oak was put in a tin with the ammonia and it darkened it naturally. It was such a labour of love. I asked him, this time, to make me a music stand, having recently started to learn to play the clarinet. It’s made of walnut with a brass adjustable rod which, of course, he’d devised himself. Before taking up the auctioneering trade, he was an engineer and still has his lathe and stuff.
My clarinet, by the way, was my grandfather’s and is a Boosey and Hawkes Regent, made in the early 1950s, and so about as old as I am.