Saturday, 22 July 2017

Happy Birthday, Grandma! By Emily Owen

Today, maybe even as you read this, I will be at a tenpin bowling party.
At the beginning of this year, there began to be talk in my family: ‘What shall we do for Grandma’s 90th birthday in July?’  Eventually we decided to ask her and I was duly deputed to do so. One day in April, after having lunch with my Grandma, I broached the question: “What would you like to do for your birthday, Grandma?  We could book a weekend away, or go out for a meal, or…”

My flow of ideas (such as it was) was interrupted.

“Nothing. I don’t want to do anything for my birthday.  I might not be alive by then anyway.”

Stumped, I chickened out and suggested we turn our attention to the crossword.

A month or so later I mentioned ‘the birthday’ again and, this time, Grandma was a bit more forthcoming: “I don’t want gifts and, whatever we do, the only thing I want is for my family to all be there.”

Once more, I reported this back to the family and we all co-ordinated diaries to be free on 22nd July.

We discussed what to do on the day and it came down to two alternatives:

1 (me): Take Grandma out somewhere nice for lunch.

2 (everyone else): Have a tenpin bowling party.

I put these ideas to Grandma in reverse order – I didn’t want to seem to prioritise my own – and determinedly refused to let my doubts about the tenpin bowling idea show.  I was quietly confident she’d prefer my idea anyway.  Anyone I’d told about the bowling possibility had basically said, “bowling? For a 90th birthday?  Are you mad?”

In the event, I didn’t even get to mention my lunch idea.  As soon as I mentioned the bowling, Grandma’s face lit up: “Oh yes, that’s what I’d like to do!”

So that’s what we’ll do; maybe even are doing. All 15 of us, aged between 1 and 90. And we’ll be having a great time, I know.

But you’d be forgiven for wondering why on earth I am waffling on about bowling on the ACW blog.

Well, it strikes (sorry!) me that there are similarities between tenpin bowling and writing. 

The thing about bowling is that it’s not essential to be an expert, you just have to give it a go; from my one-year old niece being helped to push her ball slowly down the ramp to my brother-in-law hurling his ball down the lane so fast it blurs.

People often ask me how they can get started in writing. My reply?  Start writing.  As with bowling, it’s not essential to be an expert (I should know); just give it a go.

And maybe there’ll be others who churn out books so fast that the words blur, and maybe there’ll be others who need help getting started, and maybe there’ll be others who…..but maybe you’ll be different, and maybe that’s ok.

The last time I went bowling, my nephew, who was about 2 or 3 at the time, would take ages when it was his turn.  He stood there, inwardly debating whether or not to release his ball. In the end, he did.  And sometimes the ball missed its target completely.  But sometimes it knocked some pins down.

Anyone watching us congratulating him would have been forgiven for thinking we were congratulating my brother in law for getting a strike.  There was no difference in celebration of the two. Yes, the results were different but that didn’t matter, because the people we were celebrating were different.  And that was absolutely fine.

Keep going.  Wherever you are with your writing – or anything else, for that matter – if you do what you can do, that’s great….


  1. Well said. My stepmum had a big, raucous, boozy, noisy party for her 90th. We were doubtful but in the end it was brilliant. Now she's 96 and failing fast. So glad we did what she wanted six years ago. Liking the writing analogy too.

  2. Thank you, Fran; I appreciate that.
    Oh, that's funny - I'm not the only one who underestimates 90 year olds! I'm glad you had a good time, as did we...bowling was a great success.