Many Happy Returns

Today is my birthday. I was born in Buenos Aires on August 31, 1942. At one time I was always sad on that day because nobody remembered. That just does not happen anymore and the spontaneous and random remembrance of a person’s birthday is no longer in effect thanks to social media. I cannot make up my mind if I prefer feeling sad that nobody remembered and the fact that so many people have been prodded by facebook to wish me a good one. But there is a good side to this. Thanks to social media I have made some good (and new friends) in carne y hueso. Not bad.

My friend and virtuoso violinist Marc Destrubé informed someone I was born in Mexico. I corrected him by telling him I had been born in Buenos Aires but it had been in Mexico City in 1968 that I had spied a beautiful long-haired blonde in a mini skirt with stupendous legs and that I subsequently married her.

Since Destrubé was not entirely wrong in an email he wrote:

So I wasn’t completely up the spout. (And where does that expression come from?)

So I researched it since I had personally had never heard that expression before. The Oxford Dictionary had this:

Definition of up the spout in English:

up the spout

British informal

1.No longer working or likely to be useful or successful: his petrol gauge is up the spout

More example sentences

2. (Of a woman) pregnant.

Example sentences

3(Of a bullet or cartridge) in the barrel of a gun and ready to be fired.

And there is this which is quite cute.

Marc Destrubé — Photograph — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Today is my 74thbirthday and I was struck by a birthday greeting from my friend and actor Allan Gray:

Have a great day Alex — many happy returns.

It just so happens that I know where that expression happy returns comes from. My proof of it is this cover scan of one of my favourite (and my mother’s) nautical author C.S. Forester and his taciturn (very Gregory Peck) character Hornblower.

It wasn’t until the advent of the 20thcentury (the Titanic being a glaring exception) that sea travel was considered safe. To be a captain in His Majesty’s Navy in the 18thand beginning of the 19thwas a dangerous profession. To be able to return from a sea voyage was a lucky thing. To do it often even luckier.

And so I wish all those who sent me birthday greetings and specially Mr. Gray many happy returns in their futures.

Allan Gray — Photograph — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Link to: Many Happy Returns

Originally published at