Our good friend, Denis, is claiming to be 90 tomorrow, 7th. March. Preposterous! There must have been some slip of the pen when his birth was registered as being back in “1926”, as he stretches the word “sprightly” to new limits of its meaning. 40 of his friends and family gathered at the excellent Olivers restaurant in Woodford to help him maintain the 90th. birthday illusion. His son, Richard’s description of Denis as “the 3rd. of 4 girls” (a reference to his mum, Dolly’s wanting another girl) could pass as a Tim Vine one liner (cf. “I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again.”) Follow that. Well, someone had to. Here’s my tribute to JDB.
We’re gathered here to celebrate, that’s why I’m on my feet,
our Denis’s big birthday, so, I’ll keep it short and sweet.
Each year, Time’s marched relentlessly. 90 times he’s come of age.
We’re here, all friends and family, to mark this special page.
He’s always got an anecdote, a titbit to reveal.
Sometimes he’ll stretch credulity. “Now, Denis, keep it real.”
His life’s been one long playtime. He has some ripping tales.
which he’s not averse to spicing up, when all else simply fails.
He’ll tell you of the motor car he had when just aged 4
and how the local plod-in-chief tried to enforce the Law.
Or driving down the Champs Elysées at 80 miles an hour
with totty on the handbrake towards the Eiffel Tower.
Bon viveur and gourmet are terms which fit him like a glove.
An oenophile he’s been a while when push comes down to shove.
He has his favourite bistros and he seeks out little gems.
where bubbly’s served. It’s time to finger champagne glasses’ stems.
It’s Payelle’s vintage nectar which Denis loves promoting.
“C’est magnifique. C’est fantastique.” I trust I’m not misquoting.
Reims, the perfect place to pause as they head south through France,
on twice yearly pilgrimage, sunshine quota to enhance.
And now he’s reached this landmark age, he’s 90 years young
and though he drives VW, he’s still durch technik vor sprung.
His equanimity is legend. He’s never beetle-browed.
By sheer force of personality he stands out in a crowd.
I’ve said he’s 90 years young, just like the reigning Queen.
No, he’s not effeminate, that’s not what I mean.
He simply shares her birth year, millesime ’26,
Year of the tiger, a striking year which in the memory sticks.
One word before I finish. I must mention the hereafter,
but in a nice way which I hope you’ll greet with laughter,
for Denis is a one off, non-pareil, unique, the only one
and Denis will still be here after most of us have gone.
So with Barbara, Olivia, Richard, Lynn and Alexandra
and their lovely children, let’s toast Denis with this mantra:
“Have a super 90th.” I’ll end this birthday rhyme.
Rendez-vous 2026. Back here in 10 years time.