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I?ve been calling my mother more frequently. I made the mistake of asking the pub where she?s having her 80th birthday lunch to send her a set of menus to choose from. They sent seven different options. Each with a choice of three starters, three mains and three desserts. I then compounded this by suggesting we could create our own tailored menu, based off the seven versions. Silly silly me.

The next time I called, she was getting ready to take all seven menus around to her village friends so they could choose in advance what they wanted to eat. Apparently, the pub owners had told her to do this so the chef could plan ahead.Told her in a dream though, as there was absolutely no mention of it in the cover letter they?d sent. I quickly averted disaster by explaining ‘how menus worked’ and assured her that no further action was necessary on her part.

A week later, she was preparing to do the same thing, with the added element of phoning people outside the village and reading the full list of options to them. She’d be calling in off-peak hours of course. No point wasting money. I reassured her that if she made these calls, then she’d miss her own party, having been carted off to the local lunatic asylum. I further explained that while everyone would of course miss her, they’d be enjoying perusing the simple and yet well balanced menu options.

On our call last week, when the topic surprisingly arose again, I suggested that she take her coat off and write a large note on the menus saying ?do not need to ask people in advance?. This seemed to be quite clear to her.

On our most recent call, yesterday, as we were discussing the latest fictitious call from the pub owners, I wondered if she had a point with this choosing in advance idea. Most of her party guests are old age pensioners (a great British expression designed to depress the elderly to death) and would probably prefer advance notice of any surprises. I realised that giving them the option to select beforehand is a generous and thoughtful act. If, as I suspect, some of them don?t live to see the party, there?s still the chance that as their life flashes before their eyes, they might catch a glimpse of that melon cocktail, followed by Kentish sausages and lemon syllabub that they would have so enjoyed.