You can't hallucinate on champagne, can you?
The phone call came fairly late on Friday evening. It was Caro. To judge by the background noise, Saturday night's birthday party had already started.
"Do you know the words to 'When I'm Sixty-Four'?" she asked.
"Well, I know three of them," I said.
"Can you look them up, please?" Caro can be quite authoritarian when she chooses. "Oh, and bring your guitar. We'll pick you up about five. Some people want to drink while they watch the rugby."
Now, I don't really like having to sing for my supper, though I usually end up quite enjoying it. But how can you say no to one of your dearest and oldest (well, sixty-four year old) friends? So I got onto Google. Rapidly establishing that the Beatles' people are avidly protective of their possessions - none of their lyrics are on any of the common legal websites - I dug out one of my several copies of 'Pepper', and typed the words into the computer. Made half-a-dozen photocopies. Then I picked up the guitar and made sure I could bluff my way through the chords. The whole thing didn't take more than ninety minutes; I got to bed well before 1 a.m.
Saturday evening. The drinks are being quaffed, the food has been eaten. It's party time, which means, eventually, the sing-song. Swallowing my reluctance (and my champagne), I lead the company though 'Sixty-Four' (twice) and several other songs, before announcing that my arms are now falling off and that's it, folks.
So it's time for the highspot of the evening, in honour of Cyrus, whose birthday (6) it also is. We traipse out into the garden for what might be called sky lanterns, I'm not sure. These are big paper wire-framed balloons which, when you light a kind of burner underneath them, float off glowing into the sky, to oohs and aahs, on a mission (someone suggested) to disrupt the air traffic control systems at Heathrow ... But the kids loved them.
Back home about three hours later, I wandered out into the garden to look at the stars before bed. As I was gazing up, looking for Orion, I saw what at first seemed to be a low-flying glider, without lights. When it drew nearer, I could see that it was two of those sky lanterns. Their fires had gone out, but they had somehow got together, still airborne, circling the night sky above Reading like ageing dancers in the dark. I like to think they're still up there somewhere.