Tuesday, 17 December 2013


This December my Dad turned the grand old age of 60. Finding the perfect present for a loved one is always tricky, but I knew I had to really step my game up for this milestone. My Dad is a Swedish-American turned British citizen who has lived all over and pretty much seen it all. He's gathered many fantastic friends over the years, but life being the way it is he doesn't always have the opportunity to catch up with old pals. Since I can't quite afford a round-the-world ticket for him to visit everyone, I decided to bring 60 of his nearest & dearest straight to him... in the form of a book of memories! 

Earlier this year, with the sneaky help of my Dad's address book, I reached out to as many friends & family as I could via letter/email/telephone. I simply asked them to come up with an anecdote or memory of my Dad, and perhaps an old photo if they had one. I patiently waited for a few one-liners to trickle in, but I seriously did not expect to receive what I did. Not only did we surpass the 60 entries I needed, I was sent poems, drawings, long letters, hilarious stories and heartfelt messages. There were photos from his childhood (dodgy haircuts included), and incredible memories through his college years & beyond. It was a serious gift in itself to go through these amazing contributions! 

Once I had all the entries together all that remained was to write a little introduction:

Ralph David Miller; son, leotard- wearer, big brother, anthropologist, sailor, photographer, entrepreneur, serious actor, city boy, off-piste skier, whisky drinker, tennis pro, father, oenophile, multi-linguist, and soon-to-be free bus-pass holder.
What do you give to the man who has been there, done that, and seen it all? This year, I decided to create a book of 60 memories for 60 years well lived – although given that this is Ralph’s book, there was always going to be some excess! But where to begin with a book about one man who has lived in three continents, through seven decades?

In the making of this book, I’ve had the chance to experience a bit of Ralph’s life. I’ve worked hard, partied hard (Ralph: the College Years) and fallen in love. I’ve consumed an inordinate amount of cheese and wine, I’ve sailed great oceans on yachts and one serendipitous ferry – all through the memories of Ralph’s friends and family. Thank you all for your heartfelt submissions which at times made me laugh, cry, cringe... and look back on a life rich in memory. Dad, I hope you enjoy reading 60/60 as much as we all enjoyed making it. Happy 60th Birthday! 

Luckily, my boyfriend is an uber-talented graphic designer and offered to help me out designing the book. I don't think he had any idea what he got himself in for, but the result sure beats whatever cut & paste scrapbook I would have come up with! He created a beautifully designed hardback book, using a Blurb plug-in, that I know my Dad will treasure for years. His birthday rolled around and we had sent the book to print just in time. We presented it to him over champagne, and I think it's safe to say he was pretty stunned. He kept re-reading the names of his old college buddies and long-lost work colleagues in amazement.

After a glorious birthday supper, we retired to the sitting room to read all the stories and letters. By this time, the food, wine & birthday cake had taken its toll on the old man so I decided to read it to him. It took about an hour and several glasses of water for me to get through the book but it was so worth it - seeing Dad's reaction to each entry was just priceless. Evidence of a happy (and sleepy) father below...

I wrote this post to try and encourage anyone with a loved one's birthday coming up to follow suit and think outside the box - in whatever format you choose. It may be a bit of work gathering the contributions but I really think the result is worth it. Plus, I've got embarrassing stories to hold over my Dad for years to come!

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