While, unfortunately, a bit belated in our birthday wishes for Dawn French, they are just as sincere as if they would have been sent at 12:01am Thursday morning. One cannot think of Dawn French and birthdays without thinking of the Vicar of Dibley New Years 2005 special which was classic on so many levels. As you may remember, not only was it Geraldine’s 40th birthday, but it was also the 20th anniversary of Live Aid.
Unfortunately, both birthday celebration and anniversary commemoration were headed on a collision course to disaster. The Parish Council is overly enthusiastic about finding her just the appropriate gift while Geraldine is more interested in encouraging the villagers to write to the Prime Minister about the Make Poverty History campaign. I say classic because we now begin to suffer through various suggestions for birthday gifts such as Hugo offering to sleep with her so she can have a baby. Never one known for timing, Hugo pulls out the Guinness Book of World Records looking for the oldest women in the world to have babies. There’s even talk about renting Mel Gibson for an hour, something that I’m guessing even Geraldine might have actually entertained as a possibility.
Ultimately, the Parish Council decides, by unanimous vote, that a night at ‘Suzie’s Speed Dating Extravaganza’ is the ultimate gift – so Geraldine is packed off for the evening in the hope of finding her perfect man. However, when she goes it turns out that most of the dates are the other villagers. When the Vicar goes home without a man. After showing the Council a short video showing two poverty-stricken children, the Parish council comes up with the best birthday present Geraldine could have ever wished for…
Interestingly, writer Richard Curtis explained why he wrote the episode…”Geraldine would have been 20 at the time of Live Aid – and so it seemed a very apt idea for an episode of Vicar of Dibley to centre around her trying to mark the anniversary of a day which changed her world, a world where one child is still dying every 3 seconds, unnecessarily, of the results of extreme poverty.
So, a very happy, albeit belated, birthday to Dawn French and, likewise, to Geraldine Granger. Thanks for the countless hours of laughter you have given us over the years. That’s the best gift you could ever give British comedy fans worldwide.