Yes, it’s January the 11th. One of those dates where Christmas feels like a distant memory and the new year is just bedding in. As I stand on the stern of the good ship 2015, I can see 2014 getting smaller as it disappears into the general kaleidoscope of other years beginning with 20.
As you know, I’m not somebody who is at all obsessed by my health or my age, but I think it’s worth you knowing I’m writing this blog as I recover from what normal human beings would call acute pneumonia. But I am not like normal human beings, so instead of going to hospital and being put in an oxygen tent for 3 weeks, I carried on bravely last week, managing to make it to (almost) voluntary work without a word of complaint.
When it comes to the subject of age, I have no problems with that, either. Though there are certain things you have to accept. One of these things came to light a few weeks ago concerning a rather serious news item, where an ‘elderly man’ was attacked and killed. Awful, I know, but the ‘elderly man’ in question was 53 years old.
I am 54 years old. I am not elderly. I can still pogo to The Sex Pistols. I can listen to Radio 1 for nearly 3 minutes. I run around the streets in lycra shorts without fear of arrest.
Of course, there are disadvantages to being 54. For a start, I should imagine very young people stopped reading this blog after the line ‘I am 54 years old.’ Of course, none of you would ever tell I was 54 years old from my writing, because it’s so young and trendy, full of stories about flicked back hair, Farah jeans, Stowaway (Sleepy Lagoon), great films and bands of the 70s and why exactly did somebody think it was necessary to change the name of Opal Fruits to Starburst?
Hang on. Maybe I’ve got this wrong. When I say I’m not obsessed with my health and my age, what I mean is, I am obsessed with my health and my age.
For those youngsters who’ve stuck with me through this meandering blog, here’s your chance to find out a few things about older people (called ‘grunters’ in my day), some of which may be to your advantage in later life:
Ignore all those adverts on your faceache page for funeral arrangements, haemorrhoid cream, life insurance, denture adhesive, Baltic coach tours and any manner of pills, potions and suggestions for erectile dysfunction. They’ve got the wrong man. Additionally, I am also not interested in a young, enthusiastic Russian wife who wants to love an Englishman. However many hours I’ve spent looking, none of them compare to Lady Barton St Mary.
To be honest, without venturing too far into the trouser area, the subject of sex becomes less important. The motives for rushing home and jumping into bed together change. When you’re older, it’s so that you can read the latest Hilary Mantle novel or, in fact, go to sleep. Generally physical contact involves rubbing a partner’s aching shoulder or trying to turn them on their side to stop them snoring.
Of course, you are no longer seen as a threat. Generally speaking, groups of young men aren’t aggressive towards you. Groups of young women regard you as their dad. You are inert, trustworthy, benign.
I’ve often wondered whether this could be to my advantage. For example, recently I attended an event with a VIP area. Because I am old, I fancied having a look at said VIP area. So I did, wandering past officials who were carefully monitoring younger people. After a while, I wandered back out again, saying goodbye to aforementioned officials, who smiled and nodded. It’s the authority that age allows you.
It’s also true when it comes to advice or opinions on life. Some (young) body can ask you a question on a subject you know nothing about. You can give a long and detailed answer off the top of your head that will be greeted with deliberated nodding and agreement. Give the same answer when you’re 25 and the same audience would probably react with ‘What the **** are you on about?
There is of course, the constant worry about what you eat. The days of stuffing anything you like down your gob are long gone. Most of my friends now are gluten free, low carb, non-smoking, regular exercising moderate drinkers, even though most of us could have become professional a few years back. I remember The Sexton at our rugby club, downing 8 pints of bitter before ‘winning’ 4 pints of cider in the raffle. Part of the prize included having to drink all 4 pints immediately. He did. Then he threw up. Then he carried on.
The other week, I met him in a pub, clutching a small glass of spiced rum and lemonade. He eschews beer these days, he explained, preferring a couple of glasses of this instead. We were all back home and tucked up in bed safely by 11.30pm.
Although we did have a wilder night at Brummie Laurence and Jo’s house last week. We discussed our trip in April (I call it our search for an old people’s home), various grandchildren and Mad Kev’s hip replacement. We tried to play a board game that Jo had received for Christmas. Nobody could read the rules. Nurse Lynn provided us with her reading glasses, which we shared. Nobody understood the rules. After a while, we did work out the rules, but by this time Jacko had fallen asleep, snoring gently next to Nurse Lynn. She lovingly jabbed him in the ribs.
“Offside!” he blurted, suddenly awakening. He’d been to see the rugby earlier that day.
After several rounds where everybody helped everybody else so that it could be over, somebody won.
As with most of these evenings, we left it to Mad Kev to round it off with a couple of controversial remarks that I won’t bore you with here. Just to say that, as you get older, you tend not to worry so much about what other people think.
For example, you could sit in a meeting where you may think that somebody is talking complete tosh. At some point in your life, you reach an age where you stop thinking it and just say it.
Let me finish with a perfect example of this from one of the greatest practitioners of ‘saying out loud what’s in your head’ – Lady BSM’s father, The Marquess of Prestberries. A woman approached him at a party and explained she was an old friend of his son and that she had met The Marquess a few years beforehand.
“Ah yes, I remember now – you used to be very pretty!” he exclaimed, feeling pleased with himself…