Friday, 29 May 2015

Today is one of those days - special, yet just the same as ever.

Is 60 the New 40?

Sarah says I must not write essays for Facebook. I am apparently meant to be short and pithy. Well in the rest of my life, I am pretty short, and can be occasionally pithy, and even more rarely, witty. However, I have been trained to write 1000 words and no less, on any subject.

When I was a brand new wee baby, my mum received a note from a hospital consultant: it  said "Your daughter is like a wrinkled old man, and highly unlikely to last 6 months". An inability to absorb Vitamin D meant Rickets with a vengeance. I survived but only to have to go to the school gym every morning for most of the next 16 years to undertake really tedious exercises.

And, today,  those exercises having worked, I am finally becoming that forecast wrinkled old man. I have reached 60, but am of a new generation; not even a bus pass or a free tv licence for my trouble!!! Damn.

What does this morning feel like? Well; I can tell I am still living in Manchester – it is pissing down as usual, but at least Sarah’s allotment is getting a good watering (more of that later).  The rain is a minus, but on the other hand, I’ve been to a few of the world’s deserts and Manchester is pretty fantastic compared to them.

I regularly reflect at how very lucky I am to have reached this great age. A few, dear, friends and colleagues have, sadly, already exited stage left and shuffled off this mortal coil.  So, though their loss is a dreadful minus, the fact that the child once forecast to have departed this earth about 59 1/2 years ago, is still thinking and that therefore I am, is a real plus.

In my past, there was a time when my somewhat modest dreams of a family, and suburbia, were only ever destined to be dreams. Yet, today, I have had all that was in those dreams, and so much more. I really do recognise what an amazingly privileged and exciting life I have had – and seem destined to continue to have for some time to come (I hope).

I am so glad that my kids are not boring. They may not have realised quite how much joy and fun they have given to me, as to be frank at times I was (am) such a miserable bastard – Sorry kids – but you are all such a multi-plus. The jokes (are they supposed to be funny?), the messing around, the banter, the laughter, the NOISE!!!, the music, the sound of the door as you arrive in at 4 am --- what an incredible amount of meaning you have given to my life. I used to say that the joy of having children is that they give you a real reason to go to work, and it was not just for peace and quiet. Rather the duties you brought to me as your parent, gave the structure and impetus to work,  to gain promotion, and bring home the money. But those same duties also provided a reason for coming home to the place where real life was happening. So kids, I know you all think I am very weird, but I have to say, I think much the same about all of you, and that is just brilliant.

As for friendships: I am astonished at how many amazing friends I still have, as I must be the worst person in the world for ‘keeping in touch’. I love the fact that now Facebook gives me a small window onto your lives. And when you are happy, I am really happy. Knowing you all has been such a massive multi-plus plus plus.

I also reckon that, much as though another 6 years seems like a form of torture akin to the rack, I have been fortunate enough to have one of the best jobs in the world over the last 20 years. Being an academic means so much more  freedom compared to any other job that is out there. Other jobs often seemed equivalent to being in an Iron Maiden – not only was there pain, but there was so little air or breathing space.

And, so to return to the allotment – the food has been beyond belief. As an ex-smoker, one of the very best reasons I can give anyone for not smoking is the taste of the food. Sarah, my very, very best friend with whom I have been fortunate enough to share most of my adult life not only grows most of our food, she then cooks it in the most amazing ways. That is not the best thing about Sarah – I could fill pages and pages and pages of what I love about Sarah, and what is best about Sarah  – but for this essay, I will stick with one of the biggest pluses which must be the food. And now you all know why my middle age spread is here to stay.

Does being 60 now mean I am old, or is this the new middle age? Is 60 the new 40?

A quick evaluation of the primarily qualitative, rather than quantitative data, above presents this as mostly a very positive point in life. I feel more ‘well in myself’ than I have done in years and for the first time in life I am almost depression free.
On the other hand, some interesting, objective, and more negative structural body developments in recent months include:
  • large parts of my beard have changed from mucky orangey/grey to soft, long straight, fluffy white hairs,
  • dieting now removes my bum rather than my tum; the middle-age spread (the only thing my father left me) seems destined to remain until the end now (whenever that is),
  • a first wrinkle is clearly visible on my forehead,
  • arthritic nodes have invaded my fingers,
  • bruising around the ankles indicates the veins no longer pump the blood as well as they used to,
  • after a lifetime of low blood pressure it has shot up in recent months, blinding most of my left eye - an arrow would have been a more romantic way than 40 years of enjoying deserts (note deserts, not deserts as per the places I have visited -see above), but the deserts have been a great joy I my life -  so I am not complaining,
  • the brown hair of my chest and eyebrows is becoming weirdly grey, and
  • every now and then, I discover an eight inch long, grey hair, that had not been there the day before, growing out of my knee, or elbow, or shoulder  - I mean, what the hell is that all about.
I intend to do a lot in the next 20 to 30 years - it cannot be much less than that, or I won’t get most of the list finished, and furthermore, Sarah will be really cross with me if I depart before the study is fully tidied and heaven knows how long that will take.

As the Americans would say: I loves you all. Be good and keep on with the adventures.