Getting Older

We all know what it feels like to grow old, don’t we?  The slow, but inevitable diminution of mental acuity and physical attributes: the deadening of the senses – sight, hearing, smell and taste, above all taste; the tendency to bruise like an over-ripe peach; to smell like an over-ripe banana; all part of the gradual, but inescapable descent into dampened gibbering.  Except that it’s not really like that at all – at least not yet.  I am ‘of an age’, but what lies between my ears is of quite a different age.  Although I now do have a tendency to ache quite a lot, I’m not entirely certain that it isn’t just something of which I have just recently become more aware.  That is, I have always ached – I just haven’t had the time to obsess about it before.  Nor have I previously worried about why I am aching.  These days I have to analyze everything.  Everything could be a sign of something else.  As long as I continue to do well on Pointless, I have always believed that I could accept my absent-mindedness as a minor peccadillo, but now I worry constantly that it might just be a sign of something altogether more sinister.  Each forgotten bin day is another step down the path towards senility; each empty baked bean can in the fridge another lurch towards the vacant let.  And I do get tired now – each thirty minutes beyond News at Ten, is another day spent trying to remember where I left my keys.

I feel that I am still capable of doing pretty much what I have always done, but now I anticipate the consequences, which definitely slows me down.  I still feel instinctively that my grandchildren will always be safe as long as I am there, but if I stop to think about it, I now realise that it is not necessarily true, that it never was.  I do know, though, that I would die trying to protect them – and that has to count for something.  I would do the same for my children, of course, but they are mech stronger and fitter than me and would probably tell me to act my age.

Of course, acting your age is the first thing you stop doing as you get older.  In any case, who really knows how a person of your age is supposed to act?  I have friends who have acted like sixty year olds since their tenth birthdays.  I also have friends who still act like they’re ten.  Whatever your age, who can resist a playground swing; rolling down a grassy bank; splashing in puddles?  Who can resist fishing in a seaside rock pool, or digging for buried treasure?  That is acting your age.

And, as you get older, life does try to compensate by handing you some new attributes in place of the good stuff you have misplaced along the way.  In place of good looks, an athletic physique, suppleness and stamina, you get the ability to understand that Midsomer Murders is not meant to be Shakespeare, and the strength to occasionally sit through a full episode without falling asleep and drooling on your slippers.  You begin to realise that it really doesn’t matter if you left your mobile phone on the kitchen table in the morning, because the only people who ever contact you are trying to interest you in a discount at the crematorium.  Old age is when you start to realise that, in order to set all of his fiendish traps, Dick Dastardly has to be miles ahead of the field – and you can’t help but wonder why he just doesn’t keep going…  I can no longer climb a rope, but hey, I have learned not to question why I would ever want to.  I have learned that dining out in a white shirt is never a good idea, unless I am going to be eating exclusively white marshmallows.

And – now I realise what age has really brought to me – suddenly I have no idea what I had on my mind as I started this piece.  It is a balmy evening.  I have drunk a nice bottle of red and the birds are singing (at least, I think they are, it could always be tinnitus) and the sky is the kind of blue that makes me think that if this is the best that the world has to offer then it really is more than enough.  I do not know how getting older feels when you start to feel older, but I know that, at the moment, it feels like I could drink in every moment of it – with every ailing sense and physical attribute – and, if I could live forever, then I certainly would.

Unfortunately, that is the one thing that getting older teaches you will never come to pass…

Unusually, for me, this post was written in ‘one take’ and on the evening of publication – and so I ask you to please accept my abject apologies for any grammatical and syntax aberrations.  This piece has festered in my head all day.  This evening I typed it up with atypical speed and prepared to publish – before having my attention taken by my second ever post (‘Getting On’ from November 2018) – at which point I realised how little actually changes and, yes, that this is what it is all about…

“I have also begun to understand that advancing age is not to be feared, it is to be embraced. Embraced for its ability to allow me clearer vision than sight. Embraced for its ability to grant me the realisation that what is right for me, may not be right for anybody else, but quite frankly, that I care even less than they do. Embraced for the realisation that my appreciation of the world around me is linked, incrementally, with the paucity of time that I have left to enjoy it. Embraced because I have no choice. Embraced because it makes me happy.”  Colin McQueen – Getting On

On Inkbiotic’s Sunshine Blogger Award

sunshine
A deliberately generic picture of the sunshine…

 

When I was much, much younger, I walked around a room accompanied by a lady with a clipboard and picked out my favourite gas fire. For my efforts, I was awarded with a Mars Bar and I can confidently state that that was the very last survey in which I ever willingly took part. However, based almost entirely on the basis that Inkbiotic finds me funny (I don’t know if anybody makes expandable hat bands, but if they don’t, I will suggest it to Marks & Spencer) and after the shortest of pauses which allowed me to look up ‘metaphor’, I decided, sort of, to take this one on in the best way I can…

So, What recurring dream do you have? Do you know why? Well, I have actually discussed the subject of dreams myself in my early blog and it would have to be the one where I suddenly realise that I am naked whilst walking to school. It’s a very common dream I think. (Please tell me that it is.) The only rational explanation that I can give for having this dream is that I am asleep.

If you could choose any name for yourself, what would you choose? Sexy would be a good one wouldn’t it? Not because it would suit me (Dog-Eared would do that much better) but it would just be such fun studying the faces of school teachers, employers, bank staff as they had to greet you with ‘Hello Sexy’. It would almost be worth the humiliation of constantly having it pointed out to you that you are not. In Junior School (I’m not sure that such a thing even exists now. Ages 7-11.) I wanted to be my best mate and I would have gladly taken his name. I think that by the time you are sixty, nominative determination has well and truly kicked in and so, I fear, I am now thoroughly Colin (Child in Gaelic) and that I shall remain.

What’s the weirdest fact you know? That’s a difficult one because my head is full of them, although the weirdest thing about most of them is that I know them in the first place. My dad had a friend who was ‘addicted’ to nature programmes on the TV and he told us once that he’d seen a documentary about a snake that, when hungry, slowly ate itself. My dad pointed out that if it did that, it would simply turn itself inside out, to which Charlie (real name) simply replied ‘It’s a fact!’ Now, whilst I am prepared to bow to such logic, I am pretty certain that it is not verifiable, so I am going to offer you something that, I believe, is: if spread out, the surface area of the human lungs would cover a tennis court (and, presumably, make breathing very difficult).

What’s a secret about you that no-one would ever guess? Easy. Am I telling the truth?

Do you prefer to stride or amble? Why? Stride. The most annoying thing in the whole world is a pavement blocked by an entire family of young, fit amblers.

Name a small thing that made you smile today. Photo’s of my grandkids always hit the button. Mind you, so do photo’s of Donald Trump’s hair in the wind. And Melania’s face whenever she’s with him. And the fact that Boris Johnson might one day be our Prime Minister – no wait, that’s not a smile: it’s a nervous tic.

What made you want to write or keep a blog? I have always written. I used to write for numerous humour magazines that no longer exist (worryingly, I appear to be the only thing that they had in common). Initially my blogs were basically magazine articles on a single, unified theme. Slowly they have evolved (although I do still like to throw in the odd old-school ‘skit’ from time to time.) Over the time that my blog has been going, I think that I have become a little more reflective and have probably revealed more about myself than anyone would ever want to know. You are my psychoanalyst! Get your notebooks out, we could be here for some time.

What was your best decision ever? Well, my wife reads this from time to time – if there’s nothing on the telly – so, I have to say that except for getting married it would be growing a beard. I have a very fair skin and, pre-beard, it was always sore. After shaving, I resembled an inside out pig. Now, I no longer feel sore, although I do still look like an inside out pig, just with a beard.

What could have gone wrong today, but didn’t? My life is a minefield: I could have ricked my neck getting out of bed; stubbed my toe getting into the shower; washed my hair with bleach-based toilet cleaner; put both contact lenses into the same eye; fallen down the stairs or, worst of all, put my pants on back to front – all of which are in my armoury, but none of which I have actually done today. I haven’t tripped over a kerb, crashed my shin against a coffee table, dribbled my lunch down my shirt nor my coffee down my trousers. Also, I haven’t spent the last hour staring blankly at the computer screen wondering what I was going to say.

For a week you can have any job you want and be good and successful at it, what do you choose? When I was young I used to read a comic strip called The Perishers and it had a character called Marlon. He could never decide whether he wanted to be a world-famous brain surgeon or a man that went down sewers in big wellies. I feel a bit the same and, despite the lure of Chief Taster at Cadbury, I have decided to think big. I would be Prime Minister of the UK of course. In my lifetime, I don’t remember anybody else ever doing that job successfully for a week. Of course, without the guarantee of success, it would be the last job on Earth I would ever want. Imagine being the person who believes they know better than everybody else. Imagine the people you would have to spend your days with. However, time it right and you could eradicate poverty, sort out the education and health services and totally outlaw savoury ice-cream. Why is that even a thing? It is for people who have lost all joy from their lives. Ice-cream has to be sweet. It should be drizzled in syrup and covered in sprinkles. It should have a Flake. It should form rivulets along the sides of the cornet and a puddle in your crotch. It should leave your fingers sticky for a minimum of twenty-four hours. It should not taste of snail and anchovy.

What’s the most inexplicable thing that’s ever happened to you? I cannot begin to explain… Honestly, the most inexplicable thing that ever really happens to me is that people put up with me. I would love to tell you that I have seen a ghost or met an alien, but I have not. I have, however, seen the future so, don’t worry, you will forgive me in time…

As for blogs I would recommend, well, Inkbiotic is my daily ‘go to’ and – I have had this independently verified – the best thing since sliced bread. I also love Tony Self’s The Self-Talk Show, which is a scattergun of mad ideas and V’s MILLENNIALLIFECRISIS which poses all sorts of questions and offers all sorts of insights, but there are many others.

P.S. The questions answered by Inkbiotic were posed by Land Manatee (who I am just about to check out) but I have just inadvertently brought up a photo of a real manatee. Now, all I know about this creature is that it is what the ancient mariners believed to be a mermaid. Well, I cannot tell you how these guys were passing their time, but something was making them blind…