Getting On – A Slight Return


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This was initially intended to be my first post, but as I had written ‘Mission Statement’ whilst attempting to get to grips with the processes associated with posting on WordPress, it became my second, published 17 November 2018 a day after the first. As with most of these early posts, it had been picked over for many days whilst I attempted to wrestle a joke from every line I could. Over the following weeks, as the blog progressed, it became somewhat looser in style and more personal, but I like this early post because it is exactly what I initially intended the blog to be and it illustrates how I saw myself fitting into the ‘community’ at that time.

Getting on is a little over 1100 words in length.

Getting On

I stand at the portal that will allow me entry into a new age of discovery. The doormen of Nirvana have found me to be on the list and have grudgingly agreed to let me in. There are many benefits to belonging to the club that I will shortly join: I can take tea and biscuits with my fellow sexagenarians in the designated café; I can board the bus to Rhyl with a half-empty suitcase and a clear conscience; Lord knows! I may eligible for a discount on a stair-lift or a sit-in bath. I have reached the age when I understand that I should always smile sweetly at the dentist, because to gnash my teeth at his suggestion that I need several long-haul holidays-worth of dental treatment is merely putting money in his already bulging pockets. I have attained the maturity that allows me to comprehend that the true joy of an April day by the east coast seaside cocooned within fourteen layers of thermal clothing to protect against the unseasonal scything on-shore breeze and draped in a slightly too small cagoule that herds the interminable arctic drizzle into the large drips that run around the rim of the hood before depositing themselves into the ever-swelling puddle on my crotch, is the knowledge that there is no point in doing it, other than knowing that I don’t have to do it – but, shit, while I can, I will. I have begun to appreciate the myriad joys of getting older. A whole new world of revelation has opened up before me. I have entered, in short, a second phase of enlightenment and realisation.

I have opened my mind to learning, although, truth be told, most of what I have learned is how little I know. My discoveries, such as they are, are modest – they are not of Newtonian proportions. What I have not discovered would generate a ‘to do’ list that could keep Isaac and his apple occupied for a very long time. I have not discovered, for instance, what makes me (or more appositely, they being on the bottom, Australians) stick to this globe of ours. I tend to adhere to the Velcro Theory. In fact, I find myself irresistibly drawn towards the flat earth theory, simply because I do not understand why, wherever I go in the world, I am always the right way up. Hold up a football and put something on the bottom of it; what happens? Yup. If the world is actually a sphere, what prevents the Australians falling off? Forget gravity. Gravity is everywhere. It can’t even hold my glass on the table after six pints. And also, if the world is a globe, how come all the water doesn’t flow to the bottom? Never thought that through did you Pythagoras?

Mind you, I must admit that physics was never one of my strengths. I can still recall the look on the face of my teacher when he read my test paper aloud to the class, with special emphasis on the question ‘What is resistance’, to which I had answered ‘Futile’. I thought I was being endearingly amusing. He thought I was being an arse. Guess who was correct? I would never discover a new continent, even if one were to exist, because that would almost certainly involve sailing off into the unknown and, quite frankly, I have enough trouble sailing off into the known – and only then when I have double-checked the catering arrangements. And as for finding a new planet, I can barely see the television in these contact lenses, let alone an infinitesimal blob at the far end of the universe. No, the things that I have learned are of a much more personal nature. I do not know if they will make a difference to the lives of others. I do not know if they were at any time unknown to others. What I am beginning to know, I think, is what everybody else has known all along.

I have discovered that stairs are arranged singly for a reason; there is nothing to be gained by ascending them two at a time. I know that escalators move so that you do not have to. I have learned that there are only two types of shoe; those that fit and those that look good: no single pair of shoes is ever able to meet both criteria. I have learned that rows of buttons are always to be fastened from the bottom in order to avoid having one left over at the end. I have learned that hats are for other people.

I have begun to understand that there is no point whatsoever in attempting to take a photograph with my mobile phone. Nobody is even faintly interested in a close-up of my nasal hair, nor do the staff of The Raj Palace want another silent call from me. I have grown to realise that I have lost the innate ability I once had to know instantly whether an acquaintance was older or younger than I. Everyone of my age looks so very old. I have begun to understand that no-one younger than me actually sees me as younger than I am. That the way I viewed people of my age when I was my daughter’s age is exactly the way that people of my daughter’s age now view me – eccentric; mildly amusing in a ‘let’s just humour him’ kind of way, but definitely to be kept at arm’s length. I have discovered that the only thing more annoying than a younger man in an extremely expensive car is an older man in an extremely expensive car. I have begun to realise that nobody ever gained anything from arguing (except, for some, a lucrative career). Stealth is the answer. Age gives one the time to wait and the insight to appreciate that there is absolutely no finer moment than the acutely timed ‘I warned you that would happen, but you never listen do you? Oh no. You always know best…’

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.

There is still no cure for the common birthday – John Glenn

Just In Case…

clear drinking glass near in blue tape measure and apple fruit
Photo by Pixabay on

I have started my annual review of health issues: it’s the kind of thing you can get done at the doctors, but with more coffee and less sighing. It started because of my neurosis regarding body odour. I shower so often that I have actually shrunk by an inch since my youth (I know that it is actually age, but I’d sooner blame water). I constantly monitor any area that left unattended has the potential to become unsavoury. I sometimes sniff my clothing. I have given my wife and my children strict instructions to notify me immediately if I ever smell in any way noxious. I have instructed them to lock me in the bathroom and burn my clothes.

I constantly check my mental acuity by… by… well, anyway, I constantly check it. I keep myself as fit as not doing any physical exercise allows. And I check my mental acuity. I still have times when I only know what day it is by checking my pill packets, but I am fortunate that I retain the capacity and desire to learn. And I check my mental acuity… Anyway, in the hope that it may offer some succour to those of you who feel that you suffer the symptoms of ageing alone, I share with you here the results of my latest ‘stock take’. If you too experience any, or all, of my symptoms, we can both take comfort from that. If you suffer from none of them, you can be as smug as you like, but please keep it to yourself.

I have developed a series of just in case checks: keys, wallet, flies… that pass through me like a series of tics every time I leave the house. I never forego the opportunity to take a toilet break. You never know when the next one might come along. If ever I am asked to estimate the length of a journey, I always do so on the assumption that it will be ‘a bad run’ rather than a good one. ‘Google predicts two hours for a good journey, so that’s three for a bad one, better allow four, just in case…’

I have become aware that wherever I go, whatever I do, I have a ragged accumulation of bits and pieces that I take with me ‘just in case’. In case of what? I don’t know really, if I did, I probably wouldn’t need to take them. I have a £1 umbrella, just in case it rains, when I will be the first to send the little decapitated canopy Frisbee-ing along the road at the slightest breath of wind. I used to carry a Mars bar in case of extreme hunger, but I kept eating it, so that had to stop. When I go on holiday, wherever I go, always the same routine: pants and socks for fourteen days – check. Extra pair of pants and socks just in case – check. Foreign currency – check. English currency in case I lose foreign currency – check. Credit card in case I lose both – check. Passport – check. If I could claim dual nationality, I would, just so I could have a second passport. Sometimes I feel that it would be safer to just stay in the house – but you never know when it might burn down.

One of my main problems (and God knows, the list is a long one) is that of temperature control. In the winter I find myself encased in so many layers of clothing that I resemble a perambulatory onion. One brief look in the mirror would, once upon a time, have sent me scuttling back to the bedroom to change into something (in all senses) cooler, but now it just provokes me to think ‘Meh! I’ll stay warm’ and carry on regardless. In the summer I overheat like a Morris Minor on a trip to the seaside. I find myself in a constant search for shade (which I usually find in a bar). I wear a strange, frayed straw hat that looks as though it might have been discarded by Worzel Gummidge after he lost his John Wayne head. I have one of those little battery-powered fans and, worst of all, I don’t care.

I still find myself referring to ‘old people’ as if I am not one of them. I notice that so many things about me have changed with the passing years. I seldom impulse buy anything, just in case I change my mind. I think about it for a few days before I go back to find they’ve all gone and I live the rest of my life in regret. I have witnessed the horror in the eyes of people who find themselves wallet-less having already put everything through the supermarket checkout. I never even enter a shop until I have checked that I have at least two means of paying. I am the king of ‘leaving my card in the key pad’. I have been chased through the supermarket car park by checkout staff more often than a hyper-active shoplifter. I have developed a disturbing tendency to pause at the bottom of escalators; I talk myself through the instructions at the ATM; I have conversations with the people on the TV. I rarely enquire after the family of acquaintances I might meet unexpectedly just in case they are not who I think they are, and their entire family has, in fact, recently been wiped out by a meteor strike. I have developed ‘vague’ into an art form. I can carry on a conversation for hours without once using anybody’s name. I burn with the knowledge that every time I get cocky and address the milkman by his Christian name, I am, in fact talking to my granddaughter’s headmistress.

My whole life has evolved so that I am governed by the precautions I take to guard against the myriad possibilities of happenstance: things that just could (but almost certainly will not) possibly happen. I live my life protecting myself from things that never happen, but for which I am ever prepared. And if not – well, my funeral’s paid for and I have clean socks in my pocket… just in case.

Growing old is compulsory.  Growing up is optional.  Bob Monkhouse.