Tuesday, 7 February 2012

On Being Old

'You're 53, Dad, get over it.' Thus spake my senior daughter when I came home one evening complaining that my knees hurt. Just as well I didn't mention my hip.

When I were a lad, 53 was proper old. You had uncles and aunts that age and they were moments from death's door. And you didn't give a huge shit. You get old, you die. But now I'm here, it doesn't seem quite so aged or terminal, not if I ignore the aches, pains and creeping decrepitude. I once asked my 82 year old father-in-law how old he was inside his head and he said 27. Me? I'm 26. Back then, I had two good knees (pre my 9 operations - which I never talk about), shitloads of brown hair and a firm-ish tummy. I was ok looking, single and a qualified solicitor. I mean, what a catch, albeit, no-one seemed to be fishing in my immediate vicinity. Notwithstanding, it was and remains the ideal age to stop maturing.

Being 26 in my head is all well and good, but the 53 year old body is being a bit of a shit about things. I hobble everywhere, my hair's grey (though, small-mercifully, otherwise intact) and I feel the cold, even when it's warm. And the heat. Oy! The body starts giving up the ghost way too soon, in my view. Now it's in a losing battle with a mind marooned in mid-twenties self-delusion, a mind baffled by the inability to chase down that wide forehand or run up the stairs. It's still giving the right orders. Even if it has to deal with mortgages, parents' evenings, breakdown insurance, ISAs, it will never grow up, never accept that it's trapped inside a fading physical entity. It focuses on football, Su Doku on the iPad, worrying - properly worrying - about Andy Murray's quest for a Grand Slam and no-lighty-no-likey TV - and quite enjoys One Direction's latest single.

There are many tragic oldsters who, like me, don't own a suit and still have a crack at wearing those useless-in-the-snow Converse thingies on their feet. But why not? I'll be dead soon enough, especially if I carry on cycling around Kentish Town. Not that I'll be able to do that for long - 9 knee operations; there's very little mileage left on that particular clock.

But let's not talk about that.


  1. It's ironic how we continually move the boundaries forward when it comes to what we consider old, especially as we move along in years ourselves. Indeed at 48 I am myself beginning to fall apart at the seems despite my 26 year old mind. I think perhaps we all stop ageing mentally at 26 because as you say, it's the best place top stop.

    So take heart Simon, you are not alone in that failing vessel we call a body that carries us through life with a frustratingly short use by date. The trick is to transcend it and use the young and vibrant mind you still have to take you forward.


  2. I hit 50 later this year, and I can't quite believe it. I have a few niggles and aches that weren't there 20 years ago, and definitely more wrinkles. And I do occasionally have a nap after dinner. Scary! That said, I'm very proud of the fact that although I'm the oldest mum at my youngest son's school, I'm in far better shape than all the others. Yes! Oldie but goodie. :-)

  3. I've rarely been fitter (I cycle like an idiot in all weathers) and am lighter than I've been for 20 years, but giving up tennis (ex-county player), skiing and 5-a-side is heart-breaking. My knees can't take any impact. Meanwhile, I'm down to about 35% hearing (long story - my next blog) and find it increasingly difficult to remember anything! On the upside, my lifelong fear of baldness has proved to be groundless. Not sure if that compensates, but it's something!