On Being 60

“There’s a few bob in your pocket

and you’ve got good friends

and it seems like summer’s never coming to an end.

Young, free and innocent, you haven’t got a care,

apart from decidin’ on the clothes you’re gonna wear.

The street’s turned into paradise,

the radio’s singing dreams,

you’re innocent, immortal, you’re just fifteen.

And who’d dare tell the lambs in Spring,

what fates the later seasons bring?

(From ‘Blood Brothers’ by Willie Russell)

As my 60th birthday in October 2019 was approaching, I thought how good it would feel to be able to write a blog, entitled, ‘On Being 60’. It had a good ring to it. I would write some haughty piece about laughing in the face of my advancing years, how age is just a number, that you’re as young as you feel and a host of other platitudes.

I didn’t get round to it then, but as I’m now over 60 and a half, if I’m going to make use of this literary, luvvy sounding title, I’d better get on with it.

When I was a young lad if you had asked me at what age I thought people could be said to be old, I’d have said that it would be at 50. Very old? 60 onwards.

If you’d asked me the same question in my early 20s, in all honesty, I’d have probably said the same thing – and at 30? The same. You see at all those ages and even at 40, I never thought that I would get old. Yes, I knew that you did in my heart of hearts, but not in that part of the brain called the ‘leave that until another day’ section.

Then suddenly, in the words of the poem written by the old lady who lived in a nursing home (the one that you can read when you visit our downstairs loo, where it hangs on the wall), all of a sudden ‘dark days are upon us.’

I wouldn’t go that far, but it can no longer be denied. Time is at a premium. I’m not young.

So here’s my take on being me at 60.

Let’s be honest, if being 60 didn’t bother me at all, then why am I writing a blog about it?. People don’t tend to write blogs called ‘My life at 21’, although granted footballers have their life stories written at that age. ‘My life in pictures….’

Do I like being 60? I accept it, rather than like it. I see it as a challenge. It’s no coincidence that over the past 16 months or so, I’ve got very fit. I pride myself on being fitter than a lot of men who are much younger than I am. Ego? Pride? Yes, probably.

I’m looking after myself in other ways, rather better than I used to, as well. Part of that has nothing to do with my advancing years. I got sober in 2011 because I was fed up with being an active alcoholic. I’ve stopped smoking. I don’t eat junk.

I still have goals. I want to write a book. I want to travel more. I want to become much more fluent in German and French. I want to become a better freelance writer. I’d like to get more non-work-related stuff, published in the press.

I want to spend more quality time with my wife and even though they are in their twenties now, my boys too. Again, some of that comes from making up for the years when I wasn’t a great family man – when my head was in a bottle or I was pining for a bottle. A lot of it comes too, from the fact that I love all three of them, very much.

Time is precious – partly because I value being sober and I enjoy life now and partly because, well, time is slipping away. (It does go faster as you get older kids – mark my words!)

Undoubtedly what living through this pandemic has brought home ever more, is how fragile life is. Having lost my parents in a car accident in 1999, that is something I am acutely aware of anyway. Life can be gone in a heartbeat. That’s not being morbid. It just means I should get on and live life – and enjoy it.

What don’t I like about being 60 then?

Ok, the trivia first. I don’t like how all the musicians that I grew up listening to, are either dead already or are in their 70s and how if they are alive, they insist on still performing in their 70s. I’d quite like to see Fleetwood Mac, but I want to see Stevie Nicks and Lyndsey Buckingham as mid 20-year-olds, not now they are in their dotage. I was going to go and see Mannfred Mann at the nearby Rhodes Theatre last year until I found out that the ever-youthful Paul Jones was in fact now 75!

I also get angry beyond belief with myself, when I’m just about to go somewhere and I can’t find my car keys…..or my phone….or my wallet…or my specs. When I lose one of these items, I really lose it too. I’ll find it days later resting on the 4th shelf up of one of the myriads of bookcases that line the walls of this house. I get angry beyond angry. I blame it on my disease, my alcoholism, for eradicating mass chunks of my grey cells (which it undoubtedly has) and woe betides anyone who offers this ‘helpful’ piece of advice:

‘Just try and remember where you last had it!’

I’ve also got a related problem in that I can be in full flow in a meeting, telling a story to a friend or giving someone directions on the street, when I just get brain freeze. I simply have a total blank about what I’m talking about and have to say so. ‘Mind’s gone blank, sorry.’ Again as much a problem of having drunk too much rioja and Stella Artois as being 60, I’m guessing

As I write this though, I realise that there isn’t really all that much that bothers me about having reached three score years. That I have my health, is the main reason for that. If I didn’t have that and if any of my family were ill, life would look different. I’m grateful that we are all well and pray that that continues. I have a lovely family and a nice home. I have my dogs, my running and I have some special friends. Today life is good and today is all any of us have.

If anything has happened on turning 60, it’s the final, dawning realisation that youth has gone forever. I say finally, because whilst daft as it might sound, until a few years ago, I honestly did feel that I would be eternally youthful. I do miss that feeling that I used to get as a youngster, of the world being right there at my feet. I was always a dreamer and it was a lovely state of being.

But wait. Why should any of us ever stop dreaming? If we do that aren’t we asking for the carpet slippers and a pipe? Oh. stuff it. I’ll always be a dreamer. A dreamer at 60? Forever young? Why not? Pass the sanatogen wine, Val. Oh, I forgot – best make that a cup of tea!