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Salad Days

It is time to confess:  I am seventy.  I have reached the gates of Old Age.

I was a novice of sixty-five when I first hung up my gloves and placed my favourite chair determinedly close to the hearth.   That new dictum of ‘behaviour in retirement’ took time to learn.  I had to understand that my perception of retirement as a period of rest and dignity was not shared by others; that even as I was entering my sunset days of employment those around me were plotting my course from gold watch to dotage with meticulous care.  The list, by the time I reached harbour on my final day, was writ large upon the wall.

In case you, my reader, have yet to encounter my situation, I will introduce a phrase to you that will become familiar:  it begins  “Now you’ve got more time on your hands…”

This clause cannot be argued:  I had, at least initially, more time;  I had always hoped that would be so.   Nor could a constructive case be prepared to vie with the ensuing clause:  the pavement of the patio did need repointing, the bathroom did need modifying, that kitchen was just SO last year, and the ton of rocks we had delivered in 1990 for the rockery were finally going to get moved then, weren’t they?   All true.

Now I have acquainted you with the phrase and its possible conclusions, let me add a warning.  Do not counter with a protest:   “I was hoping to get a little time to myself,” or you will meet with the instant riposte:

“You need to keep active.  I won’t allow you to just vegetate.”

Oh, patient reader, you know me by now.   I am not sexist by nature – far from it.   But this much is undeniable; women live longer than men, a truth that has gone unacknowledged most of your life, until you hit the wall of sixty-five.  At sixty-five, as you long to melt into cabbage-like quiescence, the woman in your life will suddenly shift to a higher gear.  She will buzz about the garden, hum over the floors with the vacuum, wash paintwork you had forgotten existed, join line-dancing classes and begin a Masters Degree with the Open University.  She will tow you around the supermarket like a faithful if reluctant dog and around stately homes with vast  gift shops which swallow you whole for hours while she peruses dried flowers, china ornaments and small, expensive packets of Jasmine soap.

You see the obvious conflict?  You may observe this frantic, flitting creature with tolerant good humour, or with active distress, but never with indifference.  Inevitably you will feel guilty.  You are accustomed to keeping pace and no longer can, you feel required to enthuse when really you just want to sleep – somewhere, anywhere.

It is this tragic breakdown in human communication that drives men to abandon the comforts of home for long hours in snooker clubs, to plant allotments or live in sheds.  Let’s be absolutely clear – no man wants to spend all day in a shed.  A shed is a refuge, a place to plot the final steps on the downward spiral, arranging tools upon carefully constructed racks, or dousing the lawnmower with unnecessary oil.  There is an unwritten law which says no man must be interrupted in a shed.  This law is especially sacrosanct if the shed is also on an allotment.  Allotments are sacred ground where men are able to indulge in certain sectarian rights not shared by the female sex, like the ‘Earthing Up’ ritual applied to asparagus, or the ‘Thinning of Carrots’.

Anyway, I found retirement to be illusory:  my dream of rest from the daily toil was never realised, and all I could plead in its stead was a transformation from constructive career to demeaning labour.   Retirement merely served to rob of me of any sense of self worth or self confidence, forcing me to face my inadequacies.  All of which, come to think of it, was ideal preparation for the official new status I shall now enjoy: that of Advanced Septuagenarian.   Incapable of lifting another rock, getting down far enough to repoint a patio, or walking the distance to my allotment, at last I can claim sanctuary within my own four walls.

My list is completed.   There is more to do but I can no longer do it.  I am officially worn out!


© Frederick Anderson 2017.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content



I think I may have betrayed this secret before, but since I am not bound by any rule of the confessional, nor am I in (or is it under, like a racehorse?) Holy Orders, I can whisper the truth:  I am over sixty.

And then some.

A while ago I used this blog to confront the phenomena known to the cosmetics industry as the ‘Seven Signs of Ageing’.  I got to number four, at which point I figured anyone who was still reading was probably as bored with the subject as I, so I rested it for a while.

Now it’s back!

Why?  Well, perhaps because ageing is a holistic experience, and one which I left hanging just a little over half-istically.  Perhaps because I am encountering the next phase, the one beyond invisibility.

I am sliding inexorably towards societal checkmate.  I am becoming an Old Fart.

Let’s discuss symptoms.

1  Absent-mindedness:

There is an age when OCD moves seamlessly into Alzheimer’s; when being unable to find the way home becomes a medical rather than a psychological condition.  Nowadays I take the dog every time I go out, because she is the only one who knows the way – or she used to.  Since she is rapidly succumbing to Dogzheimer’s, there is more than a chance we will both get lost.

I do not regard my absence of short term memory as anything more than a minor inconvenience, but those around me do.  They smile indulgently, their tone subtly alters.

“Oh, bless him!”  They say, giving a sort of third party smile, as if I am not actually there.  And then they move on, because the companion adjective to Old Fart is ‘tedious’.

2  Emotional Instability:

It is hard to explain exactly why the precise position of a postage stamp on an envelope should have become a matter of such importance, still less easy to understand my shaking incoherent rage at the sight of an un-cleared restaurant table, or the feeling of an unnecessary draught.  Nor can I account for my uncontrollable tear ducts, which fill up at the least provocation.  Bursting into tears at a weather forecast may be excusable, given the weather lately, but it is embarrassing.

This same lack of self restraint manifests itself in other ways.  The other day, in the company of a young client, I drove past a woman wearing a very dramatic outfit.  I disguised a quiet snigger.

“She’s very smartly dressed, isn’t she?”  I suggested.  What I really wanted to say – I mean really, really wanted – was ‘Mutton dressed as lamb’?

“That’s my mother.”  My client replied.

Close one!

3.  The shakes.

Now these are a little more disturbing.  I was never going to be a brain surgeon.  My hands were ever prone to the quivers, especially when nervous.  In ‘respectable company’ the cup, saucer and spoon were always a musical instrument where I was concerned.  But lately….

In extreme cases raising a cup from a side table may send my wrist into a rapid thirty degree oscillation.  At best the surface of the tea when it reaches my mouth will resemble a storm on Lake Huron, inducing me to sip and sniff it in equal quantities.  It’s the sniffing part that doesn’t work out.  Oddly enough, the result does not inspire the same sympathetic response that applies to my absent-mindedness.

 I hit the brong jeys on my leyboarf; I reach for door handles and miss….

4.  Deja vu.

Where’s an accent key when you need one?  In the young, second sight is regarded as a gift and those who possess it are guaranteed an audience, some of whom will travel miles and endure force majeure to hang on each word that drips from their mouths.  My problem is that I was actually there before, but no-one wants to listen.

Air pollution?  Nothing like the smogs of the 1950s.

Peace in our time?  Rubbish then and rubbish now.

Jam tomorrow?  Oh, yea


Cold winters?  In 1963 a car was driven across the frozen Thames at Oxford.  Richard Blackmore described a 17th Century winter so cold the sap froze in the trees and great oaks split apart.

All right, I wasn’t actually there for that, but……you’re not listening, are you?

To my mind age gives me a certain paternal wisdom.  I have the gift of knowledge to impart.  I should be venerated in my old age, treasured for my sagacity.  Those around me should be glad to mop up a little, speak a little louder and accept my judgement.  They should stop moving me around like the furniture and not look at me as though I am spoiling their design for the room.

I should be honoured.  Yes, that’s it – I should be honoured.

Wait!  Stop!  Where are you going?  Can I come?  Why won’t they accept mobility scooters in nightclubs?  I remember once, back in 1962…..