Fear not, I shall not be boring you with tales of my seasonal flirtation with temperance. Like the weather, I have eschewed the concept of a ‘dry January’, though I haven’t been quite so contrary. As I cycled to PlayDate on Wednesday evening, I couldn’t help but think that a kayak or punt might have been a more practical transport choice.
No, I shall instead be boring you with thoughts around the terrifying proximity of death. Fear not, I’m not expecting to be visited by a slender chap with a scythe any time soon – for a start, I’m really not famous enough for my number to be up during the current month. Cancer does seem to be cutting a rather broad swathe through the famous who have accompanied me through my life to date. Some had major roles and others were more minor players, but their departure from the stage of life has left me at least somewhat bereft. I suppose at my age I probably need to come to terms with an increase in players leaving stage left, even those not pursued by a bear. Perhaps it is a part of human nature (or maybe just mine) but there is more emotion associated with the unpicking of one of the threads from the tapestry of our lives, than there is when a new thread is added. I keep finding myself reminded of a couple of lines from Lord Foul’s Bane:
Death reaps the beauty of the world–
bundles old crops to hasten new.
by Stephen Donaldson: never more so than this morning, as a TOG of many years standing.
In a mere four weeks, I attain what is considered to be a significant age: with the same score, in a different field, I would raise my bat aloft to a smattering of applause from the pavilion. However, before we go any further, I should make clear that I don’t feel my age – or what I presume my age is supposed to feel like. I may not be quite as smooth-skinned as was once the case, my hair increasingly refuses to have any truck with melanin and the accommodation in my eyes has reached the stage where even Foxton’s would be embarrassed to describe it as a one bed apartment, but I am fitter than I have ever been and am suffering from no obvious loss of functionality (and would claim some gains). I continue to act as I always have done – but now with added hanging upside down.
Nevertheless, my cultural activities of a couple of weekends ago did give me pause for thought (though I shall resist creating a tenuous link to religion, for once). In the afternoon, I went to see Nuffield Youth Theatre‘s brilliant production of Girls Like That: defying the notion that audiences only want to see people like themselves on stage or screen. This may come as a shock (so steady yourselves), but I am not now, nor have ever been, a teenage girl – the demographic making up the entire, twenty-strong cast – and nor do I expect my future to hold the promise of teenage-girlhood. Neverthless, the production was wonderful and those in charge of our television schedule might be interested to know that you can have twenty people on stage (and not so much as a hint of a Y-chromosome) without the end of the days being announced by the final trump (I believe that particular event is taking place on the other side of the Atlantic) and an equestrian quartet.
Before the play started, I was supporting the arts by partaking of a bottle of beer (it’s not that I want to you understand, I see it as my duty in these times of austerity) and, as is so often the case, chatting with the youthful barman. In my head, I clearly think that I am roughly the same age as your typical undergraduate – just with a more detailed and personal knowledge of the 1970s. – and I have, of course, been a barman.
In the evening, I went to see the glorious Alessandro Taverna (Alex Pub, in English) perform at the pianoforte. I saw him several years ago in Cambridge (before he was famous, assuming that he now is) and he was just as brilliant as I remembered. As so often at classical music, a significant portion of the audience were eighty, if they were a day. As I was musing about finding myself in the lowest quartile (decile even) of ages once again, a terrible thought struck me.
I am closer in age to most of the pensioners in that audience than I was to young James who’d served my (nearly) pint earlier in the day. Arghhh!
Some mistake, surely? I suspect the reason this seemed so improbable to me is that my mental age is becoming an ever diminishing fraction of my chronological one. I think the former may have become ‘stuck’ at some time in my teens. I made it through 2015 without petrol, let’s see if I can make it through the remainder of this life untroubled by adulthood…