Tuesday, 14 May 2013

There is nothing remotely sexy about turning into a sexagenarian

It is the role of the old to dispense wisdom to the young, and the nature of the young not to pay much if any attention.

I cannot recall exactly when I passed the tipping point between having all the time in the world and knowing that I was about to hit a brick wall at high speed, but it must have been some time in the last decade.

The sensation is beautifully summarised in a Gary Larson cartoon of a sprightly fellow stepping of a kerb with a merry tune on his lips, then lying face down on the road with tyre marks across his back. With the caption: “The old age truck: you never see it coming”.

All of which came back to me very forcefully on Saturday at a grand 60th birthday dinner in Cambridge, where our host gave an excellent speech expressing his personal amazement at reaching this milestone, and counselling his children and their contemporaries to make the most of their time “because it will run through your fingers like grains of sand”.

Truer words were never spoken. I have succeeded in wasting most of my own life through a peculiar combination of conscientiousness and sheer bone idleness, meaning that I worked reasonably hard at narrowly defined tasks, whether schoolwork or paid employment, and shamefully neglected my personal relationships and leisure opportunities.

The only saving grace for me was an abortive attempt to retire at 50, which finally gave me the time and energy to find a wife (or, rather, allow a wife to find me) and produce two children. Because “father of” is going to provide much better reading on my gravestone than “half competent PR man, failed novelist and sometime columnist for The Journal”.

I started school a year earlier than most Geordie children in the late 1950s, and had my education accelerated by a further year through a madcap “flyer” scheme at the Royal Grammar School designed to get their brighter pupils to university 12 months earlier, for reasons never successfully explained to me or, I strongly suspect, anyone else.

As a result, many of my school and university contemporaries are a year or two older than I am, and have already embarked upon their seventh decades. It is easy to discourage them by saying: “So, old chum, if your life is a week, do you realise this is now Sunday?”

It is striking, therefore, that this weekend’s was the first and only invitation to a 60th birthday celebration that I have ever received. It is probably no coincidence that it came from a man who was a dear friend at Akhurst school from 1958-62, but then completely disappeared from my life until a couple of years ago. As a result, he lacked the crucial knowledge of how much of an asset I am likely to prove at a dinner, or indeed any other social occasion.

Still, I enjoyed myself and Mrs Hann can be relied upon to be the life and soul of almost any party, so I hope that this column may serve as a hint to anyone else drawing up a similar invitation list to at least think about sticking us on it.

I shall now begin to think seriously about how to mark my own diamond jubilee in June 2014, a date which I long had ringed in my calendar as the one on which I would write my last press release and put my feet up for good. A plan that responsibility for two very small boys clearly now requires me to put on hold for another couple of decades.

I was reminded, dawdling through Cambridge on a rainy afternoon, that the undergraduate society at the oldest college, Peterhouse, calls itself “The Sex Club” in honour of the college’s sexcentenary in 1884.

Cambridge: always providing food for thought

Inspired by this, I shall design suitable invitations to celebrate my becoming a sexagenarian. If nothing else, beautifully embossed cards advertising “The Keith Hann Sex Party” should keep my costs down by ensuring an absolutely minimal number of positive RSVPs, and those from people whose sight is too dim to read the words properly. Though I suppose there might be quite a few of those …

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1 comment:

Louise said...

Keith I am sure that Rod Stewart, that well known wearer of bulging pants who purports to be still be a rock star, would disagree with you! All I have to say to Rod is,'{ut on your slippers and have a cup of cocoa.'