Sixty-one tomorrow, and I don’t feel a trace of the angst which afflicted me at this time last year. Last year it went on for almost a week, a feeling that now, finally, the end was nigh, that now I was an ‘old man’ and all that entailed – weeing several times a night, getting cranky, admitting that technology was baffling, that kind of thing. Well, the worrying was pointless. Sixty came and went, the world didn’t end, and I still felt the same as I had always done, utterly baffled by how I had arrived at the age I was in what seemed like very few years. My mother died of a massive heart attack at 60 and my father developed prostate cancer and died of a variety of cancers at 68. His parents also died at what would these days be thought ‘an early age’, but what then, the early 1970s, seemed about the right age. My grandmother, Elsie, died when she was in her early 70s and my grandfather, Walter, followed her not many months later. He had some kind of lung disease, which is not surprising as he smoked heavily all his life. I don’t know what Elsie died of. My German grandfather, Heinrich Hinrichs, died very early indeed, at 55 of liver cancer. But my German grandmother, Maria, live to a ripe old age. She didn’t pop her clogs until she was, I think, 96. It might have been 95, but she was most definitely in her 90s. Furthermore, she, too, smoked, but only the occasional fag. For some reason, I always assumed that I had her genes and would live to a ripe old age, but my heart attack four years ago rather changed my mind on that score, and my stepmother’s stroke three years ago reinforced the suspicion that death can come right out of the blue. But what’s all this bollocks about death? I started this entry by saying that this year seems to be the complete opposite of last year and I don’t seem to give a fuck that tomorrow I am 61 whereas turning 60 last year seemed like the end of the world. (Incidentally, I had a little chat with my son Wesley (who is only 11) and told him some of the best advice I could give him was not to worry too much. We do tend to worry a lot when we are younger, and it is all rather pointless and stupid. I remember being very concerned, before I eventually lost my cherry (to Wendy Romanes in Edinburgh) that it would never happen and that I would die a virgin. Well, it did. Mind, the young are apt to discount any advice which comes their way, which is a pity. And as young Wes takes after me in many ways, it will go in one ear and out the other. Usual routine tomorrow, driving off for my four days of fighting the good fight as part of Her Majesty’s Press, but I have bought a couple of cakes to share with the people I work with and then I shall have a meal with Wei Hsiu after work. But despite what I have written, I must admit that I do wish I were younger, that I could carry on screwing (it’s rather died a death since I got married, although for several reasons, my heart attack and the medication I was strongarmed into taking being two of them) and that I wasn’t invisible to women. That, unfortunately, I am. I am on the brink of joining the league of ‘nice old men’ or, depending who is asked (Jenny Coad perhaps being one) ‘nasty old men’. Oh well, it happens to us all.
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Unusually, I shall write an entry not on the day but two days earlier, or at least that is what it will seem like. I wrote the above on the night before my birthday, and this is being written in the early hours of the day after my birthday, November 22. Incidentally, it’s the years John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The usual question is: where were you when you were told of the assassination? Well, I was in the Junior House changing room at the Oratory as we were all getting our coats and stuff to walk the mile or so to Junior House. A prefect of other came in - I seem to remember it was Juckes, but I wouldn’t swear to that - and told us. In this day of universal terrorism every other weekend, such an event would not cause so much of a flutter, but then it was different. The West and especially the U.S., had persuaded itself it was invulnerable - despite the A bomb paranoia - because we were ‘the good guys’. That smug confidence was shattered by the assassination. I won’t say it was shattered forever, because several tens of years from now, our children and their children won’t give a rat’s arse to what we feel, but will be far more concerned with what they feel.
Anyway, had a great Chinese meal with Wei Hsiu at some place called the Phoenixe Palace just around the corner from Baker Street, and I’m pleased to say it was lightyears away from the standard sweet and sour pork with rice and a side order of spring rolls and fried seaweed. Wei Hsui had been there before with a Chinese friend and knew it was good. Plus, as it was my birthday, she treated me. But 61 is odd.
My stepmother gave me three very nice tartan flannel shirts, but they remind me of the kind of shirt which is de rigueur for the local bowls’ club treasurer to wear. You, dear reader, won’t understand this until (and if) you reach 61, but it wasn’t a joke when I wrote above that I ask myself how the bloody hell I got here so quickly, as you will find out. And like me, you will feel as though you are still in your early 20s and wonder, whenever you catch sight of yourself unexpectedly in a shop window or mirror, who the bloody hell is that old git staring at me. I wish he wouldn’t. What you don’t see is that as you look away, so does he, having thought exactly the same thing. In honour of my birthday and all those who have their birthday on November 21, I include a photo of a generic old fart. Rest assured that I look even older and more decrepit.
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Heard a joke today which is now rather old hat, but which was going the rounds when Iceland went bankrupt:
Q What's the difference between Iceland and Ireland?
A One letter and six months.