Tomorrow will be the seventieth anniversary of my birth. Seventy! Imagine. Years ago, when things likes pensions and life insurances had to be thought about, I was quite certain that I would never make it so far. I and my high-octane personality. Placid is gooooood. So, yes, I paid into nothing, made no provisions for the hairless, toothless, bespectacled and deafish years and achieved everything I had wanted to by forty-something.
And now – and I don’t know whether to say ‘dammit’ or ‘hoorah’ – I have made it. So ….
What does one want at seventy and beyond? Well, number one is definitely health. Number two? Friends. Dear Friends. Close, closest and not even so close. Three, obviously enough money to live on. Four, a comfy place to live. Yes, comfy. Not posh or flash, not filled with bits of the family’s and late spouse’s stuff, just ‘comfy’. Five – which should maybe be one! – some kind of work to keep your brain enquiring, investigative, busy, anticipatory. Something to get up for in the morning.
So where am I, at the start of this unexpected decade?
(1) Health. Not too bad. I had a stroke five years ago. But apart from slowing me down a lot and crippling my right hand (can’t do 55 wpm or handwrite any more), I think I’m fair for my age. Unexpectedly, after having been a skinny boy all my life, I’m getting a pot-belly. OK, too much booze and not enough exercise. I know. Periodically, I try. Not for the aesthetic, couldn’t care less about that (vide my clothes!), but for the energy, yes, the health.
(2) Friends. I suppose I should have said ‘friends and family’ but I haven’t much family. One dearly wonderful brother in England (take a bow, John Gallas) and one loved cousin whom I haven’t seen in too long (your turn, Nerole Williams).
Friends? Well, since I was widowered, there are two people who have been and are all-important to me. Wendy (NZ) and Paul (Aus/Ger). They make my life happily, nay joyously, liveable. And, well, they take care of me, too. Without either one of them, I might not have had the will to hit up a 70 score. And all you other guys and gals behind them … thank you for your real and lasting friendship.
(3) Money. The kindness of others. Bless them. And I think I’ll be OK, if the world’s money men don’t wreck the value of everything once more with their plots and games. I remember the farthing. And when 1,000 a year was enough to live on. Makes my 71 pounds a week pension look pathetic, though, in 2016. Fingers crossed.
(4) ‘Home’. I’ve always been a ‘mover’. England, France, Germany, New Zealand, Australia … never anywhere for long, in recent years. Well, this year, for the first time, I’m not coming back to Europe, from the lovely Gerolstein down-under farm, for the summer. SCHENGEN says I’m not Syrian or Turk, therefore I can’t stay in Europe for more than 12 weeks pa. So I looked elsewhere. And I found it. Yamba-sur-mer, NSW, here, in a few weeks, I come. A delightful, tiny seaside flat… yes! That seems like a 70 year-old’s ideal!
(5) Except on the rare mornings when I have a hangover, I’m at my typewriter by 8.30am. And for most of the day. And mostly … yes, still writing. Or answering the queries which still come to me on my area of expertise, from round the world. My life is still filled with the minutiae of music and theatre, and I’m compiling a vast database of the lives and careers of VICTORIAN VOCALISTS. Love it.
So. That’s me. I approach the unexpected decade with hope that all five categories of Life’s Necessities will be kind to me.
And you all, too.