By Geoff Farr - 24th September 2012 7:08am
I reach the age of 75 in a few weeks. I suppose it is something of a milestone, but not one I welcome.
I cannot help noticing that my world is slowly shutting down around me. The friends I made during my working life are gradually disappearing as are the friends of my social life and my school days.
I don't feel any different — I can still do a day's work — well nearly. I can still do a day's driving or flying — with intermittent breaks!
It does make me feel grumpy when (as happens a couple of times a month) someone says: "You are not still flying are you?" and: "You're not still riding a motorcycle are you?"
Yes I bloody well am, and furthermore I bought a new motorcycle a couple years ago, and then proceeded to take the advanced test of the Institute of Advanced Motorists on it.
The test consisted of a police motorcyclist following me for 35 miles on various roads and various traffic conditions around Shrewsbury and Telford. My score of points was 22 items judged at Excellent and 4 items judged Good.
I was asked when joining the course what was my motivation from so doing (with the added rider "at my age".) My reply was that I had been riding since 1954 and might have picked up a few bad habits and would like to eradicate them. Further, after 56 years riding, I was slightly surprised to still be alive!
Despite the foregoing, it is becoming more difficult to obtain insurance at a reasonable price, and this applies to car, motorcycle, and aircraft insurance. It is even more difficult to hire a car on holiday, or to acquire travel insurance to go on a cruise.
When I consult my Appointments Diary these days, I see fewer of those exciting appointments for social occasions, family gatherings, and business meetings. I am far more likely to find appointments for checks on my replacement heart valve, my batteries in my pacemaker, repairs to my teeth, my feet, flu jabs and other unmentionable parts of me.
To add insult to injury, prepaid funeral plans come cascading through the letterbox — bugger that! There is even a suggestion that I might like to buy myself a burial plot — and bugger that too.
Some years ago (1993) after open heart surgery, the Civil Aviation Authority told me that my flying had to come to an end. Since no one had had their licence restored to them after open heart surgery, I suggested that the surgery had restored me to my former glory, and as medical science progressed, it would soon be the case that a good number of pilots who had open heart surgery, would be fully restored to health.
They, the CAA, would sooner or later have to recognise this fact and modify their policy.
They did acknowledge my point, and offered me a concession. They said they would issue me with a restricted licence, that is, I could fly with another fully qualified pilot. I was not too impressed with this and pointed out to them that my dog could be a pilot with that restriction!
It took a year or two but they did ultimately restore my full licence. So, am I now giving up flying? Am I hell!
Nevertheless, I have the feeling that my activities are gradually being eroded with advancing age, not by me, but by the rules of institutions, companies, and government departments around me.
I am restricted to a glass of red wine a day. I have to produce a card at or they will send me through the x-ray machine. The airlines or travel agents won't let me travel unless I am insured — but the buggers won't insure me!
Don't eat too much! Don't drink too much! What the hell am I taking such pains to preserve myself for? Mind you, I am still expected to be capable of going online — and managing a mobile phone is not considered beyond me.
With great reluctance, I have had to dispose of my Jaguar and my Peugeot. It is called downsizing. I hate it.
What am I to make of all this? Well I am reliably advised that 75 is the new 65. And yes, I am running on works reconditioned spare parts with attached electronic ignition, and occasional new valves. All quite reliable, and I still have my own hips, knees, etc.
Would it be convenient if I offered the Treasury a cheque to cover possible Estate Duty whilst I am still in charge of my own affairs? Well, they are looking as if they are going to need it sooner rather than later.
Do you think I should defy them all and trade my motorbike in for a big hairy Harley-Davidson. Well, no, I can't. I tried that and the damn thing became too heavy for me to pull out of the shed!
Should I trade my aeroplane in for a bigger and better model? Well, no, I can't do that either, as I like the one I have, and furthermore, a bigger one would not lift itself out of the short field.
It begins to look as if I must keep on keeping on and continue my rearguard action against growing old. After all there is now supposed to be legislation on the statute book that forbids all form of discrimination on account of age, although you could have fooled me.
My grandchildren now have children of their own, and in answer to their questions, yes, I do remember World War II being declared, and I certainly remember the peace in 1945. I remember the early black-and-white televisions, the inception of the Ferguson tractor, the Morris Minor, and the Beatle backed Standard Vanguard, the BSA Bantam etc.
In fact I remember these occasions sometimes rather better than I remember what I did a fortnight ago.
First and last
I did some time ago read a poem, and though I cannot remember all of it, I do remember the first and last lines:
"A man is not old when his hair turns grey
A man is not old when his teeth decay.....
......But a man's getting old when his mind makes appointments his body can't keep."
I have made no such appointments.
Cheerio for now.
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