Tuesday, 22 October 2013
Yesterday, a happy telephone conversation with an old friend.
We knew one another over forty years ago, when we were Bright Young Things in an exotic situation.
Many years later a number of serendipitous events led to our meeting again, and now we write (on good paper, with proper pens) and send one another books and other things of mutual interest, and we compete by telephone.
We compete over who can walk upstairs without hauling themselves on the banister rail, who can rise swiftly from a chair without using the chair arms, who can read without spectacles and over other such accomplishments which become increasingly significant when one is over seventy.
It is very good to be able to ask someone of the same age if it's normal to feel tired at the end of the day, if it's acceptable to feel timorous about motorway driving, if it's usual to be reluctant to leave one's comfort zone.
When you're this sort of age there seem no clear guide lines on what is all right and what might be the beginning of a decline, mental and/or physical.. There is so much promotion of youthfulness in mind and body, so much emphasis on activity and so few people who are prepared to be really honest about their fears and failings.
I look back over the distant views of my life and marvel at my physical energy and creative strength.
I'm so grateful that I was once, long ago, a Bright Young Thing, skimming around with two simultaneous jobs and doing up houses in my spare time. What spare time?
What spare time do we have now, my old friend and I?
Now there is nothing to spare and everything to value; the warmth of the sun through a window, the pleasing patterns of pens and papers on a desk, the smell of wood in the log pile, the morning walk along basically the same route which looks completely different every day.
We live quite a distance apart but our lives are so similar, our huge appreciations of minutae, our love of our respective homes, our respect for the young and our complete lack of envy for those who have it all to come.
I ask him, "Is it all right to feel exhausted by nine o' clock at night?" He says," Of course it is. What on earth can happen after nine o' clock to make it worth staying up?"
We might both have answered very differently a few decades ago, but now if I want to know what's happening I go to bed with Radio 4..
"Is it all right to feel timorous about motorway driving?" I ask, and he says, "I'm never going to drive on a motorway again."
My life is not quite as simple, but I feel that it's all right to express reluctance, although I buy a SatNav and do it. But the feeling that I'm not alone in being suitably reluctant is a good one.
"What about leaving the comfort zone?" I ask. "Why do it?" he says, which is a good point. Of course I will do it, but I make sure I know why I'm doing it.
My youth seems long, long distant, and I can (mostly) appreciate the gentleness of ageing. As the looks go, so does the eyesight. As the strength declines so does the urge to use it. The more one slows down the more there is to appreciate in the finer details. As one faces the sadness and losses that death brings, so much more does one value the remaining friendships.