How Old?

Today is my 65th Birthday – and first of all I would like to say a huge great big ‘Thank you’ for all of the birthday wishes I have received from my Facebook ‘Friends’.  I would also like to say thank you for SOME of the comments I have received as well!!

Seriously, thank you very much each and every one.

65 years is a long time in any bodies book and to be honest, particularly these days I feel privileged to reach this age – I hope it goes on for a while longer!

I am often asked if I feel 65 and wouldn’t I rather be 19 again?  The answer to both is ‘NO’.

To be honest when my back is playing up (the doctors reckon it’s as a result of a mis-spent youth! I only wish I could remember what I had been up too)! I do feel more like 85 than a sprightly 65, but in my head I feel much younger.  If pushed for an age I would suggest somewhere around 30-35 years old.  I do fully understand the meaning of the phrase ‘The mind is willing but the flesh is weak’.

I suspect that the vast majority of people do actually feel much younger than their actual years and that is very good, to be kept young mentally is vital.  It does come however as a surprise almost daily when the things that you could do when you were that tender 19 years of age, are not only difficult today but physically impossible (back to that mis-spent youth I suppose). 

Another sign of creeping years is when you realise as you gaze into the bathroom mirror one morning, that that handsome young blade that used to smile back at you – has turned into your father!  But spare a thought for my poor doctor, who when I told her that I was shocked to see my father staring back at me replied “Well, how do you think I feel.  I looked into my bathroom mirror this morning and I saw your father!!

Would I like to be younger?  No, I think not.  At my age I no longer have to climb out of bed on cold and wet mornings to continue my existence as a wage slave, if I don’t like the look of things out of the window I simply pull the covers up again and return to my dreams.  Likewise, if there’s a good movie on the box I can stay up and watch it, I no longer have that ‘deadline’ because I have to get up in the morning.  Carol and I are our own masters now, if we don’t fancy dinner today – we don’t have to have it.  If we feel like taking a walk along the seafront – we do it simply because we want too.  Young people now hold the door open for me – which really does take some getting used to.

These reasons for being glad that I’m 65 may appear rather selfish but you must understand that I have lived through the best of times.  In fact I believe that I have lived through the best times in the history of the world!

Born, as I was just after the Second World War, I was one of the so-called ‘Baby Boomers’.  A time when the world was getting used to being free of the horrors of the war.  Not for me the dread of listening to enemy aircraft overhead and the scream of the falling bombs as they did their best to kill my older brothers and sisters.  Not even for me was the deprivations that the war brought in its wake.  Sure I can just remember going shopping with my mum to Sainsbury’s and watching her hand over the ration card for her purchase of sugar, which came lose in a little blue bag, but I was far too young to realise the significance of such things.

All I know is that when I was young, and I mean very young, I had freedom.  Although I was too young to remember, my mum used to take me to where she worked in a large house on Hastings seafront.  On a nice day, she would prop me up in my pram right on the promenade itself, so that I could watch the sea and the birds.  She would check on me every half hour or so and I was perfectly safe and secure.  Even as a 4 or 5-year-old I can remember playing out on the street on my own.  I had a little red peddle car with an opening boot (or trunk as my American friends call it – funny lot aren’t they?) in which I carried a rolled up street map of the town. I didn’t know how to read it but I felt like a grown up just unfurling it and consulting it as I had seen my dad do on may an occasion.  One day I decided to take a drive to visit my Grandmother, so jumped into my GTi and drove to her house.  The fact that she lived the other side of the town and that I had to drive through the town centre was not a problem for me, it may have been for the trolley bus drivers as I negotiated the main roads of the town centre in my little red car I don’t know, I can’t remember.  That is probably a good thing because I suspect that was one adventure too far for my mum and dad.

When it was time for me to start school, I can remember being escorted once by my mum, after that I did the journey by myself, which involved changing buses all on my own.  I can even remember trying to fool the bus conductor that the penny I was giving him for my fare was in fact a Half a Crown by virtue of the silver paper I wrapped around it.  And all of this was way before I was 8 years old.

As I got older I longed for the long hot summer holidays because of the daily adventures I would have with my friends.  As soon as we woke, we would be off on out bikes for the day.  Out into the countryside with our sandwiches and lemonade (made from a solid block of lemonade powder). We discovered an area that rumour told us was an old Second World War military training area and that if you were lucky you could find unexploded mortar bombs which we could retrieve and take to school!  Thankfully we never actually found anything.  But as long as we were all home by the time the street lights came on, nobody worried about us.

In 1962 I became a soldier and remember well the training we had at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis to cope with a Russian attack (pathetic as it was – lay on the floor in the direction of the mushroom cloud and paint your windows white – that would really be useful in the event of a 50 megaton bomb going off in your backyard!)  My service allowed me to experience the delights  of Singapore and also saw me in action in Malaya and Borneo – they even gave me a medal for that!

Leaving the army and returning to Civvy Street is always difficult for any squadie but back then it was a lot easier.  I remember starting one job in the morning – getting fed up by lunchtime and starting another job the same afternoon!  In those days the employer NEEDED the employee, not the other way around.

 The deprivations of the war were well and truly over and as I moved into my teens the revolution of the 60’s was approaching.  Music, real music was hitting us.  Lonnie Donegan gave way to the Beatles and the Stones.  Bright colours instead of the drab wartime ration colours, outrageous hair styles that shocked our parents and winkle picker shoes that had as sharp a point as any needle ever did, they may have crippled your feet but hey, some sacrifices had to be made to look cool.

The advent of white knee-length boots and long maxi coats first drew my eyes to a pretty little red-head and shortly afterwards Carol and I were wed.  We were confident that to bring children into such an exciting world was a good idea; we assumed that the good times would continue to roll, but as time has proved, they did not.

The idea of a parent leaving a baby unattended even for a few seconds in unthinkable today.  Allowing a child to roam the streets without supervision is equably so.  Whatever would Social Services say?  Today’s children are issued with mobile phones for alleged ‘safety’ reasons almost as soon as they can walk.  It is hardly safe to allow them to play in their own back garden without an adult bring present to ensure that some paedophile does not try to snatch them.  Whereas I was sent to the local shop on an errand when I was 4, allowing an 11-year-old to do so today is risky.

I was allowed to explore, sometimes I got hurt as a result but I learnt from that.  Today if a child stubs a toe, the adult in charge is disciplined or even sacked and a six month enquiry is launched.

As a young man I would go to the disco without fear of coming into contact with drugs.  I used to hitchhike all over the country following my football team (it is only a rumour that I followed Aston Villa and Tommy Docherty and I will deny it if pressed).  It was even easier hitching when I was in uniform – can you imagine a young soldier standing at the side of the road thumbing a lift today?

Today you can’t do anything without being charged a tax on it.  Children are confined to their homes and rely on their computer or iPad for their adventure.

My grandchildren’s futures are blighted by the criminal politicians who have hocked their lives for thirty pieces of silver.  Their freedoms are being curtailed by overzealous politically correct teachers and social workers. 

My criminal career was immediately brought to a crashing halt the day the local bobby caught me scrumping and administered short justice with a clip round the ear from his cape, but I knew that if I had a problem he would always be there to help and advise me.  I also knew that if I went home and told my Dad that a copper had clouted me, I would have got another one on the basis that I must have deserved it.  Today’s police officers are no more than Revenue Collectors for the government or at worse ‘Law Enforcers’ for a demonic ‘democratic’ dictatorship.  The respect that the community has for the police is dwindling away on a daily basis.  No more is there a ‘Bobby’ that the community can turn to; they are faced with the ‘Terminator’ with their body armour and range of weapons.

Not all of my memories are happy ones of course, I’ve had my fair share of unhappy experiences as well but when I

Life in the Old Dog yet

look back over the last 65 years and I am even more convinced that my lifetime so far has most definitely been spread across the best years in the history of the planet, and when I look at the world of the future that my grandchildren have yet to face, I am more than happy to have lived them.  No thank you, I’ll stay 65.

Thank you once again for your birthday wishes.  But remember, I hope that there will be a few more of them left for me yet.