Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Birthdays, Age and Tightrope Walking with Larkin

I had a birthday this week-end, I have no problem with birthdays they roll by whether you want them to or not so I like to embrace them as an increasingly familiar old friend. Twenty was wonderful, thirty was wonderful, forty was fine, fifty was interesting, sixty my next one I shall encounter with a zero will bring a bus pass, heating allowances and best of all I anticipate the feeling of empowerment that I have earned the right to not bother about what people think about me. If truth were told ( and truth is not always best told but probably less damaging that untruths told in the long term) I feel that at fifty –eight ( pause whilst I have to recalculate from last year). It would be a lie to say I did not care how others perceive me, that way lies slight madness and those blouses you find in shops that cater for ladies of a certain age. You know the ones I mean, tiny paisley patterns, maybe with trailing things that can be tied in bows at the neck. I still squeeze myself into jeans that are a triumph of corsetry over breathing and have T-Shirts that have slogans on. I was once told by a very glamorous perfumed and couturier bedecked lady that no woman should ever wear T-Shirts saying anything past twenty-five, unless it is a small discreet designer logo and then only if the designer is expensive enough. This woman was obviously wrapped in silk pashmina as she exited the birth canal and her mother probably only broke into a slight glow throughout labour.

I have little dress sense, no glamour ( as defined by afore mentioned designer woman), I often manage to achieve an effect through sheer serendipity, sometimes in the tumble of the drawers and wardrobe an outfit comes together by some strange law of permutations of what is nearest to hand. It must be a bit like the probability of winning the lottery, now and again you may win a tenner ( a near decent outfit) which makes you feel that a jackpot win( bloody great) is not totally impossible. At 6’ 3”( I’ve lost an inch along the way somewhere) you tend to get noticed when you enter a room, if you then add to that clashing colours and items of clothing from various decades that would make the words ‘an interesting mix of styles’ seem overly generous….. then you have a statement but in my case more of a exclamation ( probably best described by an exclamation mark).

I watched a couple of programmes on TV this week designed to cater to the over sixties. Gok Wan managed to persuade a lady over seventy to wear only iced buns for a photograph by calling her angel and ‘my darling’ every other sentence. In the other programme some doctors revealed the joys of the older body falling apart. Age is a bit of a bugger; it gives with one hand and takes with the other. Of course life is always about balance; the balancing act just gets a little more difficult as you get older, the wire a little thinner, you have to put your glasses on to see where you are going and the drop is a tad more daunting and you wonder if that slight twinge as you walk across the abyss signals a future hip replacement.. Of course I wouldn’t say I was as pessimistic as Larkin though and birthdays, any birthdays should be fun.

PS, The photograph at the top of the page was taken by my friend Martin Figura, a professional photographer and poet. I asked him to take photographs of my mother's bungalow a week after she died and then a few months later after it has been cleared. This may seem macabre but the photographs I knew would be strangely beautiful and continue to remain very poignant for me. You can see more here at his web site with a shortextract from an explanatory text I wrote to accompany the work.

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