"Sir, I am too old to learn", so Kent tells Cornwall, just before that bitch Regan, one of King Lear's foul daughters, has the stubborn ancient knave clapped in the stocks.
I haven't had a birthday and I don't feel particularly decrepit at the moment, but I do need a new battery for my watch. Beloved laughed out loud when I asked if he could think of anything funny to do with middle/old age. "There's nothing funny about ageing," he said, "except to young people, who think, like Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, "When age is in, the wit is out". (Beloved is another old person who quotes Shakespeare without feeling in the least embarrassed). "Perhaps you could ask to have a new battery fitted yourself", he suggested, "to keep you going for another year without stopping". Have you noticed how watch batteries seem to last for exactly twelve months? How do they do that?
Believe me or not, there are advantages to getting older! Old people are practically expected to ramble and ask pointless questions. Children love them for it, it trains them early on to feel superior. It's such a relief when the straitjacket of what is considered mature good sense is slipped over the back of the chair and one can relax into that comfortable old cardigan with saggy pockets and baggy elbows, which comes with experience and the knowledge that nothing is consumed as hot as it is served. It's a very valuable thing indeed to be able to take the long view - BACKWARDS. Wisdom is accepting that our long cherished views and opinions might just be fallible, something we have surely learned by now - I mean, how many times have you been proved wrong about your dearest convictions in the past? Actually, as I get older, I have come to believe less and less, but what I do believe, I believe more and more.
Although, agreeing with Eleanor Roosevelt 'I could not at any age be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on', and taking care of my appearance as well as my brain remaining of some importance, I don't mind not being seen as a sexual being by every stray male. I used to think that becoming invisible was the stuff of science fiction; not so. It's quite comforting and a lot less bother. You can use your energy for the worthwhile stuff, like quoting Shakespeare, blogging and writing bad poetry. True, there are disadvantages too: you can't throw a tantrum and still be sexy. Clever Eleanor also said 'Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art'. A work of art in a strop? No, can't see it, personally.
I don't entirely agree with the Duke of Kent about being too old to learn; I am definitely too old to learn the things you want me to learn but there is lots of stuff which interests me. That wonderful writer Gerald Brenan, whose 'The Face Of Spain' I am reading at the moment, (a book one of my gentlemen friends has lent me for the improvement of my mind ), said 'Middle age snuffs out more talent than even wars or sudden death does', but I am not at all sure that that is still true today. For those of us who have the time, the leisure, the means, the inclination to learn, the north, south, east and west of the world of knowledge have come close enough to grasp with ease. I don't know that a talent one has in youth can shrink, I do, however, accept, that storage and retrieval systems have lost some of their early elasticity.
I speak to strangers, male or female, and I am greeted with friendliness; I can look at you, full face, not swivel my head sideways to avoid eye contact. I smile at you without being afraid that you might think me odd. If you do, that's your problem. I even like being who I am, much of the 'searching for myself' has been done. In the sixties and seventies navel-gazing was a team sport of olympic proportions. Although we think we were the generation that invented sex, I can still remember films where cameras panned to waves pounding the beach and trains rushed into tunnels, shrilly whistling, at the crucial moment. I am glad that kind of humbug has been done away with. I know what I like and have the courage to admit to it. I am not asking for respect because of my grey hairs, like the generation of my parents, but for being a half-decent human being. I am not afraid to grumble about the state of the world or complain about bad service, but otherwise my days on the barricades are over. It's the next generation's turn. Smiling and shrugging my shoulders may not be doing my civic duty, but it's easier. Seeing that I have free prescriptions, equanimity of mind saves the NHS some money: it keeps my consumption of blood pressure medication low. You do it, you go out and change the world, you are younger and more energetic than me.
'A healthy old fellow, who is not a fool, is the happiest creature living'. said Gerald Brenan.
I hope it goes for old girls too.