Turning Ninety

30th April 2021 |

Well, tomorrow’s the day when your favourite anti-hero turns ninety. I know, it’s only a number, but for some reason we have to measure out the remorseless flow of time.


Seven years ago, in California, I had to go to a hospital in Stanford for s diagnosis of some small thing, although I was generally in rude good health, and while there I passed through the hands of a youngish doctor – around forty and a bit supercilious I thought.

He said, “You seem to be in good shape. You’ll probably make it to ninety.”

I remember how shocked I was. “Only seven more years?” I said to myself. And, “Make it?”

Did he think that I would come crawling, encumbered by innumerable illnesses, and collapse across the finish line.

That was just one of the tone-deaf remarks doctors are famous for. Anyway, here I am, as rudely healthy as ever. And I have good news for all of you back down there in the peloton (it’s a bicycle racing term – this year the Tour de France passes through my village).

Things don’t just get worse. They can actually get better. Even physical things.

The only structural defect I have suffered from so far is a bad hip (or gammy leg, as it used to be called.) It’s supposed to go on getting worse until they put a new one in. But mine has suddenly started getting better. And exercise – which I’m not good at – helps.

My current doctor, a very nice woman, smiles sceptically because she knows that only pills can help. She’s wrong, but she won’t listen. They don’t . So I’m telling you instead. And I have previous experience. A few years back I ruptured a tendon at my shoulder. It hurt badly for a long time. She said they don’t repair themselves, but I could have it sewn together again. That would mean months of immobility during which I’d lose whatever strength I have left in my arm. I declined.

Today my arm is as strong as it ever was. I don’t know what happened in there, but the body has a way of dealing with it.

I’ve just come back from three weeks in California, during which I got closer to an ever-growing family, and met a tiny grandson for the first time. Wyatt, he’s called, and he is an amazing bundle of energy and good humour. Everybody seemed to be doing well, in spite of the virus, and without Trump looming above my head the air seemed clearer and sweeter.

I know a number of people have ordered books from me and had to wait for my return. I’m sorry for the delay, but I will get them off today. And I’d like everyone to know that I have now sold enough copies of the picture book to cover the cost of printing and storing them. Thank you all so much, but do go on buying them. Nobody has yet had anything but good things to say about it.