This ageing game
Newsletter: July 2017
Dear web friend
Greetings again as tennis balls ping, crowds groan and strawberries rule down Wimbledon way. (This is to help historians date this manuscript.)
But what to say? I never know when I start.
The thing is, no one writes to state what they know; rather, they write to discover what they don’t know. And so today I write about approaching 60.
Yes, at the end of this month, on July 29th, the stars will align, football stadia across the land will keep a minute of silence, Clintons’ website will crash through over-use… and it will be so.
My age has never previously felt significant to me; none of the traditional landmarks have made an impression, apart from perhaps my arrival at the age of 33, when, as a semi-conscious priest in London’s West End, I remember thinking, ‘Blimey – Jesus was grown up, smart and finished by now!’
But apart from that, the years have crept by unnoticed, like a thief in the crowd, blending in and never clocked; and perhaps, like an ordinary fool, I presumed 60 would be the same.
‘Sixty is the new 40!’ we claim, to calm our fears; I have said it myself. But beneath my public utterance, beneath my casual disregard for the years, I discern, on this occasion, a shadow; or rather, the first fading of the light on a summer’s evening. This is my sense.
It is not the darkness to come, not the unknown of the night; it is far from that. But the intense heat has dimmed, the egg yolk sun sinks slowly towards the sea; it is the evening of the day, the first fading of the light.
And two feelings arise as I contemplate this tonal shift. There is the gentle melancholy hinted at in the paragraphs above. It was George Orwell who said, ‘Every life seen from the inside feels like a series of defeats.’ Whether he speaks for you, I don’t know; but he speaks for something in me, so many losses, so many defeats… the sense of something half-lived, half-done, half-experienced.
And even if I live to be 100 – God help us all – I suspect my life, if pondered for a moment, will appear as little more than a misspent half-hour. Here is the melancholy.
Yet the second feeling, and rather different, is adventure. Is this allowed as a feeling? For even now, I am the young boy in shirt and shorts, fresh out of school and sitting on the harbour wall, stretching his arms towards the big sky, young-muscled, fresh-skinned and fearless, gazing at the horizon and wondering what this wonderful evening holds.
Everything is before me! I just don’t know what it is… and yes, don’t need to. As Calvin Hobbes observes, ‘The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive.’
But – seamless link alert! – I will know where I’m heading on Sunday August 13th, when I’ll shake my fist at the dying of the light, stretch my lungs and legs, and run a marathon for the Dementia Centre next door to us, taking in both the South Downs Way and the white-cliff sea. If slipping a discreet tenner into the collection pot seems a good way to celebrate my birthday, you can do so here. (But feel no obligation…you are generous in so many ways.)
More house news: I’m hosting a mindfulness retreat in Devon at Sheldon in November of this year. It’s called ‘The Mindful Way’. If interested:
And yes, Abbot Peter returns in September for his fifth adventure in The Indecent Death of a Madam. More to come on the book next time. But in the meantime, are you up to date with the other four? You can find them (and other Abbot stuff) here.
But before all that seaside murder and mayhem, we have the summer to notice, experience, enjoy… both the melancholy and adventure.
I hope it is kind to you.