Well I’ll go to the foot of our stairs as my grandma used to say. Tomorrow I will be nearly 70. In factual terms I will be 69 but it feels bloody close to being 70 and we all know what that means. I am no longer getting old, I am bloody old or will be shortly. Perhaps by the time I actually get to be 70, assuming I do, I will have redefined what ‘being old’ means. So many clichés to fall back on – age is only a number, you’re only as old as you feel, that type of thing. I find none of the usual inspirational mantras at all inspiring or even comforting. I feel old and am old. I was going to write this blog about my health but, given I’ve got my diabetes review coming up next week, I thought I would leave the pleasure of this topic until after that. So birthdays it is.
Do they feel any different when a person is retired? Apart from the obvious, we don’t have so many of them left. Another aspect of retirement birthdays or birthdays of a certain age is that old chestnut – what do you buy a person who wants for nothing except all those things they can’t have? Let me explain. When you’re getting on a bit and you want something, you’re not going to wait for a year to get it. You could be dead by the time you get it. Assuming the finances are OK, a big assumption for some people I know, but for us, they’re OK, not brilliant but decent, then you’re going to go out and buy it right there and then, aren’t you? Or even more immediate, order it on line. If I want another guitar (I have 20, so I don’t but I could if I wanted) I’d go out and buy it. I did recently, on a birthday present shopping expedition, balk at the idea of buying another keyboard for £2,000+ and I’ve only got two of those and an actual piano, admittedly one that hasn’t been tuned for years. So the things I want and can afford I’ve already bought and the items I want but can’t afford or are, like the keyboard, too ridiculous even for a nearly 70 year old, not an option even as a present.
A lot of folk I know in this position (they’ve got what they need present-wise) plump for ‘events’, you know, a special concert, steam train ride, trip to Venice, but I’ve done all those as well and with the pups now part of the family, jetting off or taking a cruise down the Rhine (which I haven’t done) has become impractical. We don’t like putting them in kennels and although we have a friend who has a farm where they enjoy going, we’re worried that they might grow to like him and his farm better than us and what kind of birthday present would that be?
So I fell back on the ‘old faithfuls’. Books and music. But I missed a trick with the books. I have a collection of Wisden Cricket Almanacks. For those of you who don’t know about cricket or couldn’t care less about it, you will probably not have heard of this annual cricket reference book. Collecting them can become an obsession and, at £40+ per book, an expensive one at that. They go back to 1864 and the early editions sell for £1,000s, so you could make the case that buying them is an investment. I have managed to limit my ambitions to those published during my life time, i.e. since 1948. Over the last few years my daughter buys me the latest edition for father’s day. This works quite well for both of us, I get the book, she gets the satisfaction of making her old (that word again) dad very happy (those that know me will know that the words ‘very happy’ and ‘me’ are an oxymoron) and as a bonus she gets to inherit them when I (all too soon) pop my clogs. As a keen cricket fan this is a pleasing thought for her. In fact I live vicariously (a favourite word of mine) through her cricket exploits – cricket grounds she goes to here and abroad and famous cricketers she has her photo taken with usually with a glass of Pimms or some such. Makes me sick.
The trick I missed, in case you were wondering, is that I am missing 3, I think, editions from the 1950s. My favourite method of buying Wisdens is when I stumble across one in a second-hand bookshop and snap it up at a bargain price. Yes, this does make me ‘very happy’. This is practically impossible these days because there are very few such bookshops however it still happens occasionally. I periodically write out a list of my missing books, carry it round with me for a few weeks, lose it, find a book in a shop, think I’m sure I haven’t got this one, take it home and find I’ve just bought a duplicate copy. I know, I should put the list on my phone. I have 3 copies of the 1951 edition bought on this basis. What I should have done is ask for one, or maybe all three, of the missing editions for my birthday present but, because of their rarity, she would have to have ordered it / them from a specialist dealer and then I wouldn’t have got it for my birthday. Yes, I have heard of deferred gratification.
So no Wisdens, but what I did choose for my birthday presents was three hardback, crime novels (see above). I read so many crime books that I rarely even buy them from a proper bookshop even in paperback form. I usually buy them for a £1 from charity shops or car boot sales. But I reasoned if a chap can’t indulge himself on his birthday (I also bought a Cannonball Adderley CD and vinyl record) then when can he? And so there we are, whether there will be any surprise presents come the morrow, I doubt it, maybe a stair-lift or one of those baths with a hoist or a door that opens or a pair of those gloves with no fingers to wear around the house. Now they would be a surprise but not nice ones. Yes a retired person can be difficult to buy for but we do have our standards you know.
And finally in my email box this very morning, is this the birthday present, a day early, I’ve been waiting for? Can I put on my blog – nominated for …. from top 41, strange number but never mind. I don’t live in New Zealand if you get that far checking link below (I’m near bottom well very bottom actually but none the worse for that, no cancel that, on my phone I’m at the very top, what to make of that?) but I suppose I could move if it helps.
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