A lesson that comes easier to some than others is this: the years gently twist the lenses of experience, bringing into sharp focus all the things that are truly important. Love. Respect. Kindness. I’ll let the Big Yin have the last word. He sums it all up much better than I can.
In the week when Rodney Bewes died, just a few days shy of his 80th birthday, I find myself turning 63.
In a kind of “Oh what happened to you? Whatever happened to me?” way, it’s a time of weird observations and realisations. Sitting up in bed at 04:20, with nothing really planned beyond making that first cuppa, I think about my legs. How many miles have they carried me? My Eyes. How much have they seen? My ears. How much have they heard? This is the 63rd anniversary of the day I was born. So many birthdays celebrated. So few that stand out, shouting me! me! me!
My tenth is one I recall in some detail. The first in double figures, the third with what family was left intact after my parents’ divorce. The first since we were evicted from a tied house, after my father gave up delivering bread and cakes, for a more adventurous career delivering letters and parcels for Royal Mail. The first birthday living in my grandparents’ house.
That year I gratefully received a book – A Pageant of History. My mother made a great fuss about how the title was embossed in gold. I was fascinated by how different our kings looked in the olden days. I also got a leather football, and some red and white striped football socks. Not because they were the colours of the team I supported, but because Rex Martin wore red and white striped socks, and he was the best football player in the school.
I haven’t made that cuppa yet. I am actually standing by the bed, but my attention is drawn to my legs once more. Hmm, no veins sticking out. Knees not too knobbly. I convince myself that if legs needed an annual MOT, mine would sail through, with no welding required.
As I make my way to the kitchen, I reflect on the way my knees changed colour more than half a century ago. When they weren’t covered in mud, they were usually purple from the cold, or covered with vivid orange/red patches from shinning up trees. Now they appear to pale at the mere thought of getting damaged, in any way.
The Unlikely Lad.
Me, as Terry, trapped inside Bob’s body.
People tell me not to keep looking back, but there are some places in our past that we ignore at our peril. I am attached to those places. All those years ago, as I marched out of childhood, and through adolescence, I put markers down. I unwound a string of memories as I travelled, and I won’t be put off feeling my way back and revisiting, occasionally.
Perhaps innocent reminiscing is what some have identified as a symptom of a second childhood. The retrogenesis theory that we are once a man/woman, twice a child. I would argue that the inner child never leaves us. Instead, it’s likely to be off playing hide and seek, enjoying the freedom that comes from shouldering grown ups with the burden of responsibility.