I could feel myself teetering on the brink of the female equivalent of geezerhood or old codgerism: the compulsion to share with fresh-checked youth how things used to be “back in my day”.
I thought I’d begin by painting the kitchen cupboards and then do a bit more work on my Bridge on the River Kwai bamboo garden trellis project. After that, I thought I’d do a spot of vacuum cleaning.
It was when I found myself relishing the prospect of bathing the dog, dear reader, that I realised something was terribly amiss.
I share this story to illustrate one of the advantages of getting older: you are more alert to your neuroses and behavioural tics and therefore more able to circumvent them. This morning for example, I did not allow myself to be distracted by the displacement activities my unconscious had made so alluring - not even the beach walk with book and latte to follow. As a result it took only an hour and a half, four cups of tea and three slices of toast to get me to where I sit now - at my computer dutifully writing this column.
Such triumphs almost compensate for the fact that I feel I can no longer wear leopardskin print (not even ironically) or the shocking discovery I made last week that the middle-aged woman with rather poor posture I saw reflected in a shop window was actually me. But … and it’s quite a big BUT …
I’m discovering that as soon as I outsmart an old tic, I develop new ones which are more difficult to suppress. A case in point. I was walking across Neale Park after a ramble with the dog and when I came upon a young man relaxing after sports practice on one of the benches near the changing rooms. Parked beside him was a motor scooter. It was a gorgeous thing - all luscious aerodynamic curves - and its bright metallic blue paint glinted in the afternoon sun.
I stopped to admire it and when I discovered it had a 50cc engine I told him about the Honda 50 step-through I used to ride when I was at university, how it was rather anorexic by comparison to his own modern bike and it had no windshield or electric start. I was about to launch into a story about the French-made moped I used to have before that, which had such a tiny engine that you needed to pedal it to climb the mildest of gradients.
I could feel myself then, teetering on the brink of the female equivalent of geezerhood or old codgerism: the compulsion to share with fresh-checked youth how things used to be “back in my day”. I felt a terrible urge to go on and on about how when I was a girl, nothing was as sleek or as fast as it is now.
I was itching to tell him about a job I had at the Post Office during my high school holidays which involved sitting at a desk in front of a telegraph machine with a pair of scissors and a pot of glue. When the machine chattered out long ribbons of text, it was my job to cut them up into sentences and stick them onto a piece of yellow paper. Then I had to fold the paper into an envelope marked TELEGRAM, seal it with a lick, and set off on a bicycle to deliver it. In the summer in Hastings this often meant biking miles into the country on bitumen roads made almost molten in the heat. I wanted to tell him that this was how we got a quick message to someone back in my day. In my day, I wanted to explain, there was no fax, no email and many of us didn’t have a phone in the house, never mind in our pockets. Thankfully, I dragged myself away before the temptation to blurt became irresistible.
As I neared home, the young man, mounted on his gleaming blue motor scooter, turned out of the park and headed up the road in my direction. The scooter made a pleasantly throaty sound quite unlike the chugging and whining of my old moped. As he came abreast of me, the young man nodded his great helmeted head and lifted a gloved hand in salute. I like to think that he was acknowledging my grey powers of extraordinary self-control.