Confused of Joppa (65)

So yesterday I was 65. 65! 65! I remember when my gran turned 65, thinking how astonishing it was that she had lived all that time, including through two wars; still, she lived to be 102, so there’s hope for me yet. 

65 is fine by the way, just like 60 was, and 50 and 40 and 30 and 21. My best year was probably 19 (1976-77), more or less concurrent with my second year at university, studying English (ie reading books), a zillion friends, a 26 inch waist, living in a flat, lots of sin, but in many respects, cynics will note, my life hasn’t really changed that much, though the waist. There are advantages in being an ageing Cammy – there will never come a point in my decline where, with regret I say ‘That’s my last time on the ski slopes’ or ‘That’ll be my last Munro’ or where I have to ask a doctor if my arthritis or whatever now precludes playing golf. I don’t do any of these things anyway, so perhaps I will be lucky enough to die still doing everything I ever enjoyed. More or less everything.

Obviously getting older feeds my raging hypochondria; though I am essentially a happy chappy, there’s always some twinge or weird wee symptom (today a metallic taste in my mouth) which lingers in the back of my mind until, regrettably often, the calm salve of a professional medical opinion is poured on my paranoia (‘A metallic taste? Did you eat any metal yesterday? Well, that’ll be it.’) In any case, as things currently stand, I’m not that bothered about death anyway. Larkin, who was terrified of dying, nonetheless nailed it when he called death ‘the solving emptiness that lies just under all we do’. If I have a gravestone (probably not) that might just be on it.

And I have to tell you, if I get struck by a bus while out for a walk with the delightful Mrs Janey Jones at lunchtime today, then I will think two things among others: what a pity I stopped smoking, and well, at least I don’t have to be so confused anymore by the trials of daily life and politics.

I am blessed not, so far, to be showing signs of neurological impairment, though like everyone over 50 I daily believe myself to be teetering at the brink of that tragic decline. But, let’s be honest fellow 65-ers, life is difficult both in its day to day detail and in a global sense. An illustration of each follows.

So Mr F and I have just been to Madrid for six days which was fab; highlights included a two star meal, the Thyssen gallery (can’t spell the other bit), cheap tapas bars, a lovely hotel room and a great book to read on the plane (‘Leave the World Behind’ by Rumaan Alam, thank you Gemma). It was chilly but sunny. However, in order to get into Spain you require a QR code. You go to a website, fill in a form, return to it two days before you leave (two days! Darlings, what if it DOESN’T WORK!) complete the process and ping it off. They then email you the code. On entering Spain you can show it on your phone or print it off. So, proud of myself for completing this task (easily done, I imagine, by the average 7 year old) I printed it off. The message requires two sheets to be printed, and the construction of the accompanying email means that the QR was neatly cut in half. How is that even possible, I thought, in despair. So I attempted to alter the email (load of regulatory bollocks) and the whole thing disappeared. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Who designs these processes? Why aren’t they in jail for making 65 year olds unhappy? (Editor’s note: there is, of course, a much much easier way to print it.)

But that’s trivial really. If you want confusion writ large, try yesterday’s announcement about the UK government’s magnificently absurd, tragic, demonic, bizarre, cruel decision to ‘process’ desperate people trying to get into the UK in Rwanda. It was like a sick April Fool. But truly, what concerns me about it isn’t so much that an overgrown, criminal clown like Boris or a…I’m struggling here…an ignorant (in the old Scottish sense of lacking class and integrity) and vicious person like P Patel have come up with this insane and callous strategy, but that there are, presumably, millions and millions of people out there who think it’s all right really. Otherwise, one imagines, the legion of government advisors might have paused them. I mean, seriously, does anyone reading this know of anyone at all who might for a second think this is ok, like even your right-wing grandad or your covertly racist neighbour, or your friends in the army. Anyone at all? 

Is it a wonder that on the first day of my 66th year I am confused? Anyway, thank you, friends out there for your birthday greetings and for being friends. The immigrants are going to Rwanda, my toes are twitching so I need to Google that; if I am confused now, imagine being 85 and further confused. Solving emptiness.



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