Yesterday my brother and I went for lunch with my father and his oldest pal Patrick, who is now over ninety. As it was also the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, we had decided to celebrate that with a bottle of champagne and various props including British, French and Italian (well, it was an Italian restaurant!) and some soil brought earlier this week by my brother from ‘a battlefield on the Continent’ – however, this was from the Somme as he wasn’t allowed to get anywhere near the soil of Waterloo by the security arrangements surrounding the 200th anniversary celebration including hordes of re-enactors.
Inevitably, there were some classic memories dragged from the dark recesses of memories distant and fading – and a lot of ‘communal’ fun and laughter. It was a terrific gathering.
At one point my father leaned across to Patrick and challenged him.
“What do you remember about 8th October 1940?”
Quick as a flash, Patrick was equal to the task: “The school 1st XV played Radley and home, beat them 20-0, and afterwards I was awarded my 2nd XV colours …”
Afterwards, on the way home, I reflected a tad sombrely on the vagaries of living a long life.
Both my elders and betters yesterday – one into, and one on the verge of, his tenth decade – have had illustrious careers and full lives. They’ve still both got their marbles, probably in differing degrees of detail and ‘computing speed’. But they’ve also had their age-related infirmities (as anyone of their vintage would do).
My father is a bit dodgy on his pins these days, but seeing Patrick for the first time in about a year yesterday was a bit of a shock. He was still as sharp as a pin mentally, but physically he was desperately slow and relying heavily upon a stick. I’d never seen him use one before. To be honest he seemed to have aged about five years in the past 12 months.
The thing is, it happens to us all I suppose …