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Editoral: On Mortality

It is perhaps inevitable that, as time goes by, all sentient species – eventually, presumably – become aware and, if they live long enough, eventually accept that Life is on this planet is not just finite but relatively short in the overall context of the universe.

A week or so ago, In the aftermath of a recent family lunch gathering to celebrate my daughter’s fortieth birthday, I received a long, newsy and otherwise cheery email from a niece who had also attended in which she asked how it felt now that both my kids had entered their fifth decade.

To be perfectly honest with you, the general extent of my self-awareness tends to be limited to the acknowledgement that, although technically in Earth-speak terms I shall be 72 later this year, de facto I am aged somewhere between the ages of about twenty-eight and fifty-eight, this against the background that – because I have done my best to live constantly “in the present” ever since I switched from wearing nappies to short trousers – in this respect I have remained in a state of self-deluded static suspension whilst Time itself rushes by.

According to my now-imperfect memory, the first occasion upon that I appreciated the fundamental absurdity of Life itself was probably at the age of about 8 or 9 when for some reason the future fact that a new Millennium would begin in the year 2000 came to my notice.

[For present purposes I shall leave aside the issue of whether the 21st Century actually began at one second past midnight in the year 2000 … or alternatively, at one second past midnight in the year 2001 – the theory in favour of the latter being that, until the year 2000 had come to an end, it could not properly be posited that 2000 years had been notched up].

With apologies for that digression, at that callow age (8 or 9) my mind moved on to work out just how I would be as the 20th Century ended and the 21st Century began.

Having calculated that the 31st of October 2000 would be my 49th birthday, my immediate reaction was the equivalent of a sullen teenager’s “Nah … [me reaching the age of 49] that’s never going to happen, is it?”

This wasn’t quite such a ridiculous notion as it might seem as first when – at the age of 8 or 9 as I was then – my father, at the time aged only 34 or 35, seemed not just a generation but an eternity and a half older than I was!

The other day, in conversation with an old pal – given our vintage I can say that in both senses now – I mentioned to him my periodic amazement when scanning down the “Today’s” and “Tomorrows” Birthdays section of The Times newspaper.

Seeing recently, for example, that on 26th July Rolling Stone Sir Mick Jagger had his 80th birthday – and that, on 17th July, Ringo Starr reached 83, Jeremy Guscott 58, Michael Howard (former Tory Party leader) 82, Tony Jacklin 79, Bill Oddie 82; or that, on 8th July, Polly James (The Liver Birds actress) reached 82, broadcaster Sarah Kennedy 73; or indeed that, on 9th July, actor Tom Hanks and comedian Paul Merton reached 66, David Hockney 86, and actor Richard Wilson 87 …

I guess it’s a telling signal that I’m slipping into decrepitude when the ages of all those above seem so strange from my perspective, i.e. that of someone who is in their late twenties to fifties …


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About Miles Piper

After university, Miles Piper began his career on a local newspaper in Wolverhampton and has since worked for a number of national newspapers and magazines. He has also worked as a guest presenter on Classic FM. He was a founder-member of the National Rust board. More Posts