It was my 64th birthday yesterday, deliberately built around a splendid lunch of boeuf bourguignon, alcohol, a log fire and watching the Rugby World Cup with my father.
Shortly after midday we had a visit from a local lady who had dropped in to see my parent and cracked open a bottle of champagne in honour of the occasion. It’s a weird thing but even at my advanced age – no doubt in part because my father remains alive – I still feel like a junior, a youngster.
Don’t get me wrong, I shall always feel a young person inside despite readily accepting (intellectually) that I’m rapidly approaching my dotage. On the occasions when I note in passing the ‘birthdays’ section of The Times and see in the list that some celebrity who has reached a milestone anywhere beyond his or her mid-fifties, my inner reaction is to marvel at how old they are [“Blimey, I remember when they were a bright young thing …”], as if somehow in comparison I have steadfastly remained thirty-four – well, okay, say forty – throughout these past three decades.
Ageing is something that happens to other people, never yourself, right?
I guess that, in part, it’s a generational thing. Nobody can quite regard themselves as ‘grown up’ whilst either or both their parents are alive. I’m somebody’s son therefore by definition, obviously, I’m not an oldie. Our visitor yesterday hadn’t come around to see me, she’d stopped off to pay court to my father, still a ‘personality’ in his village even if he doesn’t get out much these days. Therefore, whilst she was with us, I duly paid the role of dutiful offspring rather than that of someone who has two kids in their thirties of his own.
One thing that struck me yesterday was the eternal ability of sport to appeal across the generations. Whether those observing a great sporting event ‘live’ are actually at the match – sitting in the stands – or watching at home around the globe, listening on the radio, or following it on the internet, whether they happen to be aged eight or eighty is irrelevant. They’re all just fans, spectators or listeners sharing a common and unifying experience.
Last night I was trying to think of other events or experiences that can match or emulate this aspect of great sporting occasions.
I guess that something like the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon on 20th July 1969 and Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the surface in the early hours of the following day must rank right up there.