Thanks to my parents not being able to keep their hands off each other for, preferably, another twenty years, a week ago I became sixty. I’ve known it was going to happen for quite some time, but I still find it shocking. Because I don’t feel old and, surely, sixty is old? Mind you, most of my friends are in their sixties and none of them seem old. Which is probably because I’m also old, so they seem normal. Old is my new normal, old now feels young.
There was a time when I thought of people in their sixties as OAPs (old age pensioners). Poor old buggers who needed to be helped across the road or onto the bus; to whom one said such things as, ‘do you need a hand madame?’ in a loud voice, each word clearly delineated; who may have smelt, faintly, of not often enough washed knickers; and who needed the crusts cut off their fish-paste sandwiches.
And there was a time when I thought, both, that I’d never make it to such an age, and that I would still be wearing six inch stilettos well into my eighties. And that time feels like it could have been just last week, or a hundred years ago.
Now I see I was wrong about all of it. I have made it to this age and I can still cross the road by myself and climb onto a bus unaided. I still love a good sourdough and, as yet, my teeth haven’t crumbled in the effort to eat the crusts. I can count the times I’ve worn stilettos in the last ten years on the fingers of a cuttlefish. My knickers remain properly laundered; I rarely need ‘a hand’, and I can still hear perfectly well – as long as you don’t mumble.
Of course, I never ever thought I’d be a smelly toothless old woman. I thought, if I did reach pensionable age, I’d be elegant. In a Katherine, rather than Audrey, Hepburn sort of way, but a bit more Parisian. I thought I’d wear red lipstick, have a slick bob, and glide across town in Gucci loafers and well cut trews. But as you see from the photo on the right, I got that wrong as well.
Another assumption I made about being sixty is that there’d be nothing new. Nothing to get excited about. Nothing to learn. Nowhere new to go. I’m not sure if that’s because I thought I’d know everything by now, or I’d be incapable of learning/enjoying new things. Whichever it is, I was wrong, again! I still know bugger all, I still get excited about new experiences, and I don’t appear to have lost the ability to retain new knowledge. And this past year, unable to go to places I normally would, I’ve become increasingly interested in the local wildlife.
Thus, when D asked what gift I’d like, I answered ‘binoculars.’ When he said he’d ordered them I could barely contain myself. I imagined spending my birthday at the coast, walking over cliff tops, watching kittiwakes make nests, and composing brilliant poems in my head. Seeing an eagle do its big dipper; picking out the muted hues of a distant shag; wondering, ‘what’s that out there?’ putting my bins to my eyes and seeing a dolphin jump.
I got that wrong as well. We’d had brilliant sunshine for weeks, we have brilliant sunshine now, but on my birthday it was cold, grey, and blowing a hoolie. Walking on the tops of cliffs seemed impractical, if not suicidal.
Not to be deterred from an outing, though, we donned our warmest, waterproof clothing, and set out for Mersehead Nature Reserve on the Solway coast. On the way we stopped for picnic food at a well known supermarket – sushi and donuts for me; some sort of sandwich for D. When we arrived we packed the food into a rucksack and off we trod through the wood to the beach, where we were beaten back by sand spiked wind. We didn’t even get passed the first dune before our faces were flayed and our eyes filled with grit. Thus, we huddled on a mossy log in the woods, gobbled up our makeshift picnic, and ran back to the car as fast as we could!
On the plus side, we did see barnacle geese on the marsh, so I did get to use my birthday bins, if only briefly.
We tried again the two days later. It was much brighter and less windy, so we went to Rockcliffe via our favourite bakery, but it was still very cold and all I managed to see were three redshanks on a rock. I guess I’m going to have to contain my enthusiasm until spring actually bothers its arse.
Some celebratory photos
clockwise from left: me on the beach at Rockcliffe eating a slice of rhubarb and custard tart; D carrying his trusty shopping bag full of goodies; the tart; slug-trail sketched rocks; lichen on a tree in the woods at Mersehead; leftovers from my birthday picnic, which I took up to the summit of Gallow Hill the next day and nearly froze to death as I, determined to be outside, ate.
So, here I am, an auld yin in years, but not in spirit; wrinkled but not crumpled; still with my own teeth and delighted to chew.
I want to keep exploring for as long as I can, and I’m delighted to have found I much prefer waterproof trail runners (see selfie above) to stilettos.
I would like a decent haircut, though.