Growing old by Angela Caldin
Headlining at Glastonbury at aged 80 seems an unlikely achievement, but not if you are Paul McCartney. This man has been part of my life since the Beatles burst on the scene when I was a teenager. Last week, he occupied the Pyramid Stage for more than two hours with a gig described by the Guardian as phenomenal. In a dark waistcoat and a simple white shirt, he looked great: no paunch, no stoop, no concessions at all to what is undeniably an advanced age.
How does he do it? He’s got money of course, to provide the best ways of looking after himself and he must have excellent genes. Also, he is probably a happy man, having spent his whole life doing what he loves. Many people these days get to 80, but usually not without ailments that limit how they live their lives. And many don’t get near that age; they succumb to one of the many terminal illnesses that lurk on the side-lines, ready to invade.
When I hear of someone younger than me who has died, it always sends a shiver down my spine, leaving me surprised and thankful that I am still here. Someone said to me the other day ‘You’ve got more years behind you than years ahead.’ This is shocking, but undeniably true.
When I was about thirty or so, a traveller woman came to our door selling bunches of heather for good luck and lengths of lace made with her own fair hand, or so she said. Something about her colourful appearance and her spirited approach made me buy both heather and lace. She smiled a broad smile of gratitude, telling me that I would live until I was 97. She had the gift of second sight, she said. At the time, her prophecy gave me another 67 years or so to live. Now it gives me about 22. Don’t ask me why, through all the years, I’ve chosen to believe her and why I still have the lace.
Yet, I am more than aware that the span of life is random, that I could be knocked over by a car, drowned in a flood or burnt in a fire or assaulted in a senseless attack and that would be it: life over, 22 years wiped out in an instant. Moreover, life itself is random: we don’t know why we’re here and I find it very unlikely that there is any kind of afterlife. This, as far as I can work out, is it.