9 Dec


serious me photo image0-24.jpg

When you get old and fragile like I’m becoming you get to be aware that time is passing far too quickly, and there’s nothing more likely to remind you of this than a birthday. It might only add one to your age, but one is quite a significant number when it crosses your mind that few people go past ninety-five.

And today is my birthday and adding one to my age produces a rather unpleasant seventy-one. If I make it to ninety-five (which the law of averages suggests I won’t) then I’ve only got a tad over twenty years left. And I want more than that!

I got to thinking in the night when I whispered “happy birthday” to myself (it was around 4 am. and I’d popped to the loo for a leak so I was just about awake) and a little voice inside my head whispered “reverse that”.

Seventy-one becomes seventeen.

Seventeen is a much preferable age. I was still at school when I was seventeen, in the sixth form, and all the important things in my life were still in front of me. Why, for goodness’ sake, when I was seventeen I hadn’t even discovered girls, and sex was a synonym of “gender” and nothing else. Now, I don’t want to sound like some teenage hermaphrodite but I lived a shallow life with a mother slowly disintegrating mentally and I had an almost angelic desire to please her.

So, for a few moments during last night, I contemplated being seventeen again.

And then the downside crossed my mind.

I love writing my nonsense, and probably did then (I’m not so certain about that because even though I can remember the odd bout of writer’s cramp there’s nothing left on paper to say whether I did or didn’t have the same love).

But writing was pen or pencil and paper.

True, my precious mother had bought me an ancient ex-office typewriter but it had one serious defect in that it jumped over a space every twenty-or so characters. A cog in its bowels had lost a tooth, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was useless as far as fluent writing was concerned. So pen and paper it had to be. Hence the odd bout of remembered writer’s cramp.

How, knowing what I know today, would I survive without a keyboard? And a nice clear screen that can be easily amended should I make a mistake? And a sophisticated spell-checker as a barrier against those same mistakes? Suddenly, being seventeen back then was no fun. No wonder I can’t remember much about it.

I was born in 1943, so I was seventeen in 1960. That’s before the Beatles, for goodness’ sake! And I lived on a street with eight houses on it, and the only car ownership in those eight houses was the man next door and his Bond three-wheeler. It had a motorcycle engine, if starting was difficult it had a kick-start under the bonnet (that’s true as I sit here) and a maximum speed that wouldn’t threaten many speed limits. Nobody else had a car of any sort until, when I was nineteen, I bought an AC Petite, also blessed with three wheels and a putrid little engine, belt driven and with, wait for it, a WOODEN chassis. It didn’t go very far with me. Hardly any distance at all, come to think of it.

So that was the street where I lived when I was seventeen. Not very technological, though the folks next door had two things I was beginning to notice. Through their front window I could make out a fairly large television set and through their front door I often spied the daughter of the house, maybe a year or so older than me, with gorgeous hair that looked a tiny bit frizzy and a smile I was beginning to see as something more than an androgynous feature on a human face. But only beginning.

I’ve a feeling that if the me of now found himself transplanted, seventeen again, back into 1960 he’d get bored very rapidly, that I’d bang on about word processing and computers until they locked me away, and that the girl next door would get far too much attention for her own good. And that television set – we had one, but with a much smaller screen, and it was rented. I might even develop an even bigger interest in three-wheeled cars with tiny, noisy two-stroke engines and kick-starts under the bonnet.

No. Better stay in today even though the number’s getting unconscionably big and my tiny future is dwindling day by day with only a grey vacuum ahead…

I wish I’d spent less time in the night worrying about it, and more time sleeping…

© Peter Rogerson 09.12.14


2 Responses to “BIRTHDAY BOY”

  1. pambrittain December 13, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    Sleep well tonight. I think I’ll stick with my age. Life was a pain when I was young.

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