Many of us look forward to retirement, myself included, some activities are lost but reading, writing, talking, watching television or listening to the radio or even just sitting thinking, last as long as eyes and ears and mind remain active. Eyes and ears can be helped to extend their range, such is the power of the National Health Service. The NHS is a much more prominent part of my life, than it used to be when it began in 1948. I give thanks to Aneurin Bevan, Sir William Beveridge and all the other politicians and civil servants who assisted at a rather protracted birth.
I have recently discovered two authors who in their different ways add much to my pleasure in the English language; one is Bill Bryson, an American who now lives in England and has written many factual books in such an exquisite and delightful way that a person as static and non-scientific person as myself feels that I can understand a little more of the modern, ever-changing world in which we all live than without Mr Bryson I could ever hope to. The second writer is also an American who writes for the New Yorker, is Adam Gopnik. In 1995 he moved with his wife and baby son from New York City to Paris, why I enjoy his writing I find hard to say, although clearly I am one of an ever growing band . He enjoys life both in New York and in Paris, his book about Paris is,” Paris to the Moon .”
Gopnik is a happy man in another book, ” At The Strangers’ Gate- Arrivals in New York “. He writes of the setting up of their first home together with his young beautiful wife, Martha, and very little money. Both he and Martha are studying so the only apartment they can afford is a very small basement complete with cockroaches. Somehow the young couple accommodate themselves to these dreadful conditions. He comments on her choice of beautiful clothes, amazingly their love blossoms in horrible conditions. The writer choses the most apt words:
“And meanwhile all the ambitions really came together, as a single task, around the only thing I have ever been any good at! putting the right set of words in their one possible order.”
I do hope it is not too late for me to emulate Mr. Gopnik. The years have rushed past me with an unforgiving speed. A word which has recently become part of my vocabulary is ‘downsize’. This involves so many different activities my head is in a spin. What to keep but much more importantly what to get rid off. So much stuff! Books, papers, files, folders, clothes I haven’t worn in years, crockery, pans too big for our smaller appetites. Well truthfully I’m a great fan of ready meals, vegetables to pop in the micro-wave, pies, pasties, fresh soup in a plastic container, cakes covered in delicious cream and icing. My brain warns me too much sugar, too much salt, if only they didn’t taste so delicious!
I try to be sensible, I have to confess sometimes I’m tempted. The woman that I used to be decades ago is still part of me. The visible part shows all the signs of ageing; missing teeth, short sight, creaking, aching bones, forgetfulness of what happened last year or worryingly last week. I am quite partial to a little snooze after lunch. My brain is still functioning, indeed my understanding is more perceptive than when I was in my twenties. If only I could move as easily as I did just a few years ago. Stop moaning, I’m really very fortunate. Him and me we look after each other and at the moment we are doing alright. Ive just read something, I don’t remember where, that the only moment that matters is the present one. I’ll keep that in mind.